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Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

“Podcasting’s ‘bugs’ — difficult to scan, share, comment on — are actually its features.”

As legacy and new digital publishers in the wider world seek to wean their business models from an overreliance on advertising, social platforms, and costly video, the turn is toward developing direct revenue from audiences — subscriptions, paywalls, crowdfunding, memberships, and Rorschach-like blockchain experiments.

It’s pleasantly ironic that some of the internet’s oldest open protocols are shining through, with email newsletters and podcasting standing tall after the fallout of the Lumascape’s decade of hyper-intermediation.

Against a backdrop of media malaise, podcasting offers hope for a healthy ecosystem that treats listeners with respect, gives publishers a direct relationship with audiences, and gives voice to new talent and communities long missing from the airwaves. Podcasting is the slow food movement of the media world.

Podcasting’s “bugs” — difficult to scan, share, comment on — are actually its features. With Facebook and YouTube’s ceaseless sneezing, publishers are very much in need of podcasting’s antiviral cure.

In 2019 podcasting will enter year five of its renaissance, still expanding from the big bang of 2014 (the year that launched Serial, Gimlet, Radiotopia, Panoply, and Apple’s first standalone podcast app). The stakes have gotten higher, the big players have taken notice, and the influx of publishers of all shapes and sizes puts pressure on a podcast economy that still lags in terms of monetization and marketing muscle.

In 2019 we’ll see bolder attempts to carve up the still-baking podcast pie into more profitable paywalled pieces, but I predict unsatisfying results until Apple decides to make its own. The fact is that most people still don’t get podcasting, never mind pay for it, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

However, a pivot to podcasting gives publishers something existentially powerful: a channel they own and control, literally giving voice to their brands, stories, and the journalists behind the bylines. Podcasting may not yet be a moneymaker for many, but it’s a meaning-maker for most. In an overabundant media world, trust is the scarce resource. So when your strategy calls for deepening engagement, forging relationships that are not easily swiped away, podcasting is a sound investment.

Jake Shapiro is cofounder and CEO of RadioPublic.

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