When Dave Winer, one of the world’s first bloggers, and journalist and radio show host, Christopher Lydon, delivered the first podcast in September 2003, they knew they were onto something.
Winer is credited with creating the framework for podcasting by tweaking the RSS design to add audio attachments to web feed formats. He and Lydon teamed up to broadcast the show “Radio Open Source”—which is still running.
About a year later, journalist Ben Hammersley coined the term “podcasting” in an article for The Guardian. And about six months after that in June 2005, Apple put podcasting on the map when it added podcasts to iTunes.
Over the next decade, hundreds of thousands of new shows emerged—but why are only 21 percent of Americans listening to them?
That’s a statistic that many in the podcasting industry are trying to change by saying YES to shaking up a stable, but stagnating market.
Inspired by radio’s ease of listening, longtime public radio reporter Steve Henn and Netflix veterans Steve McLendon and John Ciancutti, who helped develop the company’s first personalization algorithms, recently launched a new app, 60dB, in October.
“We love two things about radio: its simplicity and its great stories,” they wrote on Medium.com.
They believe that 91 percent of Americans are still listening to terrestrial radio because it’s available at the simple touch of a dial and isn’t restrained by 30- or 60-minute formats.
So, they partnered with media outlets like The Guardian, Wired, The Atlantic, Quartz, and The Washington Post to create short programming—ideally between 3 and 10 minutes long—directly with reporters. Henn told FastCompany that they’re adding about 1,500 of these stories a day.
The app also offers all the same subscriptions you’d find on other podcasting apps, but it starts playing immediately when you open it and makes personalized recommendations based on listening history.
“Our app has tons of stuff you won’t hear anywhere else, and it will save you the trouble of having to dig around for it,” they told FastCompany.
Our app has tons of stuff you won’t hear anywhere else, and it will save you the trouble of having to dig around for it.
While NPR One isn’t a podcasting app, it’s following a similar pattern of partnering with established organizations, radio stations in this case, to co-create the local content they believe is the key to attracting new listeners.
Currently pulling audio from national shows, local newscasts, and podcasts, NPR One also aims to deliver a personalized experience by serving up content based on active and passive listener behaviors.
Acast, a Stockholm-based podcasting platform, believes that they can attract new listeners by saying yes to niche, diverse content. Acast is looking to host “shows that break with expected podcast formats and attract new audiences,” according to a Nieman Lab article.
For example, on the show “Hard Pass,” the hosts “talk about all the stuff that the young kids are talking about on their Google Plus and Tinder accounts. … It could be the first time this particular concept has ever been tackled on the Internet,” according to an article on TheBigLead.com.
“A lot of people aren’t yet podcast consumers; they haven’t found that thing they like,” Caitlin Thompson, Acast’s director of content, told Nieman Lab. “I’m specifically looking for content that’s going to work for somebody who might be discovering podcasts for the first time.”
Saying yes to a shift toward a more personalized listening experience has also opened new avenues for advertisers to better target their campaigns to make their messages more relevant to specific audiences. Targeted content is enabling advertisers to ditch expensive approaches aimed at reaching as many people as possible and instead allowing them to zero in on audiences who are more likely to bite.
Follow these and the other yeses that are shaping the evolution of podcasting in this interactive timeline.