The podcast always seems like a medium that no one talks about. Since just about anyone can make a podcast, the market is really oversaturated. This means that a lot of them languish in obscurity, except for the really big ones that it seems everyone listens to””everyone that listens to podcasts, at least.
But now they are finally breaking through. Last year, “Serial” came out and, for the first time, I saw my friends showing interest in podcasts. “Serial” somehow transcended the podcast label and became the pop culture thing of the week.
Sarah Koenig, the affable host of the show, tries to figure out just what happened to these people in a little corner of Baltimore. Koenig made the listeners feel like a part of this very strange, conflicting yet human journey. The voices of real people related to the story pull the listener in with such vivid retellings. The most gripping part is the mystery of the whodunit, with each episode ending on a cliffhanger that changes our perception of an event or a person.
The format of “Serial”””a single story over a number of episodes””is very reminiscent of a TV show which may explain its explosion in the podcast world and in the wider pop culture world. You know you’ve made it big when every other YouTube personality is making parodies. “Serial” has a less popular but, in my mind, a more amazing counterpart, “This American Life.”
“This American Life” stars Ira Glass as the main host with a few professional contributors but most of the stories””and there are multiple ones in each episode – are told by everyday people. Each episode contains multiple stories structured around a theme that could be about as universal as love or as obscure as being switched at birth.
This podcast may be my favorite. The magnifying glass applied to each theme through a very small, narrow, specific story somehow feels as large as life itself. There is a human touch to the show that is uniquely its own.
I hate how much I struggle to find the right words to describe the feel of this show, but it really is something you have to try yourself. I am connected to everyone in ways that I never see in my day-to-day life and this show reminds me of those connections. “This American Life” makes me feel so many things and I think it should be a required listen for anyone.
On a side note, “podcasts” is a bit of a catch-all term since a lot of radio shows, especially NPR’s shows, are podcasts””since they’re on the Internet”” yet are also radio shows. My favorite podcasts from NPR are “Planet Money,” “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” and “Invisibilia.”
Here’s a quick summary in case any of them might peak curiosities: stories regarding economics and its relation to society, a panel of funny and smart people compete with each other about the news to win fake points, and while the last show is relatively new, it is already on top of my weekly list. Our lives are influenced by many things unseen and unfelt, and this show looks behind the curtains at these things.
There are also a million different shows not a part of public radio in one way or another. I now realize that I should have written two articles because of how large this topic is. There are still so many shows that I need to cram down your throat. Or ears, I guess.
Two shows that immediately come to mind are “Giant Bombcast” and “/Filmcast.” “Giantbomb” is a website about video games that is almost entirely personality driven. The website and their podcast feels like a conversation between friends.Meanwhile, “/Filmcast” is my source for new film recommendations, film reviews, film analysis, etc. A lot of film analysis can descend into pretentiousness and this is one show that is full of intelligent people but manages to avoid being up its own butt. Yes, I just said butt. Sue me.
I urge anyone who loves watching TV, playing games, reading books or any other sort of hobby to try listening to podcasts, too.
There is something about going on a walk on a warm, windy day while listening to your favorite podcast that rivals the beauty of sitting outside while reading a good book or sitting on the couch with a friend while watching a movie.
John Mendiola is the Web Master and an Arts & Entertainment Reporter for the Trinitonian. He is a senior computer science and communication major from Houston, Texas (though originally Manila, Philippines). This is his 4th year working for the newspaper.