108 | 30, pp. 107-125 | doxa.comunicación

January-June of 2020

From zine to podcast. Rethinking participatory culture from a comparative analysis of alternative media

ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978

1. Introduction

The first approaches to the so-called ‘culture of participation’ emerged with the arrival of Web 2.0 digital and interactive tools. The different theories of Gillmor (2004), Benkler (2006), Rheingold (2000), Shirky (2010), Castells (2012), Jenkins, Green and Ford (2015) and Jenkins, Ito and Boyd (2016), have emphasized the communicative empowerment acquired by subordinates; at the same time, they defend the decentralization of the media narrative, which is now theoretically in the hands of the public. Within this context, due to its ease of production and distribution of content to a potentially global audience, podcasting is one of the digital media that empowers individuals as potential participants in public discourse alongside the mass media that monopolized information during the 20th century, and with it, the ways of representing reality, which is in line with the ideas of the theorists mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Podcasting emerged in the United States in 2004 as a new means of communication based on the distribution of sound content over the Web through syndication systems that allowed users to subscribe. The pioneers of this medium were Adam Curry, a former video jockey from the MTV television channel, and Dave Winer, one of the developers of the RSS content syndication engine that was already working on websites and blogs. Both were able to build a method of webcasting that makes sound files available to any user for listening at their convenience. The first Spanish podcaster, José Antonio Gelado, came from the world of radio, and his rise to podcasting was based on the search for a way to continue his radio work with a greater amount of freedom by experimenting with subscription audio. Like other pioneers of the medium, Gelado had a blog, and because these online ‘log books’ were already allowed, his goal was to offer audio content using a syndicated format that would break the rigid structures of radio.

If radio is a media paradigm of the mass media era, the digital 2.0 character of podcasting promotes a way of listening to sound productions using several types of disruptive logic that clearly differentiate both media. The podcasts offer a greater variety of topics that is clearly reflected in amateur podcasting, whose creators protect without reservation the freedom to create content that deal with subjects that are generally outside the mainstream realm. As such, we can find programs with the most diverse topics that place the medium in a constant search for an available niche to fill. From this perspective, we find one of the breakthroughs of podcasting when compared to ‘hertzian’ radio. If traditional radio is a medium that is closer to the ‘hit’ consumption model characterised by a limited number of products sent to mass audiences under a one-to-many model, we must consider podcasting as an activity that fragments its audiences through the dissemination of much more specific content. Although it is necessary to emphasise that in certain contexts, such as that of North America, radio has acquired a certain level of content segmentation, thanks in part to the proliferation of radio stations that operate in local areas, as well as to the development of digital radio projects focused on specific subjects, above all within the musical field. These fragmented forms of listening, established in the native sense in podcasting, are linked to long tail logic, a model that distributes less quantity of a greater number of products; in other words, many programs of diverse content for a small, specific audience. Therefore, podcasting diversifies the range of content that can be found in the media ecosystem, offering cultural materials that are difficult to obtain through other channels. Similarly, this medium not only provides alternative content, but also offers differentiated approaches with