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Slate Goes All Out for Special Podcasting Issue

Slate jumps to the head of the pack for mainstream podcasting coverage with a “special issue” this week, featuring eight articles dedicated to podcasting, under the heading “Ten Years in Your Ears.”

Business writer Alison Griswold does one of the best jobs I’ve seen so far covering the money and advertising angle. She correctly traces the live ad read style of podcasts back to the work of Howard Stern, who in the 1980s, with his loose and digression-filled spots, helped bring attention to advertisers like a once-small, regional bottled iced tea company called Snapple.

Jonah Weiner takes up the effort of forming a “critical theory of podcasting,” contemplating one’s relationship to a queue of unlistened shows, and the medium’s tendency away from random synchronicity of the sort experienced by spinning the radio dial.

Slate’s own podcasting chief Andy Bowers evaluates the current “renaissance,” arguing that the medium “is the Internet’s most unsexy success story, the tortoise in a never-ending race with fresh waves of hares.”

I talked with contributor Seth Stevenson for his piece about broadcast radio’s future in the podcast age. He also talked with Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan who observes that podcasting steals “less than 1 percent” of his business. Yet, at the same time, “Things are beginning to fragment, make no mistake. But we still made more money before lunch today than Pandora has made in its entire history.” Of course, the question is how quickly that fragmentation is happening.

Pete Tridish, one of the founders of the Prometheus Radio Project, gives Stevenson a great quote: “Just because we have word processing now doesn’t mean there’s no place for the pencil… and just because we have the Internet doesn’t mean there’s no place for radio.”

The series also has former Pop Matters blogger and current Mental Floss podcast reviewer Whitney Matheson taking up mental health and podcasting, a look at “Pastors Who Podcast,” a list of “The 25 Best Podcast Episodes Ever” that admittedly contains a lot of the usual suspects, along with an analysis of the #1 episode on that list, which is the 2010 Louis CK interview on WTF (which was originally two episodes, if you want to be technical about it).

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