What the world's first podcaster would do with radio

Above: DAB+, FM… and AM. Unusual device. As seen in JB-Hifi in Australia in October 2020.

It was podcasting’s 20th birthday over the weekend. For the Podcast Business Journal, I interviewed Christopher Lydon, the world’s first podcaster, and our conversation got onto radio. Here’s a clip of that interview…

JC: Has podcasting changed the way you thought it would, 20 years on?

CL: It’s bigger. It is more commercial. It’s not monopolized - you cannot monopolize the human voice. And it’s still growing. Media is a very fluid world, but I think if the Martian landed and said “take me to your real voices” to get the pulse of this nation, I’d say: “try the podcasts”.

JC: Arguably that’s what radio was for. You have a tremendous radio background as well - where do you think radio is going?

CL: That’s a very good question - and a dark question. I think podcasting is a terrible burden on radio, public broadcasting and otherwise.

I note that Vermont Public Radio has dropped the radio. It’s now Vermont Public. WGBH dropped the W as if to say we’re not a broadcast station anymore, we’re some sort of other service. I think they’re selling the peculiar brilliance of radio short.

It’s cheap. Anybody can listen on a very cheap instrument, whether you’re out farming or doing the dishes. It carries the human voice. I think radio has stopped believing in the higher calling of radio itself, and I think it’s a damn shame.

JC: If you were in charge of a radio station now, what would you be doing with that?

CL: I’d be doing a whole lot of things. I’d be doing a lot of podcasting. I’d ask Erica Heilman to teach the world how to listen, but also how to listen to regular people. Our podcast is public people, people who’ve written books or maybe won a Nobel Prize or hold a professorial chair somewhere, and they’re advocating something. I would do what Erica does so brilliantly, which is just get the voice of listeners. Jay Allison did great work on this from the beginning of listener IDs. Let people talk until the dime drops, or they cough up the secret.

JC: So more of other people’s voices on the air, rather than just the silky voiced host?

CL: Absolutely. Absolutely! I’ve got an untrained voice. I sound like my brothers. We talked the way our parents taught us to talk. There’s nothing trained about my voice, so we’re going to keep it that way.

The full interview is in the Podnews Weekly Review podcast this Friday. Listen “wherever you get your podcasts”.


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