Julie Angell

Too many podcasts, not enough ears


Somewhere over the years, as television took over and radio was neglected, audiences’ ears were abandoned, too. But the desire to listen to news is growing, and media innovators need the skills to deliver.

Bradley Allen, A Michigan State University graduate student, created his own blog all about podcasts. He covers everything there is to know about the swinging audio trend — what he’s heard on them, what he thinks about what he’s heard, and general quips about the up.

“…If that gives you any idea how serious I am about being obsessed with podcasts,” Allen, the assistant sports director at Impact 89FM, said.

Allen is one of many in media who see the potential in podcasting. That’s great, but I see two issues that need to be addressed before podcasts can truly compete with video and written content:

  1. Advertising
  2. Awareness

It seems that listeners may easily abandon a 15 second pre-roll ad before the podcast even begins, as compared to a video ad or paywall. It also would make sense that advertisements in the middle of a podcast, typically 60 seconds long, have a better shot of being heard. Income School recommends only advertising for companies related to your niche and limiting podcast advertisements to two per episode. Compared to written stories and videos, podcast advertising seems to have more stipulations.

Joseph Lichterman, a staff writer for Nieman Lab, told our class that discoverability is an issue. There’s a “shift” for advertisers, and they have a complex problem to solve because there are less reliable metrics when it comes to podcasts.

It’s been 11 years since podcasts have “gained noticeable traction,” said Nicholas Quah of Nieman Lab, and we’ve seen noticeable trends lately that show they’re on the rise. We can thank addictive podcast series like Serial for that. That show alone has a 100 million downloads notched in its belt, according to Stephen Lacey’s piece from New Republic.

Roughly half of Americans (12 and up) are aware of podcasting, and awareness has increased at a “modest pace” according to 2015 data from Pew Research Center. While the number of podcasts hosted on websites is going up, we need awareness and listens to catch up to it.

It’s tricky trying to watch a newscast or read a newspaper while doing the dishes, so consumers like Allen, listen instead. Allen’s podcast obsession bleeds into his work life, where he frequently urges his staff to create podcasts.

“I think they have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a really innovative idea before it gets big,” Allen said. “In order to get more people to listen to them would be to incorporate multimedia. Like, if a sports recap had a short audio story podcast embedded into it, it’d be really simple for the consumer to click and listen.”

Allen also thinks being able to Tweet out an audio file that’d save a couple clicks for the listener is a possibility for solving distribution issues. Whether or not that’s practical is a question to be answered, but it’s worth testing out since we live in such a mobile world. Which is why creating content that’s easy to read and watch on a phone is extremely important in today’s media world. And that’s where podcasts big break might be.

A screen shot of a conversation between podcast lover Bradley Allen and one of his friends.
A screen shot of a conversation between podcast lover Bradley Allen and one of his friends.

According to Pew Research’s State of the News Media 2015 report, mobile devices are “increasingly the preferred way to listen to podcasts.” Just like music, listening to news is easy and convenient on the go. The new millennium is all about convenience.

There are a lot of solid podcasts out there — more than I know what to do with. The quality of these podcasts are worth innovating and figuring out how to get enough ears to listen to them and enough money to fund them.


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