The Emergence of Podcast Super-Curators: 11 Misfits to Listen To


Spoken Audio and The Conspiracy Against Discovery

Some of the most creative, insightful, and entertaining misfits in the media landscape today are using audio as their medium of expression. In the podcasting niche alone, there are over 150,000 active shows and more than 1,000 new shows are launched each week.

But, there’s often no good way to find today’s freshest voices other than through blind luck. Spoken audio as a medium conspires against discovery: long-duration such that trying something new is a major time commitment; inherently not browsable; and a cultural product that renders text search largely irrelevant to discovery (when was the last time you searched a movie or TV transcript to decide on the next show you wanted to watch?).

Beyond some of the challenges that the audio medium presents, much of the digital landscape compounds the problem by overlooking spoken audio when it comes to basic compatibility. For example, sharing a podcast on Facebook typically yields a title and still image — equivalent to a web article share circa 2010. Even worse, a share to Twitter leads to an ugly link that a user somehow must intuit they can click on to launch a mysterious “media card” that accesses the podcast. In some instances, a share to Twitter generates a still image that can launch a full podcast — replete with intro music, uninformative canned intro, and sometimes preroll ads before the user even gets a feel for the unfamiliar show. Even on web sites, embedding audio often depends on whatever the original audio source host makes available.

The Clammr Experiment

For the past year, we’ve been experimenting with Clammr as a tool to bring spoken audio into the social and digital media conversation in a native way. We converged on a few hypotheses as guideposts to our experiment:

  1. Audio should be accessible directly and natively within a digital experience rather than necessarily taking the user away to a new place
  2. Audio content should take full advantage of each medium where it’s expressed. A spoken podcast should not necessarily remain straight-jacketed as a sound-only experience if it’s being shared on a visual platform. It should be easy to mash up with images, GIFs, and text in a way that takes full advantage of new digital homes that it resides in
  3. Audio should have format flexibility to align with user behaviors on different digital platforms. Duration emerged as one especially interesting dimension to experiment with. Does a podcast being present on Twitter or Facebook necessarily mean that it’s a good user experience to make it playable in full length in those places? How many people spend 5+ minutes on any individual post in those places? We went to an extreme and tested 24 second soundbites as the appropriate unit of consumption — enough to express a clear thought or moment of entertainment, but not so long as to inhibit engagement

Using these guideposts, we launched a series of audio sharing tools. We created a web and mobile platform that lets users tag soundbites, turn them into audio + image/GIF mashups, and automatically post them to social media in an embedded video format that auto-plays in user news feeds. We’ve seen this format customization drive 3X higher engagement versus traditional podcast posts to social media. CBS Radio’s Play.it has Facebook and Twitter feeds with great examples of compelling Clammr soundbites and mashups that are native to social platforms.

We also made our soundbite creation and sharing platform available as an open tool that integrated into existing web audio players and apps so that users would not need to visit Clammr in order to share audio. Last month, our sharing tools embedded in third-party audio players reached over 26 million people. As an example, PodcastOne — the world’s largest podcast network — recently integrated the Clammr sharing plugin across all shows on its digital platform.

Finally, we made every soundbite on Clammr modular and configurable into custom playlists that can embed into any existing web or other digital experience. USA Today has been innovating with this tool. They embed a Clammr playlist with highlights from each full week’s podcasts on their site as a way to let users catch up and also quickly browse shows they may not have heard. In a separate vein, we partnered with Entrepreneur.com to create a “Recommended Podcasts” section next to and embedded within relevant articles that allows readers to hear audio previews of new podcasts while remaining on-site and having access to a call-to-action that leads to full-length content.

The Super-Curators: 11 Misfits to Listen To

As luck would have it, the most fascinating development from our experiment largely wasn’t on the radar at the outset: the emergence of a group of people we refer to as super-curators. These are podcast fanatics who use Clammr as a way to create public collections of soundbites — similar to how Pinterest and Instagram users create collections that others gravitate to. In some cases, we are observing that their role as super-curators insinuates these users into the very podcasts they are covering. In a snake-eats-its-tail twist, some super-curators have appeared as guests on shows they curate where the soundbites they post get replayed and discussed.

It’s hard to predict where this phenomenon will go, but something interesting is bubbling and brewing with these obsessive super-curators and their symbiotic relationship with podcasters. We’re excited to see what happens next. We want to highlight eleven of our favorites in one place so others can play with their collections, form their own opinions, and maybe even shape where this is all heading:

Let us know your thoughts on what these super-curators are doing and directions you think their efforts might go in.

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