Here’s why podcasts should be canceled. Check out Jezebel’s Cancel Tournament to see what ultimately got canceled.
The direct descendant of the great American union between Bing Crosby and Chesterfield Cigarettes, the podcast was born a relic of simpler times when Americans would gather ’round their living room radios to listen to a famous man who advocated belt-whipping children tell them cigarettes were healthy.
While television killed the radio show, pop culture helped create its stylish grandchild, the podcast. First known as the Cher to much-older iPod’s Sonny, the podcast quickly became a star in its own right, offering the masses a simple way to share opinions on television, movies, murders, and conspiracy theories to a primarily imagined audience with all the pesky typing and structure required of blogs. Soon, podcasts had outgrown iPods, which faded into obscurity, while podcasts’ star only continued to rise.
Unencumbered by the “pod” portion of their name, podcasts spent nearly five years searching for a new companion, the Chesterfield Cigarettes to their Bing Crosby. But in 2015, podcasts found a new love: sponsorship. Marrying MailChimp and the murder of a teenage girl birthed the beginning and the end of the superstar podcast—monetization.
Soon every man, woman, and child in America had not only heard of podcasts but had created their own. From the privacy of their own bedrooms, Americans separated themselves from friends and family to speak instead to microphones about reality dating shows, or something they saw on Dateline once, or a murder they skimmed on Wikipedia, looking for gory details to giggle into the ether. And just like the radio shows of old lived by the money earned from advertising mail-ordered prefabricated house kits from Montgomery Ward, podcasts truly thrived once they began to shill prefabricated dinner boxes (formerly known as groceries) delivered right to listeners’ doors or the ease of mail-order underwear.
But as the 21st century mail-order boom made it possible for a select few to do nothing but talk to themselves about easily Googleable things, everyone in America began talking at once. Podcasts had created a kind of sedentary gold rush. The field became suffocating, and the more podcast fans babbled, the less anyone could hear. Podcasts died gasping for air, choked on their own words. They are survived by their offspring, the heavily produced and sponsored audio drama starring actors you’ve heard of and paid for by studios and companies you already know.