By: Colin Schroyer
On Sept. 13th, the Thiel College Podcast Center officially opened. Since then, students and faculty alike have taken a great interest.
“It seems like podcasting is kind of in the zeitgeist right now,” says Jacob “Jake” Clark, Chief Operator of WXTC, Media Production Coordinator, and the self-described “person to teach students how to use the [podcast center].”
While talk shows on radio and television have been around for decades, podcasts are a newcomer to the scene, emerging in the early 2000s and becoming mainstream in the mid-to-late 2010s. And due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people having extra time, podcasting boomed for creators and listeners alike.
Beyond the spike in popularity caused by the pandemic, podcasts have continued to grow in popularity. “It seems like an attainable media form,” Clark shares, explaining why he believes it to have grown as popular as it has. “It’s not as limited,” adds Christina Newman, Program Director of Tomcast, “you have the audio ability, you have the video ability, especially for students….”
Tomcast, the Thiel College Podcast club, provides students an outlet to develop and host their own podcasts. “We have a member who is wanting to start… an English style podcast for like writing and stuff with one of their friends… Thiel College Coaster Club has their own podcast…” shares Newman, “it’s a way for them to take their passions and put into [a podcast].”
Newman is a sophomore at Thiel College, majoring in Media Journalism, the TV, Radio, and Online Media track, with a minor in Public Relations. When Newman joined the club as a freshman, Tomcast was struggling. “We didn’t have a lot of involvement; I just kind of pushed to get it back up…” Newman recollects.
Thankfully, with the opening of the podcast studio center in the fall of 2022, interest in hosting a podcast among students has skyrocketed. “Just from the limited time that it’s been here, I’ve seen a huge interest in it, not just from Media Comm students, but students from other departments as well,” notes Clark. Freshman and member of Tomcast Gianna Sprecace shared a similar sentiment. “I like it. It’s a cool thing that I think lots of people have ideas for…” comments Sprecace.
Based on student and faculty interviews, a significant factor in the appeal of podcasts comes from how it deviates from comparable radio talk shows. “It’s not as limited… with radio, we have FCC guidelines and et cetera… with podcasts, yeah, there’s a few rules, but for the most part, like, its open,” Newman points out. With prior experience operating a radio show of his own, Clark recognized how differing production processes between radio shows and podcasts play a role. “Most commercial radio stations are pretty formulated, and I think people like having the ability to listen to just about any topic that they’re interested [in],” shares Clark.
The broad range of genres, styles, and subjects of podcasts is another noteworthy point that gets brought up as an explanation for the medium’s popularity. For “every niche topic, there’s a podcast associated with that,” says Clark. Newman provides hypothetical examples to emphasize the point even further. “I wanna look up a podcast on the history of bananas. I’ll probably find it. I wanna look up a podcast on the anatomy of a Bengal tiger. It probably exists, because it’s such an open thing… for any field of anything, there’s probably a podcast on it, or someone’s going to make one,” shares Newman. As pointed out, this sentiment applies to finding a podcast to listen to and creating one. “There are so many niche topics to talk about,” says Clark.
As mentioned by Newman, podcasts are less limited by guidelines and regulations. However, students and staff recognize their responsibility to balance the production of the podcast they want to make while ensuring the audience is aware of the subject or material. “Obviously, if there’s things that need to have content warnings, we need that, but you can still have those types of podcasts,” Newman explains. “As long as they’re being, y’know, respectful and appropriate, then everything will be great,” Sprecace adds.
When asked what they recommend to students interested in starting a podcast, Clark and Newman advised taking the first step of trying it. “I’d say just go for it,” Clark suggests, “think of a topic that you are very interested in and look up that topic with ‘podcast’ tacked at the end there, and I’m sure you’ll find something that you enjoy.” Hosting a podcast is also fun and educational, as “it’s a good way to increase your knowledge on a specific topic, but also increase your knowledge on how to communicate and use media in a productive way,” says Clark. “It’s not just for students, it’s for anyone who can do it,” Newman advises. Tomcast is open to helping anyone get their podcast off the ground. “You don’t even have to join,” Newman shares, “we will still promote your podcast.” “Come and check out the podcast room,” Clark adds as a final note, “if anyone wants to learn more about the space or just learn about podcasting, my office is always open… I’m more than happy to help.”
Both Newman and Clark are in the process of adapting their radio shows to podcasts, Once Upon a Year and Pennsyltucky Paranormal, respectively, so be on the lookout for those in the future. If you are interested in joining Tomcast or want to learn more, Christina Newman can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Jake Clark can be found in the Pedas Communication Center, room 134A.