The New Old-time Radio

Podcast, noun—a digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer.  –Dictionary.com

Sometimes, a definition doesn’t do a thing justice. Dictionary.com’s definition of a podcast doesn’t capture the flavor of the thing. Podcasts are the modern successors to old-time radio shows. Instead of gathering around a cabinet radio in the living room, you grab your smartphone (or laptop or tablet) and stream news, comedies, dramas, and mysteries. I can’t count the number of podcasts available. The number is likely in the thousands. I have more than a hundred in my podcatchers’ queues, the podcast equivalent of my TBR pile.

Podcatcher? What’s that. It’s the service, or digital platform, you use to find and stream shows. I use Stitcher and Spotify but there are several others, like Apple and Soundcloud. Some of the podcasts have their own websites through which, as Dictionary.com points out, the episodes can be accessed.

I confess to being a true crime podcast junkie. I’m listening to The Vanished as I write this. Other favorites are Already Gone, Swindled, True Crime Obsessed, and the extremely-NSFW, Small Town Murder. I prefer reportorial podcasts (as opposed to those that are more like a conversation between two or more friends) and several long-form casts fit that bill. Each episode of a long-form podcast takes a deep dive into a single subject, which is covered over the course of the series or a season of the series (vs short-form where each episode covers a different topic). Serial is probably the most well-known long-form podcast. Its first-season coverage of the Adnan Syed case heralded the renaissance of podcasting. S-town, Crimetown, The Dropout, Drilled, Dirty John, and Dr. Death are others I enjoy. They remind me of old-school investigative reporting.

True crime podcasts have become so popular that podcasters often go on tour, selling out live shows, host fan meetups, and appear at pod fests. Think comic-con for podcasts.

Podcasts are great for authors—aspiring and published—and readers. In addition to being a source of ideas (some of the true crimes would make great fictional plots) and information, they provide exposure and publicity. Author Michael Connelly hosts a long-form podcast, Murder Book. Podcasts like Shedunnit explore the history of crime fiction. Casts like DIY MFA and The Self-Publishing Show give writers advice. Many podcasts—Game of Books, Authors on the Air, Writer Types, Unlikeable Female Characters, so many more—feature interviews with new and established authors. Yours truly has been honored to be interviewed on Authors on the Air, Game of Books, and DIY MFA.

Humans can’t subsist on Netflix alone. So, for entertainment and education, especially when you need your eyes for things like driving, working, and writing, listen to a podcast.

Do you listen to podcasts? What are your favorites? What topics would you like to see covered on a podcast? Comment on the blog or hop over to our Facebook page and join the conversation.

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