Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rise of the podcast. Twilight of the blog?

Liz Covart, historian
History News Network links to an American Historical Association item on the notable success of Liz Covart's interview-based history podcast Ben Franklin's World. Covart's description of how she built her podcast and the audience for it in the last couple of years suggests how the podcast has become the dominant internet media medium  (outside of social media, at least), leaving blogs very much in some second rank.  Now it's happening with history too.

Covart is a Ph.D historian of early America who, without being explicit about it, seems to be mostly making her way outside the university milieu.  She's thoughtful about what drives historical culture these days:
I viewed the “David McCullough phenomenon” from a front-row seat. I worked for the Boston National Historical Park as a seasonal interpretive ranger. At the start of summer 2001, visitors came to the park wanting to know how to climb the Bunker Hill monument, tour the USS Constitution, and where they could find Cheers. By the end of summer 2001, and throughout 2003, visitors started asking really detailed questions about the American Revolution and they wanted in-depth answers. Many would preface or end our conversation with something to the effect of “You know, I really hated history, but then I read McCullough’s John Adams because everyone else was reading it.”
I have a long way to go, but Ben Franklin’s World has allowed me to create a smaller version of the “McCullough phenomenon” for scholarly history. 41 percent of my audience has read a book or visited a historic site because they heard a site director or a historian speak about their work on the show. Emails, tweets, and interaction in a Facebook group for listeners, reveal that Ben Franklin’s World is inspiring conversations like those I witnessed between 2001 and 2003. Moreover, the show is providing listeners with a better idea of the important work historians do.
Myself, I'm not much in the earbud habit or generation, and I mostly find audio too slow. But I recognize that podcasts are where the impact is being made now, while lively history blogs are becoming thin on the ground.

You can listen to Ben Franklin's World here  Covart: "People are tuning into scholarly history and they think it is interesting and cool"

Full interview at AHA site
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