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A Subjective History of Podcasting

Trying to catch up on my podcast queue, I tuned into this recent episode of Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything podcast, entitled, “Secret Histories of Podcasting.” In it he goes digging into the very early days of the medium in the early 2000s, when Dave Winer–who wouldn’t talk to him for the podcast–hacked a version of RSS to include downloadable file enclosures, like MP3s, and talking with the somewhat-regretful journalist Ben Hammersley who inadvertently coined the term “podcast” in 2004.

Far more fascinating, however, are Walker’s own recollections of working at Berkman Center for Internet & Society at the same time that Winer and Christopher Lydon were busy pioneering and proselytizing this new medium. Walker admits that, even as a radio producer himself, at the time he didn’t quite get it. Though, as he shares on this episode, not long thereafter he would jump feet-first into the podcast form, even going on to evangelize it at the Third Coast Audio Festival.

Though I think Walker truthfully identifies it as a “secret history” of the medium, it is also a very subjective one, filtered through Walker’s own experience. To me, that still makes this is a valuable contribution to the overall history of podcasting. That’s because the medium’s history is not just the big moments, like when the name was coined, iTunes first supported podcasts or the first MailKimp ad was released. It’s the history, experiences and accomplishments of the people who saw the potential of this simple technological step forward to open up radio distribution to millions of people who don’t have access to broadcast airtime.

Speaking as someone who started distributing his radio show as a podcast almost as soon as I heard about the standard, I appreciate Benjamen Walker sharing his own subjective history.

You can get Dave Winer’s own (subjective, but no less valid) take on the birth of podcasting in his own podcast recorded in honor of this year’s International Podcast Day:

Have you ever had a podcast, or helped create one? What’s your “secret history” of podcasting? Let us know in the forum.


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