Podcasts – the new radio

There was a time when I habitually listened to the radio – magazine shows, music, and even – in darkest times – talk-back. Nowadays, it’s podcasts.

At  best, radio is immediate ( it usually beats TV to breaking news, for example ), and can be a mine of information. It’s a  companion by proxy,  and there’s a low-level intimacy with favourite hosts.

At worst, it’s full of aging-remedy ads, and dinosaurs whining about ‘PC gone mad’ . Wealthy breakfast hosts masquerading as ordinary blokes make soothing noises and cheer on callous right-wing governments.

podcasts - the new radioBut for me  and many others,  podcasts – an audio format only available online – signal goodbye to  all that.

So What’s the Attraction?

Podcasts have been around a while, sine 2004 . By July 2012, there were 1 billion subscriptions. But now, there are entire libraries-worth of different podcast offerrings out there. An  fan is easily flummoxed by choice.

Each podcast, which is like a radio show, focusses on a specific area of interest, such as technology, business, a sport, health, fitness, diet, celebrity interviews, news. You name it.  Every episode offers fresh content.

I’m an infomaniac, a.k.a lifelong learner. Many of the people producing these podcasts are experts in their fields, self-appointed or not. Their podcasts can be a free education in that field. They’ll often introduce you to other experts,  and your network is wider still.

Apart from learning, inspiration ( personal stories,  religion, spirituality ), entertainment, comedy, and drama formats are all there.

Podcasts let you cherry-pick your own audio content. A podcast has become tired? Unsubscribe. An episode is dull? Skip to the next. You’re the Programme Director.

Favourite episodes are easily saved to your phone,  so repeat performances are fast, and easily found.

The more popular podcasts pay their way with ads. Which is a small price for users to tolerate in exchange for what they offer. Unlike radio, podcast software usually lets skip backward or forward a set interval, or routinely start at, say, 5 minutes in.

In an attempt to stay current,  I like to keep up with what’s popular on the ‘net. That’s pretty easy to do – at least in the audio / podcast field –  via a couple of websites.  Those lists are heavily skewed toward mainstream US  content, but some exploring quickly finds some byways. There are some good local podcasts and series coming out of both The Spinoff and RNZ National.

Tracking and finding subscriptions and episodes is now easier with improved podcasting software. Podcasts themselves use their own logos, and include episode notes.

Your smartphone is your radio

Radio content is less portable than podcast content, which is nearly always available via your smartphone.

High-profile and successful internet marketers tend to have their fingers on the pulse of where attention is, and where it’s going. That’s how they sell for clients. Here’s Gary Vaynerchuk from a  January 26th episode of his podcast;

I think audio podcasts have been a huge medium – I think we might continue to see them grow. I think our phone is our radio and so I think there’s enormous opportunity for growth in the podcast space

For business, they’re another marketing tool. WordPress consultants WP Elevation report that their podcasts are by far their biggest generator of leads.

A 2016 US nationwide survey showed awareness of the term had more than doubled  ( 22% to 55% ) since 2006. An estimated 21% of the population had listened to a podcast in the last month. Among those aged 12 – 14, the monthly podcast audience had risen dramatically since 2013, from 11% to 27%.

But  the survey showed that while online audio is on the rise there, wireless radio still has a foothold. Three-quarters of podcast listeners also listened to online radio, and AM/FM radio still had a 54% audio market share.

In New Zealand, no formal podcast surveys could be found. A 2016 Nielsen survey says more than half of us ( 56% ) access the internet via our phones.

But a whopping 82% listen to radio ( with no distinction made between wireless and online ) each week, according to that survey.

So while podcasts haven’t killed the radio star, as the song went, radio will quickly be forced to live with them.

Basic Podcast How-to: https://serialpodcast.org/how-to-listen

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