By Sean Graham
When we started the History Slam back in 2012, podcasting was still pretty new. The major platforms were hosting shows, but the analytics weren’t very good, many people had difficulty accessing episodes, and a lot of academics – including every faculty member I talked to before starting the show – didn’t take them seriously, with one even telling me it was a big waste of time. Fast-forward nine-and-a-half years and 197 episodes later and the landscape is completely different. Not only are there now millions of podcasts, but the widespread adoption of smartphones, viral hits like Serial, and improved tools for measuring audience size have all helped podcasting change from a relative niche medium to a significant cultural industry.
History podcasts have been part of that growth as back when we started, the options in Canada were relatively limited. That is not the case today as there are many outstanding history podcasts produced by Canadians. From interviews to audio documentaries to narrative structures, there is such a greater diversity of topics and voices in the history podcasting space than a decade ago. And while it’s been fun to experience that ever evolving landscape as someone who creates podcasts, it has also created new challenges as the show itself has changed to (hopefully) stay relevant within the field. Whether I’ve been successful or not is for others to decide, but every time I have the opportunity to speak to another podcaster, I always learn something based on their approach to the medium and how they view the history podcasting space.
In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with three outstanding podcasters as we explore the past, present, and future of history podcasting. David Borys of Cool Canadian History, Kathy Kenzora of History of the 90s, and Craig Baird of Canadian History Ehx discuss the origins of their shows, telling historical stories in an audio format, and how they build relationships with their audiences. We also chat about how of us pick topics, the use of analytics, and what advice we might give any aspiring history podcasters.
Sean Graham is a historian of Canadian broadcasting, an Adjunct Professor at Carleton University, and a contributing editor with Activehistory.ca