Whatever happened to podcasts?

Podcasts. Remember them? They were all over websites a few years ago. Now they have all but vanished, apart from on music sites.

No one was listening to them.

That is no surprise. Most of them comprised boring interviews of the sort broadcast for years by BBC local radio.

The name is misleading too. Podcast. What does it mean? ‘Online audio clip’ may be longer, but at least it is more descriptive.

And the thing is, they can be brilliant.

Just bear in mind that they are about sound. They must communicate something that cannot be conveyed in words or pictures.

There is a BBC recording that was made in Surrey in 1942 as197 Wellington and Lancaster bombers flew overhead on their way to a raid over Germany. You can hear it on YouTube.

The BBC were intending to capture the sound of nightingales singing. But as the piston-engined planes roared overhead, potentially ruining the recording, an amazing moment in history was preserved.

It is an unusual and haunting recording. But it works only as a sound file, because it allows the listener’s imagination to re-create a spring evening when Europe’s future was in the hands of brave young men flying over the south of England and the achingly beautiful song of the nightingale.

So think sound, not story for audio clips:

  • The chimes of a new peal of bells
  • A choir singing a carol
  • The noise of a building site disturbing neighbours
  • The weird cries of a scrap metal merchant

Forget about podcasting, but don’t overlook the power of an audio clip.


About John Wilson

Editor of Hereford Times, Ludlow Advertiser, Stroud News and Journal, Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard and Gloucestershire Gazette series. Journalist for more than 30 years.
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