I’ve always found podcasts somewhat mysterious. I tend to associate talk radio broadcasts with the monotone shows my grandpa listened to in the car during the drives up to our cottage. Besides making me somewhat nostalgic, I’ve always written podcasts off as being a boring medium that only very mature adults listen to. I’ve heard great things about Serial, though I have yet listened to hear what all the buzz is about. Radio in general has never been something I have been interested in; the way I see it, the radio is simply that entity that plays mediocre music over and over until you think your ears might bleed if you hear that song one more time.
Podcasting and YouTube were born in the same era, but because they appeal to different senses, they’ve evolved very differently. Media consumers today are visual-obsessed. I tend to only share content on my social media platforms if it involves some sort of dominant visual element. It’s no surprise my favorite platforms are Instagram and Snapchat; I want to see with my eyes what other people are seeing through theirs.
Content that is strictly audio is not something that I’m used to coming across. Like Parviz Parvizi of Clammr told the New Republic in their article, “The End of the Dark Days of Podcasting,” “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.”
I can only think of several instances where I would want to listen to something without having a visual element to aid in my mental visualization of who’s speaking and what’s going on: while I’m driving, biking or walking to class. Those activities require me to focus my eyes on what’s happening in my immediate vicinity; visuals would be totally distracting.
Stephen Lacey’s article for The New Republic touched on this as well. Radio is already so engrained into the driving experience, that it would make perfect sense for cars to incorporate a podcasting feature into their built-in entertainment systems. This seems to be exactly where the future of podcasting is headed.
Visuals are incredibly engaging and easy to share across all types of social platforms. You can always take a still-shot of a video clip to immediately give a hint at what the video is about. This is where audio runs into an issue. You can’t screenshot a sound wave and have a listener get the gist of the show at a glance.
Clammr is addressing this issue by allowing producers to create shorter, shareable soundbites from their longer shows. This will hopefully draw more listeners in, just as a still-shot from a video would. But, for the most part, there has been very little innovation for podcasts in the past decade.
YouTube and other social platforms have evolved tremendously, because there has been such an interest and desire for more efficient, tailored social networks as well as better content being produced. If more shows like Serial were to emerge, there may be a very good chance that podcasting could become a much more prominent industry than it has been even in the past year or so. Demand for such media seems to be the ultimate driving force in the way of innovation.