The age of the podcastEdison Research reckons that 36 percent of Americans are regular podcast listeners – skewed markedly to educated younger people from wealthy households. 13 percent listen to podcasts every week and, of those, almost half will listen to more than three a week. The podcast is coming of age because of a change in technology. In 2013 most people who listened to podcasts did so on their computer. Now, in 2016, 71 percent are listening on a mobile device. Faster mobile networks, more generous data allowances and device useability have all conspired to make listening to podcasts as easy as – well, listening to the radio.
The challenge for radioRadio folk are quick to suggest that their medium is surviving the digital onslaught that has decimated so many other industries. The argument is that radio occupies your ears in the car and so long as you need to keep your eyes on the road (maybe for another five years) radio will always be called upon to keep us entertained and stimulate our minds. That’s a great argument for audio entertainment, but it doesn’t make the case for live sequenced programs fed over AM or FM transmitters. The more consumers access content through digital channels, the smaller the advantage of holding access to a high-powered transmitter. In effect, anybody can become a provider of audio content and mobile take-up is adding to the demand for choice.
Personalised radioStreaming services like Spotify are doing well because the audience chooses what it wants to listen to. The same is starting to happen with the spoken word – for those who want to drive and listen to talk rather than music. Take NPR One as an example. National Public Radio in the US now enables listeners to choose the order in which they play podcasts. When you jump in the car you can be fed the latest news, followed by other shows you choose or might like. The downside is, the shows are made for radio, not in bite sized chunks that would suit bespoke programming.
I think the future is in allowing consumers to construct their own talk stations, just as they do with music. When you start your car journey you hear the latest news bulletin, perhaps followed by your local weather, a finance update and then ten minutes on the latest news related to the industry you work in. Sprinkled through your journey might be background stories on sport, the environment, entertainment – whatever you have highlighted as your favoured content. The only thing that’s stopping this happening now is the content. Podcasters and broadcasters are wedded to long shows, with lots of content. They need to break them apart into digestible chunks.
It creates an opportunity for independent production houses – like Loudmouth Communications – to provide new content to wide audiences. And corporates with something to say can also get in on the game. The Morning Call is a great example; a finance update delivered at 7am each morning for Australian audiences, paid for by the National Australia Bank and featuring their analysts, showcasing their expertise on a daily basis.
I’m somewhat bias, but I think The Morning Call is an example of how podcasts will develop. Rather than long form content with a long shelf life, this is short, to the point and highly topical. In fact, it’s often edited after the upload to uptake later listeners if events change. It means podcasts, because they now tend to be played online, rather than downloaded, can be as up to date as a live radio broadcast.
It’s a future that seems inevitable; tailored radio shows made up of component parts from a number of providers – just as we listen to music shows from a range of artists. In car entertainment systems will make launching your stream easier and content aggregators will provide the tools to pick and choose what’s included in your daily commute.
You might miss the radio announcer who links all this content together but, get this, your bespoke radio station might come complete with your own AI presenter. Adobe’s VoCo does a convincing job of learning your speech patterns and turns text to speech for any voice you choose. So, you want your own radio show, with your chosen content, all wrapped up and presented by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Who says radio isn’t about to change?