As a medium, podcasting is nuanced. First glance points to “radio-on-demand,” backed by much evidence… yet it is actually more like magazines, which paint a vivid picture using written words and visual images. Podcasts deliver verbal words and audio imagery. Both engage in a periodic, thematic, focused relationship with a self-selected repeat audience.
Podcasts, just like magazines, have evolved across the entire range of topics interesting to humans (including ourselves).
We are a curious lot. Some of us have interests quite narrow and, it seems, if someone is interested in it… someone else is, too… AND will talk/write about it. In fact, listeners/readers frequently have a choice among many voices within tiny niches! (Who would have thought?)
Picking up a magazine or downloading a podcast is a proactive decision and requires stronger interest to complete. Like a force of physics, a magnetism of sorts, this strong bond “moves” the producer and consumer closer together.
From Entertainment To Education
People engage with magazines in an entire spectrum of ways, from casual consumption to deep study… same with podcasts.
Some in the cumulative podcast audience “half-listen” (AKA: “listening with one ear”) like a few magazine “readers” quickly scan the pages (even from back-to-front!). Interestingly, even this group can be divided. Some, of course, are truly casual listeners/readers. Some, however, are actually “consumption experts” and have trained themselves to gather as much (or more) than many “very engaged” listeners/readers.
A hefty chunk of the total audience, both podcast and magazine, are in it for the information. They want to learn and, having found your content to be worthy, “tune in” with regularity… many with sincere anticipation, too. I believe people want to learn and are attracted to ANY quality resource introducing them to new ideas, no matter the medium.
From Rough To Polished
Magazines run the gamut, from cheaply produced and printed to painstakingly planned and artfully published. Podcasts are the same, some polished and produced with precision while others captured off-the-cuff with minimal “production values”. Some articles/shows are long, many are short. Some publications have consistent content creators and others rely on a rotation of contributors for the content. Success can be found virtually anywhere.
The audience for magazines is almost* the entire population. Even one who cannot read (or understand the language) can look at the pictures. Such sampling is not easily accomplished with podcasts. Yet.
Podcasts are available worldwide, in many languages. If a common language is individually selected, the cumulative potential audience for podcasts is nearly the entire population. One could also argue that, regardless of language, more people understand spoken word than written word.
In the end, paper magazines will still serve a niche (tactile adds feeling) but digital publications — especially audio and video — will dominate. The future is clearly online multimedia that all can enjoy.
I provide this comparison as simply one more reason to believe the ultimate “podcast audience” is EVERYONE.
To my surprise, the group that seems to push back the most on many aspects of this concept are… podcasters, themselves.
*Right up there with “virtually” in the weasel-word department. (“In essence, but not in fact.”)
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Also, check out my last article about podcast hosting services.
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.