The last mass medium finally emerges

“As streaming on-demand content grows, we’ll see the rise of audio discovery outside of a dedicated app, and integrated into the ways we already share content on social streams, the open web, and on mobile.”

I can’t wait for 2016 — the year that podcasting fully matures into the disruptive mass medium it was always meant to be. The foundation for disruption exists: a wildly exploding diversity of voices, format, listening experiences, and routes to monetization.

caitlin-thompsonYou’ll know it when you hear it. When a podcast gains exposure, virality, and success at a scale of other cultural commodities outside of the typical — and limiting — methods of consumption, people will tune in. Many podcatchers, most notably iTunes, operate on a subscribe-and-download methodology. This system requires a new listener to venture into a foreign ecosystem to discover audio content. Reliance on downloads requires content creators and advertisers to accept inconsistent and incomplete data.

This isn’t the future of 2016. As streaming on-demand content grows, we’ll see the rise of audio discovery outside of a dedicated app, and integrated into the ways we already share content on social streams, the open web, and on mobile. When a piece of content can be experienced as a play button, the potential for new audiences dramatically increases. The landscape for on-demand audio is looking more like how we encounter YouTube now: rarely on YouTube dot com, but certainly everywhere else.

When your search turns up podcast results, we’ve reached a critical mass. Internet futurists, keep your eyes on Pop Up Archive.

When agency-level digital ad spends target podcasts, we’ll know the future is here. And why wouldn’t it? A sponsorship host read in a listener’s ear is the most powerful, effective method of advertising. And because of that — the most valuable. Ad blockers are increasingly ubiquitous, so why wouldn’t advertising agencies opt for something an algorithm can’t strip out: a human voice. Indeed, what is more native than a known and trusted voice reading an intimate, mobile-optimized audio experience?

And most importantly — for me as a content creator, certainly — we’ll know we’ve arrived when the content that is successful features voices, experiences, formats and ideas that go far beyond the standup comic/hack your body/public radio esoterica that has defined and limited the podcast realm. Shows like The Read, Call Your Girlfriend, and You’re Welcome with Zoe Nightingale would never find a home in the outdated era of broadcast, but will thrive in the age of podcast.

Caitlin Thompson is director of content at Acast.

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