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Stories are now an intrinsic part of our societies and culture. Movies, books, music, news media, religions, you name it, and the influence of storytelling can be seen in all aspects of our life. Defining our values, desires, dreams and our prejudices and hatreds, storytelling is indispensable. Traditionally, oral stories have been handed down from generation to generation.
Since the beginning of time (and the advent of humans), oral storytelling has served a critical role as the sole means of abstracting experiences and emotions in narrative form. Ancient oral storytellers were revered keepers of local knowledge, history, and traditions in their communities.
Fast-forward many millennia and storytelling have greatly changed– video has basically killed the radio star (save maybe Ira Glass and Howard Stern), but now we’ve got podcasts. Podcasting is now huge. Among other milestones, we saw megahit Serial crest 100 million downloads and the medium have its first interview with a sitting U.S. President. The buzz and attention translated into a 24% increase in regular listeners.
After this crazy growth, it is natural to question if podcasting's growth will be sustained or whether a collection of fluke events drove the unusually high listener numbers.
I personally believe that podcasts are here to stay and will become the most important way to do storytelling.
Investment is Increasing
As podcasting has grown as a storytelling medium, financial investment into podcasting has increased. Gimlet Media raised $6 million in funding and WNYC announced it plans to open a new podcast division, with $2 million in funding. A new network,
I am a big believer that when financial experts get involved in an industry in a big way, it is headed towards longevity. We all know that podcasting is popular and that the storytelling aspect is amazing, but now big money is behind the podcasting industry. This can only help the industry as a whole.
All of this means greater investment in content. With funds in hand, networks are backing bigger and bolder projects. This has opened to door of opportunity for podcasters.
Content is Improving as Storytelling Takes Over
As investment grows, podcasting shows have and will continue to grow in ambition. It is not the investment alone that drives the improvements to the content. Content is improving because creators are exploiting their freedom. Freedom from network programming and broadcast networks
Podcasts don't need to adhere to radio's clock where content must fit
Creators also have the opportunity to pursue controversial projects that would never make it on
The possibilities are limitless, and I really believe we’ve just scratched the surface. I can count on one hand the number of major fictional works in the medium, for example.
There is a Growing Amount of Talent
With real money now available and an increasing body of great podcasts, premiere talent is more interested in podcasting than ever before. We now see many celebrities in the podcast space. The storytelling possibilities are endless and that attracts celebrities.
Podcasting's talent base is boosted by a stable business model. As lucrative CPMs increase and monetization strategies tighten, there is now the possibility to earn a living wage podcasting. This along with the ability to create meaningful content that will find a meaningful audience is now attracting more standout talent. These new entrants will contribute even more great content, generating even greater listenership and growth investment.
Distribution is Expanding Greatly
We have now covered investment, content
The major difference is due to access and platforms. Currently, the majority of podcast content is consumed through Apple and its native podcast app. When the app is pre-installed and not able to be deleted,the barrier to listening is significantly lower.
Indeed, over 80% of podcast listening takes place on iOS devices, despite the fact that Android is America’s largest smartphone platform And yet despite a much larger install base, just 16% of podcast listening takes place on Android devices.
I personally believe this is about to change. Android listening will grow because of the launch of Google's podcasting service through their Play app. Like Apple's Podcast app, Play is pre-installed and cannot be deleted on Android devices. Additionally, Play can be installed on iOS devices, making it larger than the Android base itself.
Play is not the only new distribution system. Spotify, with an active user base of over 75 million, also has podcasts. Pandora is also getting involved, making Serial available to its 78 million active listeners.
In each of these scenarios, podcasts live alongside music. This is important because it means that people with no deliberate intention of seeking out podcast content will now encounter it. This should grow listeners a great deal.
The Connected Car as Part of the Storytelling
How has radio remained undisrupted? How has it kept MP3s at bay? The car is where 44% of radio listening takes place.
Dashboards are changing, though. Of the estimated 75 million new vehicles shipped in 2015, 13% were ‘connected’, or internet-enabled and will help provide easy access to streams.
This creates an entirely new distribution channel for podcasting. Imagine when every car is connected and has apps built into the dashboard? A podcast app will most assuredly be installed.
From a connected car it will be even easier to listen to podcasts while commuting. No special steps must be taken.
Virtual Reality: Really!
When one cannot hold a book or a screen, streaming audio is the only viable entertainment option. The ability of a podcast to be extremely mobile and easily consumed has taken it places print and video cannot go. This is ultimately what boosts its growth prospects.
Virtual reality, if not the computing platform of the future, is set to become a major format in entertainment, and podcasting stands to benefit.
In audio storytelling, listeners are moved through a narrative by sound–music, character dialogue, and narration. Audio storytelling will be the best option for virtual reality story formats.
Creative podcasters realize that a VR environment can serve as a backdrop for their episodes. Imagine sitting in the studio listening to the interview. You can then hang in the environment and enjoy the story that is unfolding through storytelling.
Storytelling and Marketing Go Together
With the rise of mass media came a time when companies could broadcast their marketing messages to millions of people. They didn't care if their message was relevant to every person, as long as a small percentage of people bought the product. They also figured out that they could convince more people to buy their products by playing on people's fears and insecurities.
In the digital age that we live in today, things are rapidly changing. Many people have gone to streaming their entertainment over the internet. This is why companies need to start making their messages more attention-worthy and share-worthy.
In this world of social media, people want content that can be shared. They want content their friends will also enjoy. We no longer succeed in our marketing by scaring people. It is only when we have share-worthy content do we succeed.
Our listeners do a lot of the work for us when we create good content. I'm always amazed at how people found one of my shows. A common response
Work the Program
The main thing I want you to take away here is that you need to work the program. There is no magic bullet to this issue. You have to do the hard work and in the end you will reap the rewards.