Making Digital History Relevant

Media is the most important tool in today’s society for disseminating information. Through newspapers, television programs, radio broadcasts, books, articles, or even music, information and ideas are spread by various media sources in different ways. The question then for any professional is what medium is best used to get their information out there? Of course, most people go for the shotgun effect and try to use as many different forms of media to get their ideas out. But that’s not the point of this blog post. Is there one media choice that is best for historians to reach an extended audience? And is that media podcasts? Yeah, I guess.

Podcasts can be great! The almost personal setting of listening to a group of people discussing ideas in conversation can help listeners follow along easier than reading an article or watching a video. Podcasts also tend to be longer in length than most videos, plus it helps that modern Americans are too lazy to read the material themselves. To be fair, many would not even know where to begin searching for some of the topics discussed in podcasts. Take for instance, the podcast BackStory and their latest episode on the Opioid epidemic in America. Bringing in an expert on the subject the hosts are able to connect historical knowledge with current events to show parallels and possible outcomes/solutions. Since podcasts are an extremely popular medium, this is clearly a great way to reach a wider audience!

The problem here is, podcasts are not the most popular medium and tend to reach an audience in the upper levels of society. And since podcasts aren’t distributed like traditional media, ie they aren’t controlled by large corporations, they don’t get the same kind of advertising or push that a television show might get. Personally, I don’t listen to podcasts. Its just a preference. Instead, I would love to see television bridge the gap between historians and the general public. Not History Channel style television, but real history in almost a reality television style. Or even video games that reach a large, young audience. While some games try (and generally fail) to convey a sense of history, video games are another media that historians can try to use to reach a wider audience. But podcasts are cool too I guess.

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