What do you do with your mind while you’re doing something mindless? For millions of people, folding the laundry, jogging, mowing the lawn, or driving to work has become the time to listen to podcasts, a form of audio entertainment that has skyrocketed in popularity along with the adoption of smartphones.

Once a niche market, podcasts have now hit the mainstream, and traditional radio companies have taken notice. David Bevins, COO of Connoisseur Media, a radio network based in Westport, Connecticut, believes podcasts are only going to get more popular. Connoisseur owns 33 radio stations around the country including 94.5 WPST and 920 The Jersey, which are broadcast from 619 Alexander Road.

A few years ago, most of the shows made at these stations would disappear into the memory hole once broadcast, never to be heard again. But under a new program, many of the company’s shows are being turned into digital audio files that listeners can download any time via www.connoisseurmedia.com. On Saturday mornings, 920 The Jersey is devoted to a slate of locally-produced shows, many of them hosted by local businesspeople, and these shows are being distributed as podcasts in addition to broadcast over AM radio. Each one offers current shows as well as an archive stretching hundreds of episodes into the past.

For example, Chris Schiavone, owner of Forsgate Golf Club, hosts a show called Back9Buzz. Princeton real estate agent Debbie Lang has her own podcast called The Voice of Real Estate. Other area business owners have podcasts on pets, home improvement, finance management, and health. “With a podcast, the goal is to help local businesses in the marketplace extend their brand, extend their message, and we are able to utilize podcasts to do that,” Bevins said.

Bevins will give a talk on podcasting at a Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday, August 17, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club of Princeton. Tickets are $25, $40 for nonmembers For more information, visit www.princetonchamber.org or call 609-924-1776.

Most podcasts are delivered via an RSS feed (Real Simple Syndication) which allows users to subscribe to them through a program like iTunes, and have them automatically downloaded to an Internet-connected device. Podcasts have been around since the early 2000s and their name reflects that period of technological history, being a portmanteau of “iPod” and “broadcast.” Podcasting has become more popular since the widespread adoption of smartphones has made listening to them very easy. “As our busy lifestyle prevents us from consuming entertainment when it is live, people now have the ability to consume the same entertainment on their smartphone at any time using a podcast,” Bevins said.

According to Bevins’ statistics, one third of Americans listened to a podcast in 2014. That same year, the podcast Serial, in which journalist Sarah Koenig investigated a 1999 murder, broke downloading records and was popular enough to be the subject of a Saturday Night Live sketch. Last year, 6 billion podcast episodes were downloaded worldwide.

Serial was a spinoff of This American Life, a popular public radio show. Part of its success was the promotion it received from its parent program. Bevins believes his own podcast network benefits from cross promotion.

“The advantage of having a radio show is that you’re reaching hundreds of thousands of people,” Bevins said. “About 94 percent of all Americans listen to the radio in their car. The available audience of people listening to a radio show is thousands of times larger than a podcast audience. But the podcast is valuable when it comes to allowing the consumer to listen to things in their own time or when they want it or need it.”

It’s possible to record and distribute a podcast using nothing more than a smartphone, or a simple computer and microphone setup. But the Connoisseur podcasts are produced in full radio studios with the help of engineers, resulting in higher quality sound than an amateur setup.

“We have professional producers who are trained and their expertise is in creating quality on-air product with high grade equipment,” Bevins said. “Podcasts are becoming more and more popular with corporations, to share a message with employees as well as the community. If your corporation prides itself on professionalism, you should not have somebody in your marketing department sitting in front of a microphone and a computer. You need to come into the studio to produce it.”

Another organization that has taken notice of podcasting is the Princeton Chamber, the host of Bevins’s upcoming speech. He said the chamber is working with Connoisseur to create its own podcasting network. “We are starting to do more podcasting for the community,” Bevins said. “We have three beautiful production studios available for people in the community to come in and have their message recorded in a professional setting.”

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