Nathaniel Gaynor

Discoverability and Longevity – Podcasting’s Place in a Crowded Market

The first time I ever started listening to a podcast regularly was during the run of ABC’s Lost in the mid-2000’s. The two men that ran the show Lost, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, hosted a podcast every week in which they would discuss the previous episode of the show and answer fan mail questions. Naturally, me being an uber-fan of the show, I would listen every week with the hopes of hearing even a fragment of information that would help me solve some of the show’s many mysteries.

That was a long time ago now.

Since that time, I’m not sure if I listened to any other podcasts. I’m certain that I have no sentience for the entertainment form.

Then, Serial arrived in 2014 and I not only became aware of podcasting, but a fervent fan. Its hard to imagine a long drive without some sort of podcast these days. Not only do I listen to Serial, I also listen to video game podcasts on IGN; a Nintendo podcast from the Youtube channel Gamexplain, and a Game of Thrones book-to-show comparison podcast.

I stumbled upon those last three without any sort of direction in finding them. I happened to be reading an article on IGN’s site that linked me to their podcasts.

From this week’s readings, it appears that Google Play will soon be joining Spotify in adding podcasts to its repertoire. Pandora has also got into the podcast game, by hosting Serial on its servers. Again, there really is no mainstream way to find podcasts. The issue of discoverability appears to be the biggest problem with podcasts reaching the masses.

The question I’m asking is: where is the Apple Music for Podcasts? Apple Music has done an excellent job in not only providing users with a wide range of music choices, but also accessible discoverability features that help them find the music they are looking for at that moment; be it a country music summer barbecue playlist or a alternative rock playlist for hardcore runners.

Podcasting needs a discoverability tool. For me, this is affirmed in “The End of the Dark Ages of Podcasting” article from The New Republic. Author Stephen Lacey notes that “the industry’s growth is coming largely from a small base of hardcore users, not from a surge of new listeners”. This says that podcasting is growing thanks to niche users – similar to the niche topics I listen to podcasts for (Lost mysteries, Nintendo, A Song of Ice and Fire). Lacey also notes that podcasters are having a hard time reaching listeners, and consumers are having a hard time finding podcasts that interest them.

I think that the more that both podcast creators and advertisers realize that podcasts will find success in catering to niche markets, the sooner success will come.

Finally, there is the question longevity. Serial essentially revived a somewhat dormant genre in true crime – or at least returned it to the public consciousness. Season two however, which has focused on the controversial prisoner-of-war Bowe Bergdahl has received more mixed reviews.

What are that the odds Serial and podcasting are not more of a trend than an actual pillar of entertainment?

“Podcasting will likely become a lot more popular as you see the Internet coming into cars more,” Joseph Lichterman, from the Nieman Journalism Lab said. “The connected car makes things easier and easier to stream things from your car.”

Podcasting will continue to grow and develop over the next few years with the new innovations for accessibility, and I look forward to see that growth. I hope that it does indeed become a staple of the cultural entertainment diet.

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