|Investigative journalism podcast Serial released its first season in 2014. / Photo credits by Casey Fiesler via Flickr|
Podcasting is on the rise even if its underlying technology that was developed earlier stays the same, said Nicholas Quah of entertainment news site Vulture. The term “podcasting” was coined by Ben Hammersley. He invented the word because his editor required him to weave one more sentence about a “revolutionary new audio distribution technology” for The Guardian’s 2004 column.
Hammersley did not know what to name the so-called audio distribution technology. Words like “Audioblogging” and “Guerrilla Media” floated in his mind, but then he thought of combining the words “iPod,” which was Apple’s line of portable media players, and “broadcast,” as the new content will be broadcasted and consumed through those kinds of devices. Thus, “podcasting” was born.
The history of podcasting is brief but colorful. It started as a digital backwater but easily become more prominent, catching the eyes of audiences and moneyed interests. Podcasting is now heading into a future where it is expected to become a significant part of the entertainment industry.
The History of Podcasting
Podcasting has its roots in blogging, as people become motivated by the possibility of the internet democratizing speech. The earliest podcasts were “barely edited” and “crudely recorded.” Then the norm changed when podcasting gained more visibility and attracted more listeners.
Later on, the podcasting field expanded to accommodate podcasters with various occupations— journalists, technology writers, comedians, and the like. Podcasters from diverse backgrounds led to a more curated mix of podcasts for listeners to try. Apple played a central role, as it dedicated a directory solely for podcasts on iTunes. The medium grew and the tech company known for its iPhones and MacBooks established its dominance as a podcast distributor.
By the early 2010s, the popularity of podcasting flattened out. However, in 2014, “This American Life,” an hour-long radio program, released the first season of Serial, an investigative journalism podcast, which contributed to the boom of the podcasting industry. Research firm Edison Research found that monthly podcast listeners in the US doubled from 39 million in 2014 to 90 million five years later.
The years after 2014 saw a surge of podcast activity. Media companies, independent contractors, and ordinary folks created their own podcasts. That meant more hits, podcast celebrities, and podcast businesses. But it also caused the industry to become saturated a bit. Earlier this year, Spotify entered the waters of pod distribution, spending over $340 million to acquire podcast studio Gimlet Media and podcast publishing platform Anchor.
Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek declared, “With the addition of Gimlet and Anchor, Spotify will now become the leading global podcast publisher with more shows than any other company.” The firm’s triggered a new wave of podcasting, one that deviates from the medium’s “slow-but-steady origins.” In Spotify, there are now talent-hiring and exclusive partnership announcements that have resulted in Apple being overthrown from its position as a major podcast distributor.
The field has become more competitive, with Apple intensifying the arms race by funding its own original podcasts. Setting corporations aside, what’s in store for creators?
Podcasting Is the New Influencer
Podcasters have their own army of dedicated fans who look forward to the next episode, becoming a new type of influencer, stated Isabel Rafferty of tech and marketing platform MarTechInsights. As an influencer, podcasters can reach out to their audiences everywhere—be it in cars or at home.
Interestingly, podcasting made the advertising industry change, reviving radio to engage people in their private spaces. The said industry sees it as an opportunity for podcasts to become a “powerful advertising vehicle.” How about the voices behind the podcasts? Unlike Instagram influencers who have fans favoriting a post and moving on to another one in a fleeting moment, podcasters command the attention of their listeners for a certain amount of time.
Some notable names in the podcasting industry today are Melinna Bobadilla and Brenda Gonzalez of Tamarindo, podcasters who interconnect pop culture and politics. Paulina and Bricia Lopez’s Super Mamas empowers women of all backgrounds.
Podcasts can also be used as a form of “escapist entertainment.” Podcasts that are in this niche include Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark’s My Favorite Murder and Anna Faris’ Anna Faris Is Unqualified.
New Challenges Await
|Anyone with a microphone, an audio file, and good content in mind that can hold their listener's attention can easily be a podcast influencer. / Photo credits by Cathy Yeulet via 123rf|
Podcasting has a low cost of entry. Anyone with an audio file and a dream can develop a podcast with loyal followers who love their content, explains Kerry Perse of weekly American advertising trade publication Adweek. Hence, podcast influencers need to produce engaging content that can hold the attention of their listeners for 30 minutes. They have to be different, using formats, language, or segments that are unique to them alone.
Of course, brands should be prepared to embrace a podcaster’s uniqueness. Moreover, these companies need to find podcasters who share the same values as them. For instance, if a brand is focused on how “technology can make the world a healthier place,” it’s best to work with a podcaster who is a tech buff and nature lover.
Brands who have taken a leap of faith on an up-and-coming influencer are setting themselves up for being rewarded for their loyalty. Those who get in early are the victors. Most importantly, brands and influencers need to work together to help transcend the latter’s initial foray into the medium. Both parties should have fun in podcasting. After all, the industry’s rules “are still being defined.”