Tagged: Michele Hilmes

Today’s Branded Podcasts Are the In-House Radio Stations of the 1920s

In a widely circulated article in the New York Times, David Yaffe-Bellany writes about major companies releasing branded podcasts as a promotional and public-relations tool.

With podcasts rising in popularity, it’s no surprise that companies are producing their own. What’s more surprising is that people are actually listening to them.

Yaffe-Bellany estimates that there are about 750,000 podcasts available on the Internet, and I would argue that the large number is because podcasting has remained an open platform. The podcasting medium is not dominated by a single or a small group of companies, or at least not yet.

The phenomenon reminds me of something I remember reading about early radio broadcasting. Before it was centralized by the Federal Radio Commission—the predecessor of the FCC, schools, department stores, churches, and small communities operated radio stations into the 1920s. Chronologically, this was more or less between the amateur period of the 1910s and when the Commerce Department began classifying radio stations—Class A, Class B, and amateur stations—and prioritizing the large professionals, such as those stations run by AT&T, Westinghouse, and General Electric.

The amateurs were pushed out because they were deemed unprofessional and unpolished. Radio was a fairly open medium 100 years ago in the United States would later be dominated by as few as two radio commercial networks—NBC and CBS—and a handful of radio set manufacturers.