The Golden Age of podcasts

The 1930s and ’40s, the era of Jack Benny, “The Shadow” and Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds,” has been referred to as the Golden Age of Radio. Today, we’re living in the Golden Age of Podcasts.

A podcast is like a pre-recorded radio show that you can listen to on your phone as you commute, do errands, cook, or work out.

Matt Lieber and Alex Blumberg, who have backgrounds in public radio, are the cofounders of Gimlet Media. “Podcasts are available on demand,” said Lieber. “So in the same way you can go watch Netflix shows any time you want, you can listen to our podcasts any time you want.”

They like to think of Gimlet as the HBO of podcast studios. Its 120 employees produce 24 podcast shows, in 13 state-of-the-art recording studios.

Podcasts are free, paid for by ads or sponsorship. And there are a lot of podcasts – at last count, more than 630,000 different podcasts on every conceivable topic. Want to hear about knitting? A search will get you dozens of podcasts, from Yarniacs and Never Not Knitting, to Knitting Pipeline, to Two Ewes Fiber Adventures.

“The shows that are popular right now go across all categories,” said Lieber. “But people love crime! They love true crime,” as in the podcast Crimetown. “There are also more kids shows today.” (Like Chompers.)

News is a bigger category, and The Daily, a 25-minute news podcast that The New York Times releases every morning at 6 a.m., is one of the most popular shows. “The Daily” has turned host Michael Barbaro into a minor celebrity. “So when I bump into people on the subway and they say, ‘Are you Michael? Do you host ‘The Daily?’ I want to know everything about how they listen, when they listen, when it fits into people’s lives, because they have such a strong connection to the show,” Barbaro said.

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