The History of Podcasts

Have you ever wondered how podcasting began? In this article, we discuss the history of podcasts from the 2000s to 2023, including what drove their popularity and who invented them.

Welcome to our comprehensive article on the history of podcasts.” In this article, we delve into the fascinating history behind this popular term ‘podcast,’ which has become an integral part of the digital media landscape. Join us as we explore the origins, evolution, and significance of podcasts in the modern era.

What is the Origin of the Word ‘Podcast’?

The term “podcast” is a combination of two words: “iPod” and “broadcasting.” To trace its origins, we must turn our attention to the early 2000s. In the early 2000s, two friends — Adam Curry and Dave Winer — sparked a conversation about audio blogging. Before the word ‘podcast’ was even invented, the men developed a software for the iPod, which was released in 2001. The software, known as ‘iPodder,’ allowed people to listen to audio blogs on their iPods. 

However, it was not until a year later, in 2005, that the term “podcast” was coined by journalist Ben Hammersley in an article for The Guardian. Hammersley used the term to describe the phenomenon of subscribing to audio content and downloading it onto portable media players, with the iPod being the most popular at the time.

MORE: What Business Category is a Podcast.

When did Podcasts Become Popular?

Podcasts started gaining popularity in the mid-2000s, following widespread internet access,  the introduction of the term “podcast” and the integration of podcast support in Apple’s iTunes software. With iTunes 4.9, released in 2005, Apple introduced built-in podcasting features, making it easier for users to discover, subscribe to, and listen to podcasts. This integration played a significant role in the growth and popularization of podcasts.

Furthermore, the rise of smartphones and dedicated podcast apps in the late 2000s and early 2010s further fueled the popularity of podcasts. These advancements made it more convenient for users to access and consume podcast content on their mobile devices.

In recent years, podcasts have experienced exponential growth, with a vast array of topics and genres available to suit diverse interests. The convenience of on-demand listening, coupled with the ability to access podcasts on various platforms and devices, has contributed to their widespread popularity.

Today, podcasts have become a mainstream form of entertainment, information, and education, attracting millions of listeners worldwide. The medium continues to evolve and expand, with new podcasts being created and enjoyed by audiences of all demographics.

MORE: How to Promote a Podcast.

Timeline of Podcast History

As podcasts gained popularity, various platforms emerged to facilitate their creation, distribution, and consumption. In the early 2000s, the concept of attaching sound and video files to RSS feeds came to light. The author of the idea, Dave Winer started getting requests for audioblogging features, and thus, the first forms of podcasting started to take place.

Over the years, podcasting evolved from a niche medium to a mainstream form of entertainment and information. Internet access, the development of smartphones and the availability of dedicated podcast apps further contributed to its widespread adoption.

Between 2001 and 2006 Apple made a huge contribution towards podcasting, and revolutionized the process of audioblogging, from the first iPod and podcast support integration, to showcasing the ease of podcast creation in Garageband. Another huge moment for podcasting history is the Spotify podcasting entrance in 2015. Since then, podcasting became even more widely available for everyone.

Today, there are numerous platforms, such as Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher, where users can access an extensive range of podcasts on various topics.

Here’s a timeline highlighting the significant events and milestones in the history of podcasting:

  • 2000-2004: Adam Curry and Dave Winer spark the conversation and ‘invent’ podcasting. The term ‘podcasting’ is not yet official.
  • 2001: Apple creates the first iPod.
  • 2004: The term “podcast” is coined by journalist Ben Hammersley in an article for The Guardian.
  • 2004: becomes the first podcast service provider.
  • 2005: George Bush becomes the first president to deliver his weekly speech as a podcast.
  • 2005: The New Oxford American Dictionary names ‘podcast’ the word of the year. 
  • 2005: Apple integrates podcast support into iTunes 4.9, making it easier for users to discover and subscribe to podcasts.
  • 2006: The first podcasting awards ceremony, known as the Podcast Awards, takes place.
  • 2006: Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, shows how to create a podcast using GarageBand
  • 2007: Ricky Gervais sets the Guinness World Record for the most downloaded podcast. 
  • 2012: In this year research by Edison reports states that at least 29% of Americans have listened to podcasts.
  • 2013: Apple Podcasts surpasses one billion podcast subscriptions.
  • 2014: The podcast “Serial” becomes the fastest podcast to reach 5 million downloads.
  • 2015: Spotify enters the podcasting market, offering a platform for podcast distribution and discovery.
  • 2015: President Obama is interviewed on the WTF podcast. Demonstrating the reach this kind of media now offered. 
  • 2020: Joe Rogan signs a multi-million dollar deal with Spotify. This showed how profitable podcasts could be and paved the way for many more big podcast deals. 
  • 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic leads to a surge in podcast consumption as more people seek on-demand audio entertainment and information.
  • 2022: YouTube releases a podcast destination page.
  • 2023: According to Statista, there are a massive 164 million monthly podcast listeners in the United States. 

MORE: Podcast Statistics

The Impact and Significance of Podcasts

Podcasts have had a profound impact on media consumption and communication. They have democratized content creation, allowing individuals and organizations to share their stories, expertise, and perspectives with a global audience. Unlike traditional media, podcasts offer long-form, in-depth conversations that engage listeners on a deeper level.

Moreover, podcasts have provided a platform for underrepresented voices and niche interests to flourish. They have fostered communities of enthusiasts and fans, connecting like-minded individuals from different parts of the world. Podcasts have become a valuable source of knowledge, entertainment and inspiration for millions of people worldwide. And for some podcasts offer a valuable income stream.

MORE: Top Podcast in 2023 

Takeaway Points

Since 2005, podcasting has experienced tremendous growth and has become a significant medium for content creators and consumers alike. The accessibility, versatility, and engaging nature of podcasts have made them an integral part of our digital lives.

As the podcasting landscape continues to evolve, we can expect even more innovative and captivating content to emerge. So, whether you are a podcast enthusiast or have a great idea and are considering starting your own show, embrace the power of this medium and explore the vast array of podcasts available to you.

If you’re thinking of starting out on your podcast journey, take a look at our podcast name generator tool to come up with a memorable podcast name. 

MORE: Good podcast topics to get you started

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Most of the online sources agree that the invention of podcasting is accredited to Adam Curry (a former MTV Video Jockey) and Dave Winer (a software developer). The two men began working on the idea of podcasting before the term ‘podcast’ was even created. The idea was to create a way to listen to radio broadcasts on the go, on the iPod. The rest is history.

Although perspectives differ on who the first podcast creator was, one of the opinions is that it was Doug Kaye who created the first podcast. And he actually did it before the term 'podcast' was created. The podcast was called “IT Conversations” and ran from 2003 until 2012.

The most downloaded podcast of all time is “The Joe Rogan Experience”. Hosted by Joe Rogan, the podcast is a series of long-form conversations and in-depth interviews with various guests. Joe Rogan invites celebrities, scientists, authors, and many others to talk about topics all the way from culture to science, politics, and others. On average, each podcast episode gets around 11 million podcast listeners.

Podcasting was invented to provide an accessible platform for individuals and organizations to create and share audio content with a wide audience. It was created as a means to democratize media and give people the opportunity to produce their own shows or express their ideas without the constraints of traditional broadcasting.


Dominika Kaminska

Dominika Kaminska

A seasoned copywriter with a passion for transforming ideas into engaging narratives. With over two years of experience, she specializes in crafting compelling copy about podcasts and Shopify.

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