On The Dial: Broadcasting From The Pod

MotoCult's Erik Berger about to do his thing. Photo by Randy Stern

Radio or podcasting?

This was a question that came out of a retort on a recent appearance on the MotorCult podcast. While I mentioned that I did a radio column (this one), one of the hosts, Erik Berger, retorted that (and I may be paraphrasing here) "podcasts are the wave of the future."

You don't say…

We all thought they were the wave of the future last decade. The ability to do a podcast was made possible by less expensive equipment – laptops, microphones, mixing equipment, software, and the ability to put it up on iTunes. Today, the podcast is on the rise – not because of local car guys like Berger, Ryan Sesnesky, and Kristopher Clewell (of the Overcrest podcast). It seems that everybody has gotten into the act.

This brings up a new question: has the podcast caught up with the ratings and interest of radio?

Consider the growth of podcasting in the past few years. Usually, a podcast is strictly an audio recording sent out as files through online and mobile delivery websites and apps. However, podcasts are also using video technology – both recorded and streaming – with views on social media sites and on YouTube.

Through these multiple content delivery methods, the bigger players in the business have jumped in – head first – and have carved their way alongside the small folks. Name any media network and they'll have a podcast ready for download and/or viewing.

This also includes my colleagues in the automotive media. Autoblog, Hooniverse, and MotorWeek are among several media outlets with podcasts. You can find them anywhere from iTunes to YouTube to…well, you name it.

Let me concentrate on the "small folks," first. I'll start with a backstory. A decade or so ago, I was ensconced in a subculture of gay male society – the Bear community. Word came about of a podcast being produced out of an acquaintance's house in North Minneapolis with a group of local bears who got together to do a weekly podcast. The podcast, bTalk, became influential to enable other podcasts within the subculture to produce their own podcasts. Within months, we had a host of podcasts emanating from San Diego, Sydney, and other locales around the world.

They were part of a first- or second-wave of podcasts. They took on available technology to produce content that was friendly to smartphones, MP3 players, and in-car audio systems.

Though the big guys have brought back podcasting with solid backing and key personalities, the issue is competition. This is true for automotive podcasts. While Autoblog, Hooniverse, and MotorWeek have strong audience numbers, the smaller podcasts are gnawing and scratching their way forward. Here in the Twin Cities, Overcrest, MotorCult, and CARtastrophe365 provide a local flavor to a wider audience. Each one has a style and content that should keep people engaged – or, possibly, enraged – while listening. On a continental scale, The Unnamed Automotive Podcast offers an outlet featuring Canadian automotive journalists Benjamin Hunting and Sami Haj-Assaad mixing humor with news and reviews.

Some podcasts have already fallen off the air. My colleague and friend Tim Esterdahl had an audio podcast to go with his Pickup Truck + SUV Talk channel. He has since suspended the audio podcast to concentrate on video content for his channel. Also, Chad Kirchner had a podcast component to go along with his Future Motoring website. In fact, I was on an episode last year with Kirchner talking about the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and other related topics.

The litmus test for a podcast today is whether you can listen to it in your vehicle. This is where everyone has stepped up – both big and small operators. For Apple iPhone users, the Podcast app is a convenient way to listen to episodes of your favorite show through Apple CarPlay. You can do the same with Android Auto and Google Play. There are other apps out there to listen to a podcast, but neither of them is compatible with these connected services. You can do so by downloading the MP3 file from their website and play them through a compatible music player through these systems – or without them through either the Bluetooth, USB, or auxiliary connection.

Of course, I just scratched the surface on the topic of podcasts. Aside from the automotive-related ones listed here, you can find a podcast to your interest. Believe me – there's a podcast for everyone. They feature big celebrities to people like you and me.

What about Victory & Reseda? When will I/we have a podcast? Um…no. But, like I said, there's a lot of podcasts out there for you to listen to. Just plug in and stay awake for the drive.

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