Podcasts: A Short History and Review.

Share this Shit

Hello faithful readers! Welcome to the future. We are now at an age where as consumers, we are able to indulge our every whim when it comes to entertainment. Join me now, as I attempt to hone your consuming focus on an under appreciated genre that is the glorious product of technology breaking the shackles of censorship and accessibility.

For the moment, the internet is our society’s best model of absolute freedom. I can’t think of a better example that embodies both the versatility of the internet, and how it’s freedom has allowed artists to directly reach their audiences without being mired by corporate protocol.

I’m of course referring to the art of the podcast. The podcasting revolution has long been upon us, and I can’t do enough to sing it’s praises as our purest vehicle of entertainment. The smartphone has become common enough now, that no one should miss this emerging market. There are no more excuses! You should be listening to these. From the informative, to the ludicrous, podcasting is so vast that there is something there for everyone.

In this article I will name my favorite five, followed by a short review. This is hard due to the sheer number quality programs. I listen everyday, and I find myself hard pressed to catch up on my favorites. I’ve picked a gem from each area of interest. Mostly to steer listeners to my favorites, but also to exemplify the versatility presented by this under rated vehicle. If you can’t find a podcast that is up your alley, then you aren’t looking hard enough.

It’s hard to write a short history and review of podcasting without mentioning Adam Carolla. He is quietly one of the most impressive tales of innovation in an emerging market. Mr. Carolla’s rags to riches tale is undeniably fascinating. Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny the merit he deserves for finding a niche and running with it. Not everyone appreciates his unique brand of humor, but his transformation from a work-a-day schlub to a record breaking pioneer in the online arena is worth noting. I’m not here to tell his whole story, but found it necessary to give him the credit that he richly deserves.

Two of the top podcasts I describe in this piece are products of Ace broadcasting. Carolla has mastered the art of free content, while remaining monetarily viable. Nearly every existing podcast uses the model that he created. Luring advertisers to pay for open reads seems to be his obvious tool to keep his show free for everyone. While this is a large part of the monetary picture, it’s not the key element.

The Adam Carolla show is the world’s most listened to podcast. The underlying secret formula is not only winning over listeners with free content, but the real trick is turning said listeners into paying ticket holders for live events. Through this method, Carolla has literally cornered the market. I’m admittedly a fan but who can honestly gripe about free, quality, entertainment? I’ve listened since episode one, and witnessed a metamorphosis from ramshackle experiment, to a thriving spearhead of the industry. There is something to be said about producing DAILY content and remaining relevant. Say what you will, but the Ace man always comes through.

As we go down the list we’ll see that the Adam Carolla model isn’t always successful and is really only lucrative to live performers. This doesn’t diminish the fine work that the others produce, but some of them struggle to exist when using only paid advertisements despite how many listeners they garner. Without the conversion of listeners into ticket sales, podcasting can be a brutal affair. This is why Carolla’s model is so amazingly successful.

Alright, enough with my Carolla fetish. Let’s move on to the actual reviews. If you’re still reading at this point, please rest assured that the reviews themselves will hopefully reveal a more robust cast of players outside of the Ace Broadcasting banner.

Number 1: http://www.adamcarolla.com/

Ok, I lied. The number one entry in this list has to be The Adam Carolla show for all the reasons listed above. Again, the ability to maintain a fresh show on a daily basis is Herculean. His guest line up is amazing. Guest interviews are frequent and a huge drawing point to grab new listeners. Hell, I know fans that hate Adam, but remain adamant, cherry-picking, listeners. It’s ridiculous. He’s had everyone from Jack of Jack in the Box, to Francis Ford Coppola. Recurring guests such as Larry Miller, Alec Baldwin and an all star cast of stand up comedians keep me pining for the next episode. Last year Adam dethroned Ricky Gervais as the most downloaded podcast in history with 59,574,843 unique downloads from March 2009 to March 16, 2011. Ricky Gervais and crew have nearly abandoned the podcast arena, and because of this, have been omitted from this list outside of their defeat.

