What are the top challenges facing digital audio in 2015? (Part one)

From shareability to iTunes alternatives, industry leaders voice opinions on what’s in store for audio this year (View part two)

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Given the increased attention paid to audio in late 2014, we asked some top audio producers and digital innovators to comment on the top challenges they see facing the industry in 2015.

We’ve collected their responses — which centered on topics like shareability, discoverability, distribution, metrics, workflow, and audience — in two parts. Read part one below:

On shareability and discoverability

PJ Vogt, Reply All / Gimlet Media

“I wish there were a way to share pieces of podcasts or stories in the way that you can just copy and paste text and share bits of stories. The people who use social media aren't necessarily the people who listen to and engage with audio.” — PJ Vogt, Reply All / Gimlet Media


“TV does a really good job of making segments portable [online]. Could there be a guide of ways to keep audio more evergreen and portable? Like for broadcast institutions to know to include a host intro in the audio file so they don't have to render it out again after it airs in order for it to make sense online. And I want a way to follow different reporters whose work I admire.” — Jenn Brandel, Curious Nation


Melody Kramer, NPR

“With audio, how do you tag it at the paragraph level? How do you say that this 15-second bit feels this way, but then transitions and feels this way, and how do you serve up those 15-second clips to audiences? If you're cutting content in different ways to serve to different audience, how do you include the tag for that segment in terms of sentiment?” — Melody Kramer, NPR


“What about sharing audio as easily as we copy/paste text?”

— Trent Gilliss, On Being


–Lina Misitzis, Reply All / Gimlet Media

“It would be cool on [podcast] networks’ websites if you could see everything [from a bird’s eye view] rather than having to click through to each show.” — Lina Misitzis, Reply All / Gimlet Media


On publishing and distribution

— Jake Shapiro, PRX

“Will podcasting live up to the Serial hype & hope? Will all those newcomers stick around? How will the big music streaming services (Spotify, Pandora, SoundCloud, Beats) fare in pulling podcasts and spoken word into their fold?” — Jake Shapiro, PRX

“To what extent can local or regional content get surfaced or be found in all the places where national or location-agnostic audio lives online? I wish pieces and shows could be suggested to listeners based on their location, not only on their interests.” — Jenn Brandel, Curious Nation


“The biggest vacuum right now is curatorial. Radiotopia is trying to fill that vacuum as a brand, not just a business model. It’s a stamp of approval.”

— Nick van der Kolk, Love & Radio


— Nicholas Quah, HotPod newsletter

“How do we make it significantly easier for users to switch between consuming visual media and audio media on mobile devices? Much of how a user interacts with the Internet through her smartphone is visually-based — from reading Twitter and Facebook to skimming mobile news/content apps to checking your e-mail on the Gmail or Inbox app. Conversely, the audio consumption aspect of smartphone user behavior often feels like a distinctly separate and isolated affair. It’s something that you need to actively opt into, as opposed to something that naturally flows from the mobile environment. If audio is ever going to be more effectively integrated into basic digital life, we need to build more streamlined, efficient, and thoughtfully-designed “pipes” that connect the visual and the audio — more “pipes” that helps the user change modes of content consumption more effortlessly.” — Nicholas Quah, HotPod newsletter


Matt Green, WBEZ

“When someone has finished a piece of audio, how do we publish that once, ask that producer to do one set of things — tell us what it is, name it, and publish it, and then it goes to an archive, SoundCloud, NPR via the API, gets published on our website — how can all those things happen? A lot of people ask that question and then in asking it, they stop and think: no one thing could do that. But we think it can, and if that one thing existed today we would pay for it. We think we know a lot, but we haven’t done a single thing except talk about it. We’re opening the door to take a journey.” — Matt Green, WBEZ


On metrics

“Podcast analytics through iTunes are pretty sucky. …It would be amazing to have a less iTunes-skewed picture of podcast stats.”

— Liz Berg, WFMU


“We live in a time when there’s not a standard set of metrics. Can we get an idea of how long [listeners] are actually listening? Can we not use bot metrics? There’s still a pretty big blind spot as to how much of our audio is being consumed and what ways — it’s an amalgam of SoundCloud, Feedburner, Podtrac, and website custom event tracking.” — Matt Green, WBEZ


Jenn Brandel, Curious Nation

“Listens vs. downloads vs. streams vs. what? We need a definitive vocabulary or measurement for on-demand audio listening.

There should be a guide for that sort of thing on different devices and platforms and evolving benchmarks for what’s considered successful…

…Right now for people to know how successful their shit is, they have to go to 74 different screens, and at the end of the day it’s all still so relative — ‘Hey, we’re not Serial.’”

— Jenn Brandel, Curious Nation