The History of Rome helped Duncan launch a second podcast and a series of historical tours.
The Roman Empire fell more than 1,500 years ago, long before the Internet existed. Interestingly, its demise created a path to contemporary stardom for Madison resident Mike Duncan, creator and host of an award-winning podcast called The History of Rome.
After leaving a master's degree program at Texas State in 2007, Duncan started The History of Rome as a way to stay active in his field before completing a degree in public history. Little did he know that his detailed audio survey of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire would span 190 episodes and attract legions of fans from across the globe.
"I was thinking a couple hundred people would listen, but it just kept growing and growing and growing," he says.
Though Duncan completed this massive audio tome two years ago, it is still downloaded hundreds of thousands of times each month.
Duncan receives tons of emails as well.
"I get emails from fans all over the world. The U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, all of the Americas. A lot of people in the U.S. military, too," he says.
Since finishing The History of Rome, Duncan started the equally successful Revolutions podcast, which has chronicled democratic upheavals in the U.K. and the U.S. so far. In July, Duncan started releasing his first episodes about the French Revolution.
That's just the beginning of his next phase.
"After the French Revolution is the Haitian Revolution, then we've got the Mexican Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Cuban Revolution," he notes. "I have my work cut out for me."
Podcasting also helped connect him with tour operators in Europe, spawning a whole new revenue stream.
"We've done four History of Rome tours now, and they've all been hits. There's not really another tour company that focuses on just ancient historical sites," he says.
Duncan hopes that his fans truly learn from history, especially when it comes to technological innovation. He worries that the Internet may change in ways that make it very hard for an individual to, say, turn a podcast into a successful business.
"When things like net neutrality are gone, who knows how long people like me will be able to exist? We might just go back to having gatekeepers minding the store."