It may seem like podcasts have been around for a long time, said IAB Chief Executive Officer Randall Rothenberg, kicking off last week's sold-out Podcast Upfront conference in New York City, but it's been less than ten years. It feels longer "because very few entertainment and information and news media have ever established themselves this quickly in the consciousness of culture," he explained. Rothenberg (pictured at top) went on to reference The Cluetrain Manifesto, which twenty years ago observed how the world wide web would change us: "A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed." Rothenberg's mini economics lesson was on the connection between the economy and digital; that what's happening in the marketplace is impacting podcasting. Given that consumers now have direct access to brands -- versus having always been dependent on a middleman or retail -- brands need direct conversations with consumers. Podcasting provides those direct conversations.