Why Kids Original Audio Matters — And Why You Should Care

Photo by Tong Nguyen van on Unsplash

When I started making a science podcast for kids in early 2014, I hadn’t heard original audio stories for kids beyond my Teddy Ruxpin tapes in the ’80s. When I told people about the show, I heard this question over and over: “Will kids pay attention to something with no pictures?”

I knew that the answer was yes, based on the enthusiastic response from our listeners. But I wanted to get at the data behind that question. So I co-founded an organization of kids podcasters called Kids Listen, and we sent out a survey to our collective audience to understand how kids listen to podcasts. What we found is that kids are even more attentive listeners than adults. They listen to their favorite episodes over and over again, just as they read their favorite book, or watch their favorite movie. In fact, 80% of kids who listen to podcasts listen to an episode more than once. 20% listen to a favorite episode ten or more times.

What’s even more interesting is that kids not only listen, they do. We discovered:

  • 75% of listeners initiated discussions about what they heard in the podcast.
  • 56% told others what they learned.
  • 52% request more information about what they’ve learned.
  • 49% request to do an activity inspired by a podcast.

What’s exciting about these statistics is that they point to collaborative behaviors. 53% of respondents reported that their kids listen to podcasts with others, whether it’s with family, friends, or in the classroom. Kids are highly engaged with podcasts, and they want to get others involved, too.

It’s an exciting behavioral pattern, and it doesn’t have to be locked into a podcast app. I believe that it’s time for kids audio creators to team up with kids media makers, and start exploring the possibilities of audio beyond podcasts.

Audio is arguably the most portable medium: It can go anywhere, and do anything. Kids listen in the car, at home, during bedtime, and everywhere in between. Kids can be interacting with media even while away from their device. Audio enriches existing routines, and becomes a fulfilling habit for kids and their parents.

Imagine the possibilities of audio — easily integrated into existing digital media experiences — as a way of deepening engagement. A game could branch out into audio stories involving the characters, within its own digital ecosystem. Or, a media app could include a section for audio stories when families want to take a break from screen time, while staying engaged within the app.

Integration is not a challenge. All it takes is inviting audio makers into the bigger fold. Kids’ podcast creators are experts at making the kind of content that compels families to tune in week after week. In other words, they know how to create audio that people deeply value.

You don’t have to look far to find out how working with an experienced audio team has extended a brand’s reach. The New York Times launched their first podcasts in 2006, corresponding with sections of the paper. Each one was basically a summary of the week’s articles. Listeners were mostly Times loyalists. But today, the Times’ news podcast, The Daily, is a part of millions of people’s morning routines, extending the paper’s reach far beyond its subscription base, and now, into TV. So what happened? The New York Times hired a crew of experienced audio producers who knew how to make great audio stories — not just translate content into audio.

There’s a reason why major brands like GE, Trader Joe’s, and EBay have partnered with audio producers to create their own podcasts. Crest Kids worked with Gimlet to create Chompers — an Alexa Skill and podcast designed to encourage kids to brush their teeth. Existing content has value, too. Just last week, Amazon announced that their subscription FreeTime service, which curates content for kids, now features Kids Podcasts.

Kids attach themselves deeply to things they love. Original kids audio opens up opportunities for the collaborative behaviors we’ve seen triggered by podcasts for kids. When the whole family is involved, there’s a clear route to make engagement even more impactful.

Audio is an affordable playground to test out new ideas, create new stories, and generate new interactions. In the case of brands that foster a digital relationship with kids, adding audio is a light lift, and a great place to experiment.

Creative collaborations offer something for everyone, most of all, the kids at the center. The benefit of integrating original audio into kids media is clear. Let’s make it happen. Listen to kids podcasts, imagine the opportunities, and reach out.