Your story begins here. Our story began about six years ago…

The History of Podcasting Project began in 2018 when producers from podcasting’s early days were inspired to construct an accurate historical timeline, collating evidence, artefacts and first-hand testimony, and generating the architecture of what is to become the definitive volume (book, website) on the History of Podcasting, dating from early 2000s to the present day.

The project gathered impetus when podcasters noticed that this part of modern media history was being casually and regularly re-written by people who possibly didn’t know better, and who certainly weren’t bothering to fact-check. We considered that providing an accurate, scrupulously verified resource with events ordered sequentially would possibly improve the situation. We wanted to put the record straight and provide truth in an era where truth is imperilled.

As we continued with the task over two years, we realised that we were not just sorting through historic material submitted from around the world. History of Podcasting has become something more than just a reference book – it is a fascinating web of human stories, backed by an in-depth archive of artefacts. This is much more interesting than we first imagined, telling stories of how many lives were changed, of how podcasting refused to die, and why it still remains independent.

Podcasting is the original internet media disruptor. In the early days most podcasts were made by untrained enthusiasts without media experience and often with distinctly regional accents, the like of which you rarely heard on TV or radio. Now, 500+ million people listen to podcasts (Statista) and yet few know of its true origins. To begin with, podcasting was a democratising, liberating force, mostly curated by independent podcasters, who were free to play with the format(s) as they chose. Pre- ‘social media’ (as it became) podcasts were the place where views and non-standard opinions were freely expressed. 

Podcasting arrived just as the internet reached adolescence, leaving the dial-up modem behind and entering the fast broadband era. Subscribable, episodic audio and video, delivered via the internet seemed so simple it would surely be superceded, but this elegant, RSS-driven method which automated the arrival of new material opened up audiences everywhere.

There are clear historic moments in this narrative. Early on in its life, the humble podcast fought and won several battles, including warding off regulation attempts both nationally and internationally (WIPO), and fighting and winning a dispute with Apple Corp. for the right to use the word ‘podcast’ commercially.

Like past technologies in previous eras, as it grew in popularity the podcast was belittled and scorned at first by the (threatened) established mainstream media industries, its proponents called ‘nerds’, the form tagged ‘geek media’, ‘ham radio’ and C.B.R. (citizen’s band radio). It was often described as boring, badly produced, with only minority appeal.

But podcasting was, and is, a game changer, a new, low cost, unregulated public space. Historically, it is unusual that a new popular medium arrives, so quickly becomes an established part of the media landscape, and then (like the ‘single’ 45 rpm 7-inch vinyl record) remains popular for decades.

It took just three years for the word ‘podcast’ to become clearly established in preference to ‘netcast’ and other contenders. Once the BBC started using the word (after seeking the advice of local podcasters) all other possible names for the form vanished. Within three years, TV channels, radio stations, magazine publishers, schools and universities around the world had all adopted the podcast, and podcasting was up and running globally. As a result, 18 years later, there are now millions of people self-identifying as podcasters, it has created jobs of all kinds, made celebrities out of unknowns, and is now a vital part of the digital media economy.

What we now have is an exact timeline of what happened, fact-checked, with first-hand testimonies from podcasters who were in at the beginning. The book is an illustrated narrative of the birth of podcasting, showing how early podcast pioneers established the podcast form, created brand new audiences, and how podcasts entered the mainstream.

Alongside academic historical analysis, the History of Podcasting book will have detail and variety, and contain human stories of invention, competition, struggle, and triumph. These are a compelling part of the what is now being written, turning a rigorous academic volume into an excellent read.

Lance Anderson (USA)


Dean Whitbread (UK)

© April 2024 History of Podcasting Project Ltd