Colleen Otte

Podcast Paradise

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Image: Flickr, Christof.

Podcasts are like mini-vacations.

To start, they serve as an escape from the reality of our daily lives. While vacations physically lead us away, podcasts help us to travel mentally. Rather than exploring new scenes with our eyes, we listen and explore new ideas, stories and news with our minds. Both aid us in our relaxation, as we can leave our responsibilities behind and experience for a moment a life that isn’t ours.

But, our time is valuable as it is also limited. We eventually must return to the responsibilities we once pretended didn’t exist and to the lives that are rightfully our own. While a vacation would ideally be as long as it would take to experience everything our destination has to offer, it isn’t realistic. Perhaps we’re students forced to cram our road trip into a one-week spring break, or adults who hold jobs with limited paid vacation for our tropical trips. Whatever the reason may be, it holds true that our escapes exist only in a window of time, causing us to want to fill that window with as much exploration as possible.

According to the New Republic’s “The End of the Dark Ages of Podcasting,” podcasts possess a similar flaw: they contain a lot of content, and we simply don’t always have the time to commit to listening to the lengthy features from start to finish. The article suggests that this is one reason podcasts don’t seem to achieve the same level of engagement as video or photo content. Videos and photos are more instantly gratifying than the average podcast, meaning we are able to explore more content in the same amount of time.

Aside from time, we also may not have the necessary resources—like money or transportation—to go on our vacations. The same rings somewhat true of podcasts. How do we get to them? The New Republic asserts that podcasts lack a good mode of communication, for they are too long and extensive to gain proper reception via social media promotion.

As Parviz Parvizi, co-founder of the audio-sharing app developer Clammr, says in the article, “Audio is on its own island. To listen to a podcast, you have to go to Podcast Land. That’s a barrier that presupposes someone is already into audio. The idea is to make bits of audio present where people already are.”

If sun, poolside chairs and tiki huts were right around the corner rather than all the way down in Florida, we’d be more likely to visit them more often, correct?

Parvizi implies that the same principle can be applied to podcasts. If they could be aggregated into a one-stop format like Facebook, where we could specify and define our preferences and also view what our friends are sharing, we’d be more likely to tune in since we wouldn’t have to waste time tracking down what we’re interested in.

So, for a moment, let’s break from our current simile of podcasts are like vacations. Instead, let’s say that podcasts could actually become a part of our vacations. Depending how we decide to travel to our vacation destinations, we may end up spending quite a bit of time in the car. This is also where podcast consumers spend the most time listening in, therefore, it may be the setting where podcasts see the most innovation and growth.

According to the New Republic, “Today, roughly 10 percent of automobiles are connected to the web. By 2020, that number could climb to 90 percent if you include both new cars from the factory and existing cars retrofitted with web connectivity.

This breakthrough has podcast-pushers optimistic. In the Pew Research Center’s article “Audio: How Far Will Digital Go?,” Slate’s executive producer of podcasts Andy Bowers said, “Up until now, cars have been one of the few places where we spend significant time yet where we haven’t been deeply connected to the internet. And since it’s dangerous and foolish to text, read or watch video while driving that leaves audio as the best medium for the road…I plan to keep introducing and producing podcasts that become important additions to people’s lives, with the hope that as a commuter gets in her car for a dreary drive to work, she’ll think, ‘Fantastic–Now I get to hear my favorite Slate show.’”

Perhaps more fun does lie in the journey, rather than the destination, after all.

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