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Podcasting has been struggling to find its place in the media landscape for years now due to its inability to connect with mass audiences. The New Republic’s Stephen Lacey says in his article “The End of the Dark Ages of Podcasting” , however, that we might need to take a look into the past if we want to find the future of podcasting.
“Smart phones are widely considered the most important asset for podcasts,” said Lacey. “And, it’s partially true. But it might actually be a much older technology that will help podcasts break into the mainstream: the automobile.”
The reason that Lacey believes this is due to the rise in vehicles with internet capabilities. This new technology would allow drivers to listen to podcasts while on the road much easier than the current-day phone, auxiliary cord method and unlimited data plan method. The idea that the automobile could be the key to the widespread success of podcasting is one that I think will soon come to fruition for two reasons.
The first of those reasons comes down to opportunity. Video as a media format is usually preferable to most consumers; why have just audio when you can have both audio and visual components? But driving a car is one of the few times that we are unable to consume video content because of the need to keep eyes on the road, making audio the only logical way to consume content on the road. As it stands right now, podcasts are not very easily accessible in cars because of the lack of web connectivity in most vehicles but, according to Lacey, “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 would give almost every consumer using a automobile the opportunity to choose podcasting as his or her media of choice when on the road. Podcasts could fill the void that video cannot when it comes to content consumption in automobiles.
Given that opportunity, podcasts will be able to shine as a desirable content medium because of its wide topic variety and the ability to control the listening experience that it offers. Radio has been the medium of choice for drivers for decades, but podcasts could soon replace radio as the go-to choice.
Julia Key explains the appeal of podcasts in her article “Why You Don’t Listen to Podcasts (and why you should)”: “Podcasts today look similar to the world of blogs—there are all kinds of podcasters, from well-known media companies to amateur enthusiasts that span every topic you can think of. You can find thousands of podcasts with regularly updated content, which is well produced, entertaining, educational, funny, interesting, etc.”
Radio was an important innovation, but it came with limited programming options and virtually no control over listenability. Which brings me to my second reason. Podcasts, unlike radio, allow you to choose from content that spans a broad range of both topics and styles while also giving you full control over when and how you listen to them.
Podcasts may be having trouble reaching a diverse audience at the moment, but that is largely because it lacks an efficient way to deliver its content to mass audiences at the time and place that best fits its functions. Automobiles are the perfect solution to that dilemma, giving consumers a period of extended time that audio content can be consumed. As internet begins finding its way into our vehicles, podcasts could very well find themselves replacing the radio in our daily routine. Not much longer will drivers be subjected to whatever happens to be on the radio, commercials included; the internet connectivity of cars in the future will put the content experience squarely in the hands of the consumer.