(By Mark Asquith) It doesn’t matter from which angle you view it, whether it’s through the lens of industry revenue or through the lens of the number of shows available – compared to other media podcasting is a baby.
Nay, podcasting is a teenager – a moody teenager trying to find its real place in the wider world, outside of its comfortable hometown of the “traditional” podcasters and it’s an industry that is finding’s own voice as a whole.
Being “in” podcasting is like being “in” anything and so, we sometimes get a distorted view of it – much like we view the Milky Way from a certain angle on a cloudless night – we’re in this and we see all of the stats/figures/growth and believe that podcasting is booming. And sure, it’s busier and more populated than it has ever been, but is it booming?
We live to podcast and to help the industry, we breathe it and ultimately we see it as our darling: something to be cared for, cherished and looked after; nurtured to the point of growth and defended when threats loom large on the horizon.
But perhaps, just perhaps, this kind of approach is keeping podcasting back from breaking out of its Smallville years?
Taking a step outside of the industry presents a different picture.
Of course, the industry is growing but it’s not as big as we on the inside think.
Rather, the industry is on the cusp of a transition; teetering on the edge of a mountain top ready to decide which way it will throw itself, gaining velocity as it descends a valley of unknown developments, ready to ascend the other side as something more — something that honors the traditions of the past but that allows it to transform into a truly forward-thinking medium.
Regardless of your thoughts on whether podcasting should make that journey, the truth is that it’s happening around us already.
At the centre of that, podcasting has numerous challenges to overcome. From the discoverability issues that we hear so much about, to the raging debate about free platforms entering the market to challenge the hosting incumbents holding so much sway right now – podcasting is full of scraps and opinions are thrown out via an angry Tweet or soon-to-be-deleted Facebook post.
One of the most interesting debates recently was the announcement of NPR’s RAD podcast metrics initiative.
In short, RAD allows markers to be placed within audio whereby various types of podcast software can read those markers and deliver data on the use cases of those markers.
The backlash was fantastic in its diversity: from mockery within some circles, to (unfounded) GDPR worries, to influential figures such as Marco Arment, developer of the popular Overcast podcast listening app flat-out refusing to integrate it.
The truth though may hurt: RAD is one of the first in a new wave of podcasting technology – look around, every day there’s a new startup entering the space, it seems.
And podcasting needs that. Podcasting needs to innovate and an initiative such as RAD only means that people are trying to help the industry grow int its new, fresh skin.
None of us can be naive enough to think that NPR believed that RAD would be integrated quickly, nor that it would be a success from day one. In fact, I believe that they’re aiming for this to be some kind of standard over the next five years.
And that’s ok – podcasting’s tectonic plates takes time to shift and as more and more listeners hop on the podcasting train, as more and more creators try their hand at podcasting by the easiest means available to them, more and more people will ask “how do we fill these gaps that podcasting has?”.
The industry is fired up.
Both old and new are innovating in the industry and as we enter this potential age of “podcasting 2.0”, can we honestly say that the technology, the methods and the measurements will look the same as they do now, in ten years time?
More pertinent: should they look the same?
Mark Asquith is the CEO of Rebel Base Media, which owns Captivate.fm, Podcast Websites, Podcast Design Studio, Podcast Success Academy & Poductivity. Reach out to Mark by e-mail at [email protected]