Are Podcasts the New Radio? Thresholds in the Macro-Environment

Josh Overbeek


This paper considers the podcast and the current status of its disruptive relationship to traditional forms of audio entertainment. The tremendous growth of podcast adoption has yet to develop into substantial growth in revenues as the billion dollar profits of linear radio broadcasters continue to grossly dwarf the monetization structures of even the most frequently downloaded podcasts. While the self-organization and immaterial labour driving the podcast moment could be described as a challenge to the capacities of capital, this paper follows political economist Vincent Mosco’s lead of moving beyond discontinuities between old and new communication technologies to evenly attend to their continuities as well. I argue that while the unpaid labour collected into most podcasts seems to locate these cultural products outside of capitalist relations, the uniquely intimate affect podcasts generate represents a continuity between digital and linear audio media as it is captured by capital in the form of both targeted- and influencer-marketing from merchants and brand building social strategies of established broadcasters. Tracing continuities and discontinuities between podcasts and radio, this paper concludes that podcasts should not be considered an over-the-top disrupter to terrestrial radio. It is too soon to predict the degree to which they will enter this role in the future.

KEYWORDS: podcast; communication technology; radio; disruption; immaterial labour 

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