Meet the people turning the city into a hotbed of podcasting—and learn what it takes to join them behind the microphone.

You can’t escape the popularity of podcasts. The guy with earbuds on the stationary bike next to you at the gym? Streaming Serial, the true-crime program that supercharged the podcast craze back in 2014. The couple in the car next to you at the red light laughing hysterically? Listening to Marc Maron or Conan O’Brien interviewing a comedian. Or maybe one of the Obamas.

The number of podcasts keeps growing—close to 800,000, according to the Columbus podcasting company Blubrry—and there are almost as many reasons for that growth as there are murder-mystery shows. With people spending more time alone these days, they increasingly turn to podcasts to keep themselves company. They download episodes at their convenience with their beloved smartphones and listen while making dinner, mowing the lawn or driving to work. And the format is more intimate than other forms of digital media—not to mention addictive, with shows like Serial, S-Town and The Shrink Next Door demanding binge listening. “You’re right in the listener’s ear,” says Dr. Mike Patrick, the creator and host of Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s PediaCast. “You’re inviting them into your studio for a conversation.”

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It’s also easy to create your own podcast. “The technology is incredibly accessible, and just about anyone can afford to get into it and create something,” says Michael De Bonis, a WOSU digital media and podcast producer. “There’s a place for all different types of people at all different skill levels.”

That variety is evident in Columbus, where locally produced podcasts run the gamut, from mainstream topics like Buckeye football and Statehouse politics to more niche fare like digital analytics, Star Trek and the Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies. Some are produced by professional broadcasters, but most are the work of enthusiastic amateurs. A few local podcasts have even gained national audiences.

MacKenzie Bennett—the marketing services coordinator for Columbus’ Blubrry, one of the biggest podcast hosting companies—helps organize Columbus Ohio Podcasters, a group of local podcasters and aspiring podcasters who meet monthly. Bennett says the group includes more than 800 online members, and about half have their own podcasts (and most of the rest hope to start their own programs, too).

Amid the boom, Columbus Monthly highlights four people who are helping turn Central Ohio into a hotbed of podcasting. You’ll learn about their motivations, successes and lessons learned, as well as the one quality that ties together all who excel in the field. “The No. 1 thing I tell people is, you have to love it and have that burning passion for the project because people underestimate the amount of work it takes to make something really good,” De Bonis says.

Other stories: Dr. Mike Patrick, the Pediatric Pioneer Alex Hastie, Filling a Historical Void Eric Zimmer, Feeding the Beast Mikaela Hunt, On the Business Beat The Essentials From Print to Podcasting The Art of Podcasting


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