On Monday, the St. Anthony Hall society hosted radio journalist and podcaster Andy Bowers ’86, who spoke about the future of podcasting.
Bowers was the sixth and final speaker of this year’s St. Anthony Hall lecture series. John Mori ’20, a member of St. Anthony’s and one of the coordinators of the lecture series, told the News that other speakers included YouTuber and music critic Anthony Fantano and Amy Smoyer, a professor from Southern Connecticut State University who spoke about the effects of incarceration on women’s health.
Bowers began his lecture by introducing whom he called the world’s first known podcaster — Homer. According to Bowers, poets and “rhapsodists” like Homer were the first to embrace oral storytelling because the written word was not popularized until later in human history.
“It is the most primal storytelling medium in existence,” said Bowers. “We’ve had video for 100 years, we’ve had writing for just a few thousand years, but we’ve been telling each other stories as long as we’ve been humans. It’s one of the things that makes us human, and we have evolved to hear stories and turn them into pictures in our minds.”
Today, Bowers said, we live in the fourth year of the “podcasting Renaissance.” Bowers explained that it started in 2014, when Apple added a built-in Podcasts app to all of their products, allowing easier podcast access to every iPhone user. Google has also developed a similar system for Android products. According to Bowers, this addition could launch podcasting even further, since the number of Android users far outstrips the number of iPhone users worldwide.
Bowers then talked about his own life, detailing his climb in the professional radio world and advising attendees on their podcast-creating endeavors.
According to Bowers, it was a random broadcast about a potential nuclear winter that inspired him to pursue a career in radio. After arriving at Yale, Bowers worked for the WYBC radio station and later secured an internship at NPR under journalist Susan Stamberg’s guidance. He worked his way up to London correspondent, which, according to Bowers, was “the most wonderful job ever.”
Bowers eventually left NPR after 20 years to work for Slate.com. He started out by reading Slate articles aloud in podcasts but then progressed to creating more original content. Podcasting, Bowers said, is an “incredibly sticky media:” once listeners tune in, they hardly ever stop. Bowers and his team eventually developed 15 shows for Slate before Bowers left to co-found Panoply, a member of the Slate Group that advises aspiring podcasters on their business plans.
Bowers advised students who want to create podcasts to “make the business yourself,” by developing niche content that stands out in the group of roughly half a million preexisting podcasts. He added that when prospective listeners search for popular topics, the most viewed options pop up at the top of the list, often burying newer shows.
Several Yale students sat in the audience, and some of them said they were eager to launch or improve their own podcasts.
Chaz Okada ’21 told the News that in his podcast, he aims to provide listeners with insider information about careers by interviewing doctors, engineers and other professionals. Bowers answered Okada’s inquiry about sounding natural while on air, advising that one should “tell, not read” and that a podcast should sound like a conversation, not a written report.
“He’s certainly an expert, Mr. Bowers, so what better way than just follow the same line of thinking with my podcast and listen to experts?” Okada said. “I think that listening to experts talk about what they really know is the best way to learn, so I just wanted to get to know about the history of podcasting and from probably one of the best people to listen to.”
Bowers graduated from Yale and majored in philosophy.
Valerie Pavilonis | firstname.lastname@example.org .