Podcasts are often considered a newer medium. However, I’m a firm believer that podcasts were the obvious next step for audio as a medium. In adolescence, it was not uncommon for my mom to listen to her soap operas over the radio, nor was it uncommon for my dad to listen to a weak signalled AM frequency for New York sports. Growing up, there was always a clear distinction and conversation, “Do we want to listen to music or not?” Talk radio, sports radio, stories, and the news were all completely viable options. Podcasts are the internet adaptation of those forms of audio, an alternative to music.
Audio is incredibly intimate. The listener or consumer has an abundance of options, choosing what podcast or what song to listen to is an intimate and personal experience. There is a decision-making process that often happens alone, because audio is typically enjoyed alone. Terrestrial radio, satellite radio, podcasts, Spotify, Apple, Tidal, Soundcloud, and Pandora all thrive in cars and on mobile devices.
Your favorite podcast starts to function as a “friendship simulator” and songs begin to develop meaning depending on specific times in your life. People develop relationships with audio content, because people are more vulnerable and available when they are alone. In 2019, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, your headphones and your car are an escape. When you’re on the go, the only options are your music, radio, or podcasts.
Piggy-backing off the idea of intimacy, the audio medium brings the imagination to life. Headphones turn a long walk into a music video. True Crime podcasts turn a long drive into a tense mystery. The ability of producers to draw listeners into a story dates back into the early days of radio. In 1938, Orson Welles famously went onto the radio reading “War of the Worlds” throwing pockets of the public into a frenzy.
Today, podcasts like the memory palace and Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History feel like they transfer you to different time periods through expert storytelling. Other podcasts rely on vibrant soundscapes and sound effects to create a new reality. There is no limit to the tricks of audio.
There is no less expensive way to tell a fantasy story than through audio. To visually portray fantasy worlds requires a green screen, artists, engineers, and highly sophisticated technology. With just a sound board and some music you can transform reality through audio.
Audio is an extremely direct medium, making storytelling much less difficult. Take all the nuances of directing a film, then strip away the visuals. The unique captive audience audio provides leaves you to lead the listener wherever you want to take them. Less context, more direct communication.
The podcast and audio space is malleable in many respects. From a marketing perspective, you have the chance to hyper target specific demographics. From a creative standpoint, you have the versatility to create new worlds inexpensively. Take the tricks that music has honed and apply it to producing everyday audio content. A personal favorite of mine is to move the audio around, from left to right and front to back – creating a more “full” sound. As a fan of the Beatles, I always loved how music moved from ear to ear.
Audio has distinct advantages that can be used to better sell products, to approach old stories in a new way, or to tell stories that would have never been heard. In the audio space there is a chance for direct engagement that is simply un-achievable through other mediums. Audio is constantly adapting and we are just moving into the renaissance of the medium.