Number 2: http://pennsundayschool.com/

Coming in at number two, is Penn’s Sunday School. Put out “religiously” every Sunday, this show is obviously hosted by libertarian magician, and funny man Penn Jillette with his juggling co host, Michael Goudeau. This is a weekly show that focuses on contemporary Atheism and monkeys. This is an odd mash of information and comedy, typical of it’s host. If you’re an overt Atheist as I am, this show is for you. “Preachin’ Love” is this podcast’s motto, and Mr. Jillette has excelled in proving that it’s very possible to be moral without the shackles of religion. This show’s flavor is dependent on your opinion of it’s host. If you ‘re not a fan of Penn Jillette, I suggest to keep on looking. Comprised of anecdotal tales and Atheist current events, this one is a no brainer for today’s heathen. It’s also worth mentioning that this is also released via Ace broadcasting, further cementing the prolific reach of Adam Carolla’s podcasting empire.

Number 3: http://www.nerdist.com/

Coming into number three we now delve deep into the dark underbelly of podcasting outside the umbrella of the Ace Broadcasting Network. The Nerdist podcast follows pretty much the same format as Adam Carolla. The real difference lies in it’s youth culture focus. Hosted by stand up comedian Chris Hardwick, this program has plenty of guests to be had, although the true allure comes from is it’s tribute to all things nerdy. It’s got everything from electronic reviews, Walking Dead cast panels, Doctor Who q & a, to live webcasts from San Diego Comic Con. If you are a bespectacled, apple loving, sci fi fan, this show was made just for you. Even the theme song is done in glorious 8 bit music, reminiscent of an early 80’s video game. So, if you love stand up with a flair for the dorky, download this one immediately! While not a direct spawn of Ace Broadcasting, it’s template is openly borrowed from the Carolla format. With a number of spinoff shows under the Nerdist label, this is yet another successful incarnation of turning listeners into paying customers at live events. (Seeing a trend yet?)

Number 4: http://www.dancarlin.com/

Number four on my top five list is actually two podcasts from the same producer. Hardcore History and Common Sense are both hosted by independent pundit, Dan Carlin. Hardcore History is essentially an online history lesson for amateur historians. Carlin puts an objective lens on a bevvy of historical topics. It’s very long at times, but only because it has to be in order to fully illustrate the topic at hand. There are long gaps between installments, but you can tell that the calories were spent well researching each episode’s focus.

The Common Sense podcast is an independent political show that talks about current events. I like Carlin’s “Non-Interventionalist” approach to modern geopolitical issues. Common Sense is the sane man’s answer to our current political woes. It’s refreshing to hear a show that counts on you getting involved on the street level, as opposed to just regurgitating talking points and partisan drivel. There are no sides here……just well, Common Sense. While these shows are among my favorites, they are barely afloat without the live venue cash flow. These shows depends on listener donations, and selling premium history episodes that contain even more on the subjects at hand. I’ve bought every one. They are that good. It’s sad to see these shows struggling. They are well done and the core episodes are free. I’m hoping that his article will at least get one or two people to check it out and become as hooked as I am. Educate yourself and get involved!!

Number 5: http://billburr.com/

Last and certainly not least, our number five spot is held by another stand up comedian. Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast is one of the oldest, and the funniest. Long before Carolla came on the scene, our favorite ginger-haired hero, was recording podcasts on his cell phone before many people even knew that podcasts existed. Not only is Bill Burr my favorite contemporary stand up, his show is formatted well, with listener emails and the occasional guest. It’s purposely informal, and gives the air of a comic with his guard down. It’s always funny and has often brought me too my knees in public with painful belly laughing. I don’t care who you are, give this gem a go. It will not disappoint.

Breaking News!!!  World Full of Idiots is returning to the realm of the podcast!  Hold on to your hats and stay tuned for our very own brand of broadcasting insanity!  To get started, we have archived episodes available on itunes.  Before the reboot, get over there and check them out.  Search for “World Full of Idiots the podcast”.  Include the spaces on your search or just follow the link below. We look forward to your probing ears and scathing responses.

http://itunes.apple.com/ug/podcast/episode-7-the-return-the-podcast/id341279302?i=87419609

Thanks for reading and I hope my suggestions bring you some insight, and perhaps even a smile or two. If I bring even a few people to the fold of podcasting, I feel that I’ve done well. Podcasts are everything that terrestrial radio is not. There are many other notable suggestions that are too many to list in this short time with you. It’s my hope that you’ll find them by proxy. Podcasting is us at our best, and something Americans actually do well. There are no corporate producers, no bombardment of lengthy commercials, and most importantly, free from censorship. If you do join me in wallowing amongst all this free online content, I hope that you are satisfied enough to share these gems with your friends. Better yet, send these guys a few bucks now and again. They certainly deserve it. Again, thanks for listening and happy podcasting!