It’s gotten to that point in the semester where I will literally find any excuse not to do the work I need to be doing. I desire to be distracted. I know this must be true for many, dare I say most, college students. We’ve been bogged down by the grind of the semester; Thanksgiving break was approaching and has now passed, so it’s a little challenging to get back into the school routine once again.

Derek Wolfe

To make a long story short, those factors explain how I jumped into the world of the podcast — for the uninformed, podcasts are essentially prerecorded radio shows that cover just about everything and can be directly downloaded to your phone or computer. Before mid-November, I had really only known podcasts as that app on my iPhone that I don’t use and a recording option on Garageband, which I have also never used. And yet, even with the limited experience I’ve had over the past couple of weeks, I’m not sure I ever want to leave this brave, new world. Because even though there are so many great TV shows out there, there’s something special about excellent, educational and informative audio.

It started with a tweet from one of my followers about “Serial,” the hit real-life murder mystery show hosted by Sarah Koenig, a producer of “This American Life.” With nine episodes to this point, “Serial” chronicles a murder that took place in the Baltimore area in 1999. Koenig has spent the last year or so researching the case to try to determine if Adnan Syed, the ex-boyfriend of Hae Min Lee, was the one who killed her and is releasing an episode week-by-week. I’m sure that description does not do it justice.

I became a hooked listener instantly, so upon hearing at the end of the ninth episode that the show would be taking a two-week hiatus for Thanksgiving, I was kind of devastated. It’s that good. As of now, it isn’t clear what the end result will be for Syed and I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s truly fascinating and I recommend that everyone take a listen. I’m counting down until Thursday.

But “Serial” hasn’t been the only podcast show that has piqued my interest. “Startup,” a show about Alex Blumberg, a former NPR staffer, beginning his startup company, Gimlet Media, has been impossible to put down — or turn off, I guess. He even admits to the title and premise being “meta.”

He’s right about that. I also believe Blumberg might be right about his big gamble in producing this show and what he really believes in, that the podcasting world is going to explode. He told TechCrunch, “We’re on the dawn of a second golden age of audio.”

That’s an enormous bet — something Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, would probably say. But in order to get there, the rest of the podcasting content has to be top notch. “Startup” is professional, well edited, but also quirky and deeply personal. Blumberg connects with the listener and tells a story that has been underreported — the emotional side of starting a business. Gimlet Media’s other and newer show, “Reply All,” has done the same so far and has been successful with its shows relating to the Internet.

But that’s enough of reviewing shows. I’ll leave that to our Arts section.

What I want to continue with is that there has been a lot of debate on the Internet as to whether shows like “Serial” and “Startup” have changed the game in the podcasting universe. Some say yes, some say no. After having invested several hours into listening to these shows and then reading the articles, I’m ready to have some skin in the game — from an opinion standpoint, that is. I find myself leaning toward yes.

Although it has been around for years, I find the podcast to be a new, fresh way to educate myself on important, and even not so important, issues. It has a different vibe than radio and there clearly is a demand for it. “Serial” broke the iTunes podcast download record with over five million by Nov. 18. In an episode of “Startup,” Blumberg made a call for investments to complete his goal of raising $1.5 million. He raised $200,000 in a couple of hours.

There’s clearly a market for this high-quality content. And if these two shows continue to be successful, then that will certainly drive others to make great shows, too, to get a piece of the multi-million dollar pie. So far, it’s an untapped market. There’s some basic economics for you.

This is a future I want to be a part of. Recently, I’ve begun to crave well-done storytelling. The podcast is a premiere medium for that. Besides, watching TV is overrated anyway.

Well, at least until “Better Call Saul” premieres.

Derek Wolfe can be reached at dewolfe@umich.edu.

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