By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT — Y’all…I’m so late to this party it is just embarrassing. I am going to need a little help from those of you that listen to podcasts, but first, let me explain.
I am hard-pressed to think of a term that better illustrates the rapid advancement in personal technology in the past two decades than “podcast.”
Perspective: my generation grew up with rotary phones attached to walls by cords. In my lifetime I witnessed the invention of the push-button phone, the satellite phone, the cordless phone, and eventually the mobile cellular phone. It has been a steep learning curve for some of us that are of a certain age. I did not own a cellphone until I was 42 years old; it was a red Nokia flip phone.
Now I own a very expensive iPhone that will probably do a great many more things than what I actually use it for. Back in the flip phone days, I also had a click wheel iPod which was just revolutionary. I actually still have it and still listen to it sometimes.
Technology started pulling away from me when we no longer bought music on iTunes and made playlists. I think now people just stream everything. I’m not really sure. I subscribe to Apple music and Pandora but don’t really use them. I know there is something called Spotify and I don’t know how to use it.
You see my problem?
Back to podcasts. As a high school educator, my students tried to keep me in the technological loop and so I learned about things like Instagram and TikTok. (I have an Insta but won’t fall into TikTok. Refuse.) But podcasts? I didn’t have time to learn anything else! I was barely keeping up already!
The word “podcast” originated in 2004 and in 2005 it was the Word of the Year for the New Oxford American Dictionary. Apparently, podcasting is now a billion-dollar industry. The 18–34 age group seems to be the primary listening audience and by the time you get to my age group listeners drop significantly.
I dipped my toes into the podcast waters a couple of years ago when a friend insisted that I listen to S-Town, the popular true-crime serial. I dutifully pulled out my earbuds and started listening and I loved it! It was hosted by Brian Reed and the story centered around John McLemore, a larger-than-life, colorful character in Woodstock, Alabama. Mr. Reed’s recordings of his conversations with McLemore were fascinating and my friends and I spent hours talking about this story.
But since then? Nothing. I haven’t listened to another podcast. Why?
Right about that time was when I began a big research project and so there was really no time or opportunity to find a new podcast. When I was writing my book (the result of that research), I listened to a playlist on my iPod (not the click wheel one!). Honestly, there’s no good excuse. I just didn’t look for a new podcast.
Last week, someone suggested I try the Old Gods of Appalachia podcast. I’m not much into the horror genre, which is how this was described to me, but I do love anything Southern Gothic and so maybe this would be okay. The episodes aren’t overly long (in fact, they’re a little too short), and I do like the serialized format. I’ve listened to four or five episodes now and while I don’t yet love it the way I did S-Town, I am going to stay with it a while longer.
I would love to find some good podcasts to listen to. Now that I am retired, I think I can put on a podcast and do this godforsaken walking thing that my doctor wants me to do each day. While I like listening to music, or even birds and barking dogs in the neighborhood, I can see myself listening to a podcast while I walk.
But I have so many questions. How do you find a podcast you want to listen to? When do you listen? Why are so many podcasts in the true crime genre? I don’t even know what genre I want to focus on which is the first question everyone asks me. I want a podcast like S-Town. Colorful characters. I don’t want irritating voices or giggling hosts. I don’t want to listen to anything political — I was a political blogger for ten years and I’m tired of that fight. I want a good mystery, or to learn something. Escapism.
Since podcasts are basically today’s version of radio programs from back in the day, obviously I want to be entertained.
So, tell me. What are you listening to? What are your favorite podcasts and why? Help a girl out!
(This article was previously published on Medium; I am reprinting here because I really want your suggestions!)
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.