Kids board the podcast train

“Now is the time to take what we’ve learned from the podcast revolution and apply it to our littlest listeners.”

Kids podcasts will go mainstream this year. Now that adults are consuming more podcasts than ever, we’ll see patterns emerge as they share podcasts with kids — who are naturally engaged listeners and who love storytelling.

libby-bawcombeOver the past year, the conversation around kids podcasts has continued to gather steam. Media organizations like Nieman Lab, Hot Pod, The Current, The Atlantic, Poynter, educators’ sites, and parenting blogs continue to explore the benefits for kids of listening to podcasts, plus their lasting effects on development and learning.

Podcast producer Lindsay Patterson wondered why there aren’t more podcasts for kids, and Poynter columnist Melody Kramer countered with a list of public media options. But citing a collection of a couple dozen shows doesn’t cut it when you compare this modest number to the bajillions of podcasts created for adults. (“Bajillions” is a technical term.)

As a member of Kids Listen — the grassroots organization created by kids podcasters — I’ve become more aware of the triumphs and challenges that kids podcasts currently face. And while a handful of public media outlets and independent producers are making truly great podcasts for kids, we need to find solutions to affect changes in behavior, discovery issues, and user interfaces.

These key points will determine whether kids podcasts can go mainstream this year:

  • Changes in behavior: Parents could consider kids podcasts as the antidote to “screen time,” offering entertaining and educational listening experiences for kids.
  • Discovery issues: Listening apps could find better ways to make kids content more easily discoverable. (Exhibit A: the quagmire that is the iTunes “Kids and Family” category.)
  • User interfaces: Please find an app or website that is designed for kids to find podcasts created for kids. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

When we address behavior changes, discovery issues, and user interfaces, organizations will invest their resources in creating programming for kids. Now is the time to take what we’ve learned from the podcast revolution and apply it to our littlest listeners. I believe the children are our future — teach them well and let them listen to podcasts.

Libby Bawcombe is senior visual product designer at NPR.

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