With all the talk in our class about public media and radio, I wanted to post about one of my favorite new forms of journalism: podcasts.
I love podcasts and I listen to a few shows regularly. My favorites are Radiolab and Death, Sex & Money, both from WYNC (New York City’s public broadcasting station). I listen to them when I drive, cook and clean — they transform daily mundane activities into time for imagining, learning and feeling lots of emotions.
The comparison between blogging and podcasting comes from Nieman Lab: “Podcasting in 2015 feels like a lot like blogging circa 2004: exciting, evolving and trouble for incumbents.” The article hit the nail on the head for a lot of things I’ve been thinking about as I consume more podcasts and different kinds of podcasts. Joshua Benton writes:
The state of podcasting in 2015 feels a lot like the state of blogging circa 2004. The variety and quality of work being done is thrilling; outside attention is growing; new formats are evolving. We’re seeing the same unlocking of creative potential we saw with blogging, and there’s far more good work being produced than anyone has time to take in.
Yes. The first time I heard anyone outside of my journalism department mentioning podcasting was last spring, when all of my college-aged friends were losing their minds over Serial, a week-by-week podcast by NPR’s Sarah Koenig dissecting one court case. I should note that conversations about journalism and new media don’t happen often with my 20-something friends who do not study communications. So when they all started talking about it, independent of any mention by me, I knew it was something big. Podcasting had struck a nerve with young Americans, who have not really found a home in traditional media and who are the apple of the eye of all media advertisers. So I waited for a flush of interest and funding in podcasts to begin. I also started thinking that maybe podcasts would be the next big thing for independent media during some of our class discussions. We often talk about how a new technology is often the driving point for an indy media renaissance.
So, I’ve been asking myself, how will this play out? How will podcasts form and grow and change? Neiman Lab commented on how podcasting may take a lot of cues from blogging and learn a lot of similar lessons. Bennet writes:
One part of that old blogging world was professionalized, spawning smart digital outlets like The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Vice.
Another, bigger part was taken over by platforms like Facebook and Twitter that promised technical ease.
And the incumbent outlets that blogging threatened — print newspapers and magazines — ended up stuck in the middle: not savvy enough to compete with the new digital pros, not big enough to compete with the platforms.
He then goes on to break the podcasting revolution down also by professionalism, technology and incumbents. I think one of his strongest points is about how podcasting lacks the necessary technology to make a lot of money:
Nearly all audio podcasts are MP3 files — the same format that filled up your iPod with Nelly and NSYNC back in the day. Once they’re downloaded, MP3s are opaque from a publisher’s perspective: There’s no way to tell if they’ve been played once, a hundred times, or never. Tracking individual listeners’ habits — seeing what other podcasts they listen to, which ads they skip, or which episodes they bail out of early — is impossible for a podcast producer.
If advertisers cannot target their ads, if producers cannot track their audience, then the industry needs to find some creative solutions. I would go further to say that the independent industry needs to find some even more creative solutions that work for their business models and their ethics.
Overall, this was a really great article that made me think about how indy media makers might be able to take this bull by the horns. Since most of my non-media friends have not mentioned podcasts to me since Serial ended it’s first season, I have been waiting to hear whether or not any of them will mention it again, and if so who they are listening to. So, I’ll ask you, dear reader, who are you listening to?