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Podcast Pontifications - Evo Terra EPISODE 309, 11th May 2020
Eye Can't Hear You: A Podcasting Paradigm Shift [Episode 309]

Eye Can't Hear You: A Podcasting Paradigm Shift [Episode 309]

Desktop consumption of podcast episodes is growing for the first time in… forever? Thanks to COVID-19 and the forced lockdown we’re are all having to deal with, we’re seeing people shift to consuming podcasts right on the device that’s busy blurring work-life boundaries for everyone.

Some enterprising companies see this as an opportunity. That opportunity, at the risk of your eyes rolling all the way out of your skull, is a re-imagining of what was once known as “enhanced” podcasts. 

A new wave of technologists and interface designers are turning their sights on browser-based listening. Interactive elements like polls and surveys. Short-form video or animation. Links to more content. And yes, ad units. We’re still in the very early stages of this, but I’m intrigued by those seeking to capitalize on “more than audio” in a way that enhanced podcasting failed to do.

In-car audio and display systems are nothing new, but they’re getting incrementally better. Just last week, Nielsen started talking up their initiative to help build a better navigating experience through podcast episodes when we're driving in our cars. If we ever drive in our cars again. 

Smart speakers with display screens are rapidly evolving as people flock to them. Interfaces and apps are getting better as designers are finding interesting ways to blend visual and audio together to create a compelling “mixed media” experience. As they have done since we transitioned away from text-only interfaces a lifetime ago.

But some are designing away the visual interface completely. Smart earbuds are a wearable device that not only has no screen, but you can’t even see the device when it’s in operation. Earbuds lost their cord and gained ndividual computer chips and other electronics built right in, making them much more than simply a speaker. They are, quite literally, two computers that you stick in your ears, with plenty of sensors and input areas to bring a unique screen-less experience to listeners.

These easily-misplaced gadgets are voice-aware and tightly coupled to AI-based voice assistants that continue to get smarter. It doesn’t take much imagination to see a future where we’re searching for new shows or episodes, changing the order of episode delivery, or getting recommendations on future content right from the wearable device, never having to look at or even use a screen.

Which of these paradigms is going to win? Luckily, we don’t have to choose. I think we’ll see major advancements in both of these fronts, serving the very disparate needs for different types of listeners in different environments. 

I know my fellow long-time podcasters are likely skeptical. And I get that. But I posit to them that the environment today is vastly different than what it was a decade ago. These are just the kinds of developments that could cause the 70% of non-listeners to see what podcasting has to offer them.

Speaking of new listeners; I’d like some! When you reach out directly to one person -- just one person -- and tell them about Podcast Pontifications, it makes a huge difference. And who knows? Maybe the new person you turn onto the podcast loves it so much that they decide to go to BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra throw their support behind your friendly neighborhood contrarian.


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Podcast Pontifications is published by Evo Terra four times a week and is aimed at the working podcaster. The purpose of this show is to make podcasting better, not just easier.

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