The rise of the podcast has been astronomical, and in a sense, strangely anachronistic. After all, we as human beings largely navigate the world through vision. Compared to most animals, our eyes are far more sophisticated than, say, a bat’s (legendarily shortsighted) or a dog’s (whose worlds are mostly monochrome). But we certainly can’t smell like a dog, and we definitely can’t hear like a bat.
So it makes sense that entertainment technology has always moved us towards greater visual enjoyment. The invention of the radio and the gramophone were groundbreaking, but neither had the same cultural impact as a television set in every living room.
It’s hard to exactly pinpoint who invented television (John Loggie Baird transmitted the first picture in 1926, and the first electronic television set was invented by Philo Farnsworth in 1927), but what is certain is, by the 1950s, urban family and community life had come to revolve around ‘watching TV’. To this day, regardless of how we get our entertainment (Netflix, internet downloads, video games, mobile devices), we are all still essentially watching some version of ‘tele-vision’ – images remotely transmitted to a screen.
The popularity of radio has been declining ever since the rise of television. Which isn’t surprising – why listen when you can watch and listen at the same time?
Surprisingly, that’s exactly what many people prefer. Apart from music aficionados, who often find visual stimulation distracting to the immersive experience of music, most people believed that the era of radio was coming to its end. And then came the podcast.
The origins of the podcast are, of course, in radio. In particular, podcasts owe a great deal to that great radio institution, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), which from its very inception took creative aural entertainment very seriously. Not confined to music and news, the BBC produced interview segments, talk shows, radio plays (the BBC boasts the world’s longest-running radio play, The Archers, first aired in 1951 and still running today, 19,300 episodes later), and full-fledged concerts.
What kept BBC radio going is exactly what podcast fans are now discovering. Unlike a TV show, radio is non-intrusive. Like British farmers and housewives have done since radio began, you can get a lot done while still listening and learning at the same time – you can wash the dishes, cook a meal, drive a tractor, watch your sheep, and still listen to a full episode of The Archers, or laugh at a comedy show, or tsk at a politician’s interview.
Podcasts, essentially, are just BBC Radio shows taken to their utmost extreme level, and made available on-demand. For every topic with an audience, there is a podcast. For every minor celebrity with an opinion, there is someone to hang on their every word. For every jogger panting on a running track, there is a coach to chant motivation into their ear; for every show you miss, from the 80s anime Dragonball to the end of Modern Family, there are superfans producing ‘behind the scenes’ podcasts to assuage your withdrawal symptoms.
And there is, of course, a lot you can learn from podcasts. Because the topics can be very precisely fitted to their audience, you can get the information you need during a single bus trip. Malcolm Gladwell will teach you about dogs that sniff out prostate cancer. Freakonomics will explain the history behind high heels. Local author Wayne Ree will tell you ghost stories from Singapore. Nixalina Watson will give you some tough love advice on Sex & Singapore City. Danielle van de Velde will explore the esoteric with you in The Modern Crone.
Crane isn’t ashamed to jump on the bandwagon! You’ve probably seen Crane’s little podcast studio, run by our colourful podcast manager Kym; and yes, we’ve launched Crane Radio, which features some fantastic shows.
Check out Crane Radio here: https://crane.club/radioshows
Always wanted to run your own podcast? We’re here for you! Among the podcasts Crane has produced are Anthea Ong’s Fifty Shades of Love, and Danielle van de Velde’s The Modern Crone.
Check out The Modern Crone here: https://open.spotify.com/show/7FuO8Nq5SceGnCvzhtXMkZ
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!