If you believe some of the things you read online Podcasts are the new “big thing” and maybe if you are lucky your route to riches, fame and fortune. However podcasting in some form has been around for clocking onto nearly two decades now.

James Cridland, editor of Podnews has done some delving into the numbers of recently updated podcasts:

across the 3.9m shows in Podcast Index. Only 19% of those have been updated in the past 90 days

James Cridland June 11, 2021

I download my first podcast in October 2005, which I don’t think I’ve ever listened to beyond the first few seconds, that’s a story for another day, but for sure since that day I must have listened to thousands of episodes across many different podcast shows.

Is the fact that 81% of podcasts have podfaded a problem?

Podfade is a term often applied to podcasts that have ceased production. I’d suggest this term should only really apply to shows that have ceased for reasons other than reaching their natural end.

A drama podcast, or a fixed series linked to an event obviously will only have a fixed lifespan. I don’t have any figures, but I’d guess that far more than 81% of Netflix, Amazon, You Tube et al. is made up of ‘Back Catalogue’.

We can breakdown podcasts into sub categories

  • Timeless and evergreen content (i.e. drama, comedy, lifestyle)
  • Expired topical content (i.e. news, sport)

An interesting figure would be how many of the 81% of non-active podcasts fall into the first category? This sounds like a job for some brighter data analyst than me.

The lost podcasts

If I wonder down Deansgate in Manchester I’ll find the book equivalent of that back catalogue of evergreen content spread across multiple floors of the large Waterstones book store.

However if I continued round the corner to the Central Library or maybe travel a little further down Oxford Road to the University libraries I’d find lots of the latter archive material in periodicals and reference books.

So back to podcasts, both these types of non-current podcasts have their place. But my question is how many of them are still available? A topical science news podcast from 2011 will never be of mainstream interest in 2021 and wouldn’t be the best example to bring to the fore in any casual podcast discovery system, but it still has a value.

Large broadcasters such as the BBC have over the years published far more podcast episodes than are currently available on-line. Bodies such as the beeb do have reasonable archiving systems in place and there are systems for those in academia to have greater access to BBC back catalogue than the man on the street.

What about all the small independent bedroom podcasters?

In a couple of decades time will oddballs like me with a hard drive full of random old podcasts I’ve downloaded become the saviour in the new equivalent of the search for copies of “wiped tapes” of early Dr Who episodes?

These lost podcasts go beyond the 81% in James’s figures. A search of the Podnews website for a couple of the shows in my podcasting software’s subscription list return no results, or “missing from Apple Podcasts” messages.

I was involved in an early podcasting project back in the mid 2000’s, I’m pretty sure not much evidence of ‘M-Cast’ still exists online. Studios and servers, rather than actual audio production was my remit and the website domain registrations were allowed to lapse years ago.

I bet there’s some nuggets in the mp3 files if only they weren’t languishing in some ancient backup drive and I’m sure I’m not the only one in this situation.

Coming Soon

I’m going to be posting a new series of blog posts of Podcast recommendations, going through some of the podcasts I have enjoyed. These will be a mix of current and some from the ‘back catalogue’ – unless I find that all the ‘oldies’ have fallen into the ‘missing podcast’ bucket and are no longer available to listen to.