Pop Stuff: Radio Killed the Video Star
Podcasting is to audio what You Tube has been to video; making it inexpensive, democratic, accessible.
Several weeks ago, I was seated in theÂ Howard Gilman Opera House in New York,Â having nabbed one of two thousand ticketsÂ to a sellout show. As the lights dimmed, SarahÂ Koenig and Julie Snyder took the stage andÂ thunderous applause replaced feverish anticipation.Â The two creators of the Peabody award winning podcast SerialÂ invoked the kind of fan hysteria that teen idols inspire and thatÂ radio journalists have never seen: radio journalists soon to beÂ screen mavens no less as Hollywood in its eternal quest toÂ immortalize the zeitgeist, has come knocking on their door toÂ develop a TV drama; about making podcasts.
Serial, a 12-episode podcast that peels back the layers of a trueÂ life criminal case of an American teenager named Adnan SyedÂ found guilty of murdering his high school sweetheart, has beenÂ downloaded over one hundred million times across almost everyÂ country in the globe.
Serial is part of a podcast explosion in the US that I think will beÂ contagious especially in India where we are just dipping our toesÂ in. Podcasting is the new black and talk radio, is in vogue now thatÂ audio has found a flashy new partner in the Internet and anyone withÂ headphones and a hosting site can upload their latest installment toÂ the all pervasive internet.
Podcasting is to audio what You Tube has been to video; makingÂ it inexpensive, democratic, accessible. As Mark Zuckerburg courtsÂ Modi (or vice versa) and the Internet enabled India is coming intoÂ her own, I can only imagine that our celebrities, TV personalities,Â comedians, pundits, journalists but most importantly youngÂ creators entering the fray today will turn to podcasting as a meansÂ to amplify their voices or create new ones, voices that we’ll findÂ simply by browsing our phones whilst stuck in traffic. AlthoughÂ early Internet podcasts in India have the slow drum of public radioÂ chat, the newer fare is snappy, sharp and intriguing. Earlier this year,Â two Mumbai-based entrepreneurs Tariq Ansari and Rajesh TahilÂ launched Audiomatic, whose narrative podcasts cover a range ofÂ subjects including politics, comedy and food.
There is the argument that our own personal hard drives simplyÂ don’t have bandwidth. We are torn between cinema, TV and theÂ book we can’t seem to finish. But podcasts have a particular appeal.Â Without visuals, the content must meet a higher bar and whilstÂ dispensing with the commitment of watching a screen or turningÂ a page the medium provides the intimacy of having someone rightÂ there to talk about whatever interests you, when you feel like it. ForÂ some, this might sound like the perfect relationship. For me, the joyÂ of having an immediate antidote for homesickness by tuning intoÂ Anuvab Pal and Kunaal Roy Kapur’s Our Last Week on AudiomaticÂ to get my comedic update on India is unparalleled.
So, will we eventually have a home grown hit? Serial’s exceptionalÂ storytelling has engendered a quantum leap into the spotlight inÂ the US and beyond. Low barriers to entry and high proliferation ofÂ smart phones provide the perfect storm to boost a nascent IndianÂ podcast scene. The beauty of the podcast is that it’s a DIY mediumÂ that doesn’t take a publishing house, a movie studio or celebrityÂ backing, so while it’s anyone’s guess who the great Indian audio storyÂ will come from, it’s very likely that it’s soon in the making.Â In the end of course, those who search and seek will be wellÂ rewarded. After all, people always get the music they deserve.
The author is a former hedge fund manager-turned-film producerÂ and magazine writer.