People listen to podcasts for many reasons, mostly entertainment and education. Oddly, a small segment of listeners are compelled to follow because they do NOT like a show or personality.
Curious behavior, to be sure, but people can be strange. A few in this category just seem to pick a target and harp on them while a topic is active, posting in fan forums and social media. They follow topics.
Some are clearly former fans of a show or celebrity who have “flipped” and now listen strictly to criticize. Passionately. They follow programs or people.
Not Hate Podcasting
Though the topic may easily be confused, this is NOT a discussion about any specific podcast.
Just as there are many podcasts for fans of television shows, movies, books, and celebrities where the main subject is praise and adulation of some social magnet… there are more than a few podcasts where the focus is on criticizing the same (often harshly, as a matter of course).
You could look at the “critique podcast” as a genre. There is something in the human character that seems to love helping others of low stature achieve success and then, when they do attain great heights, relishes tearing them down just as much. Podcasts are simply a mirror of society in this regard.
An even darker category would be “hate speech” and podcasts produced by organizations and people of disrepute. A large and complex conversation… another day.
All that’s about the podcast itself, though, the content created by the podcaster.
Listening is done by a member of the audience who hears the podcast. WHY attention is paid and the REACTION it generates are behaviors I find interesting.
Most listeners “like” the content.
To some extent.
Engaged enough to participate for a while, the majority of an audience can be broken into groups with varying levels of satisfaction. Each of these general classifications are far too nuanced to address at this time.
People who become REGULAR LISTENERS are the mainstream of any audience. They have made listening to the podcast a HABIT.
In the podcasting world, this is first evidenced by “subscribing”, setting an app to seek out new episodes as they become available.
This devoted core who actively support their show or celebrity are the heartbeat of a fan community.
This particular topic must be explored separately as it, too, has many segments with varying behaviors (some LOVE is of a more passive nature, for example).
No matter the size or enthusiasm of an audience, a viable social magnet always seems to have a small portion, perhaps 5%, who are genuinely fanatic in their support, in the best sense of the word.
Such fanatic listeners become self-appointed partners in the success of the show or host. They engage on the website, attend personal appearances, promote the show on other platforms, tell friends, share on social media, and much more. They do not simply follow… they are ACTIVE supporters.
These fans have considerable influence on the success of any podcast. Soon, I’ll explore this faction of audience in much greater detail AND explain how my work-in-process project, the VIZdex Annotated Timeline Presentation Platform, is intended to reinforce and multiply the power of this core.
“It’s a free country!”
If we don’t care for the content of a podcast, nobody is forcing us to listen. Just like radio and television, we can turn it off. Just decide NOT to engage. Vote with our feet.
If the content is made available on the internet, however — and RSS is at the very core of podcasting — nobody can prevent you from consuming it, either.
Podcast listening is a volunteer activity and most people only voluntarily do things they like, yet there are some who DO listen to a podcast but DO NOT like it… or love it… they hate it.
Not new to society, snarking has become popular again in our current culture. I can appreciate such humor from time-to-time, too. If you adopt a bit of a condescending attitude, it might even make you appear more intelligent (unless you proceed to prove otherwise).
A small but vocal slice of the total audience follows “their show” (or personality/host) in order to mock it.
Putting the FANATIC in fan!
The “hate fan” often listens with the same regularity as the most ardent “fanatic listener”. After all, detailed and incisive criticism cannot be delivered without knowing the content… so they listen.
In the eyes of many people, love and hate are at the two ends of a linear spectrum… others see them as not very distant from one another.
P. T. Barnum supposedly said “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”, meaning it was ALWAYS GOOD if people are talking about you. I don’t agree but there IS an element of truth to it.
Even a former fan making detracting remarks on a forum is, in some small way, making the subject a tiny bit more famous. As a podcaster, you cannot please everyone (nor should you try). Besides, most rational people disengage when they lose interest.
Hate fanatics seem driven to inflict damage, perhaps revenge. Some direct their hostility toward the podcaster, almost like a personal vendetta… a lover scorned. Some seem to be more against the show, perhaps for some previous perceived wrong (like firing their favorite host). Whatever, mostly “reasons” regular people would forget and move on.
Why the energy and aggressiveness?
There’s a story behind these types of “fans”.
Maybe someone needs to create a podcast where these dissatisfied fans can express once-and-for-all their complaints! It could be great therapy. Perhaps facilitate a peace… or a peaceful attitude.
Driven by anger or something worse, they thrive on insults. An aura of negativity surrounds them as they try to dominate a website comments section or fan chat room.
A few even attack other fans, becoming a truly bad apple in the barrel. This can become poisonous to a smaller fan community, repelling engagement, dispersing support.
Smaller still is the segment of society who are not in full grasp of their decision-making capabilities, who cross the line into creepy and/or illegal behavior. This is not “hate listening”, it is a serious mental impairment.
Podcasters, by their very own actions of recording and releasing podcasts, become public personas. Sadly, they should be aware and alert to the potential repercussions.
By now, you recognize these behaviors are not the exclusive domain of podcasting. These are FAN activities. Fans utilize ALL media.
From the beginning, I’ve tried to make clear a convergence of media is occurring “as we speak”… it is happening NOW! While they’ve always been focused, fans were distributed across the media types in the past… and their power somewhat diluted.
Fans are flowing with the trend toward media convergence, becoming more concentrated. Their growing voice is being heard by content producers, some of whom sincerely appreciate the support but remain true to their own production and creative values
Other content producers — hearing the Song of the Sirens — will try to woo audience across all media and lose their compass. Their show will change. Most likely for the worse.
The question really is: does the audience know what it wants?
Or do they just know it when they hear it?
New to this series examining web media and podcast consumption?
You may want to read the first article, which establishes much of the foundation for these views, or the second one that begins to forth our intent to purposefully (and positively) modify podcast consumption behavior.
The last article was about Sleep Listening.
Once again, I truly appreciate the time you spend reading and thinking about my writing. If it leads to some positive action on your end, then it will have done its job.