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The Rise of Podcasts

When you hear the words “binge worthy”, the latest hit TV show might spring to mind. But lately, the term once reserved for shows such as Stranger Things is now being applied to podcasts.

Podcasts have shed their boring image in recent years, with a deluge of new shows for every niche interest now available at the touch of a button. Listeners can tune in at their convenience, allowing them to listen on the go. Don’t be surprised if the person next to you on the bus seems a bit on edge, they’re probably listening to the latest show detailing yet another unsolved murder.

From crime to comedy and gadgets to Gilmore Girls, there really is a podcast for everyone. Research conducted by Nielsen last year found that 40% of people in America have listened to a podcast, up from 36% in 2016.

This American Life is a heavy hitter in the podcast world. This weekly radio programme and podcast focuses on a different theme each episode, with its riveting story-telling reaching 2.2 million listeners a week. Serial and S-Town, both spin-offs of This American Life, are two podcasts that have quickly become cult classics.

Serial is one of the most popular podcasts of recent years. It’s like the Making A Murderer of podcasts, with season one recounting a 1999 murder case in Baltimore. Following its success, a second season was commissioned, this time exploring the story of an American soldier held by the Taliban for five years. Its episodes have been downloaded over 175 million times, establishing a world record.

S-Town details the tribulations of John B McLemore, an enthralling character from Alabama who emailed This American Life with a scathing criticism of his hometown. Producer Brian Reed followed up on the email to create one the most complex and captivating podcasts of 2017, which was downloaded 10 million times within four days of its release.

Such was the popularity of these podcasts that you’d be forgiven for feeling out of the loop if you weren’t up to date with the latest developments. What could you talk about at brunch if you hadn’t heard the most recent episode?

The latest podcast to grip people is closer to home for Irish listeners. West Cork explores the murder of French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier in Schull in 1996 and chronicles the investigation up until the present. Documentary maker extraordinaire Louis Theroux has even heaped praise on it.

But not all podcasts have to be serious. Many comedians have tried their hand at it, including Jarlath Regan with his chatty An Irishman Abroad podcast where he interviews well-known Irish people.

The podcast community in Ireland is growing. Just last year, Ireland had its first major podcast festival. Organised by Headstuff, the Dublin Podcast Festival featured speakers including Brian Reed from S-Town, as well as workshops for aspiring podcasters. Podcasting Ireland also offers podcast training, so there has never been a better time to get into podcasts if you’ve been thinking about it.

One such person who has pursued his interest in podcasts is Grant Power, a 22-year-old student from Waterford who runs The Blaa Blaa Blaa Podcast with his friend Jason Delaney.

Listening to other podcasts inspired them to start their own last September. The light-hearted episodes cover a vast array of topics from comic book movies to Bounty bars and Brexit.

Power uses his own equipment and editing skills to produce The Blaa Blaa Blaa Podcast.

“I do all the editing and recording on my own MacBook. We have three microphones for when we have a guest on the show with us. The first thing we do each week is gather topics for the show. Next, we record in our studio for about one to two hours. Once the recording is finished, I edit the show for upload to Soundcloud” Power said.

While you do need some equipment and a basic understanding of audio editing, it has never been easier to present your own show on any topic you like. Unlike fronting your own radio show, there are no barriers to entry and podcasts have put broadcasting within the reach of more people than ever before. So, why not give it a go?

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