Is podcasting the hot new thing?
Maybe. But it is not the hot everything, not even when it comes to audio.
Look at Facebook, a platform that was driven primarily by text until recently, when it became driven primarily by images and later by video. Now the big news is that Facebook is pivoting towards LIVE video.
Facebook is reportedly tweaking their algorithm so that you’ll see a lot more live video in your newsfeeds. According to a company post, “Facebook Live videos are more likely to appear higher in News Feed when those videos are actually live, compared to after they are no longer live.”
Facebook has previously reported that users spend three times more time watching a live video that’s actually live as opposed to one that has been archived on a user’s timeline.
And live video needs the kind of content that is worth consuming live. That’s why Facebook is also reportedly offering certain celebrities six-figure sums to broadcast live on the service. So Facebook is not only investing in live video, they’re investing in celebs who can transform live video into “must-see” events.
This change, like all of Facebook’s tweaks, is happening because the company recognizes that user engagement is greater with video than with images than with text. And it’s greatest of all with live video (at least until virtual reality hits its stride).
So what does this have to do with audio?
Well, podcasts are ON-DEMAND content by design. Their entire appeal is that they can be found and consumed anytime. They are, in other words, virtually NEVER live.
Podcasts – like movies and many TV shows – are almost made to be consumed on-demand. For lots of TV shows, same-day ratings are irrelevant. Meanwhile, movies take days or weeks to reach most of their audience, and for that fraction of the audience that will never visit a theater it will take months or even years. Movies and many TV shows are not like concerts or plays, where LIVE is much of the point.
Nor are podcasts EVENTS – TV has its share of LIVE events where seeing the show LIVE is important to the experience of the show, but even these are few and far between.
Some examples: Watch yesterday’s O’Reilly Factor today and it’s old news. Miss the Oscars telecast? Too late to enjoy it now! Delay viewing your favorite football game and the gameplay hardly matters. Delay NBC’s The Voice and the suspense is over. Delay watching AMC’s The Walking Dead and your friends will discover that one of your favorite characters was killed before you do. Your social media network and email inbox will work overtime to spoil programming worth talking about unless you watch or experience it LIVE.
What Facebook is discovering is that user engagement peaks with EVENTS, and the most involving way to experience an event is through video, and if you want to engage with that experience in the most interactive and social way, that experience has to be consumed as it happens – LIVE.
So the problem with podcasts is that they are essentially incapable of creating LIVE EVENTS.
But you know what audio platform does have the capability of creating live events?
Now “capability” does not mean it happens all the time or even often. But its potential is baked into the platform.
Indeed, radio exploded almost a hundred years ago because of its unique ability to plug in every listener in America to the same amazing experience at the same time, whether it was live election results, a big boxing match, or even the very first “Trial of the Century.”
Radio has always been at its best when it comes to live events, when what’s happening live on the air is so compelling you can’t help but listen and talk about it later with your friends at work.
While it’s chic for radio operators to fret about how to frame their content for podcasts, maybe the question should be flipped around: Why not create on-air events so magnetic they MUST be listened to live, because they’re just that good?
That’s how to maximize word-of-mouth. That’s how to maximize engagement. Facebook is paying celebrities to create this content.
Where are your celebrities, radio?
And where is your content?