The next big thing in podcasts is to respond
Vince Major and Michael Tucker, podcast hosts Beyond the scenario, thought they knew what their audience wanted for their next episode: a dive Back to the future – a “no fuss”, said the major. To be sure, however, they decided to survey their listeners. They haven’t been to Patreon, Instagram, Twitter, or the other places creators often chat with their audiences. Instead, they went to where their listeners were already tapping into their show, Spotify, and used their new polling tool to ask. People spoke – they wanted The Godfather.
“[The polls] sort of let the podcasting technology catch up in some ways, âTucker says. âThe place where people actually listen, they can now participate too. Although the co-hosts have only started using these polls in the past year, they say their listeners are benefiting. They answer.
âPodcasting has always been that kind of one-way street,â says Mike Mignano, Creative Platform Manager at Spotify. âA creator publishes content; the public is listening; that’s it.”
Now, however, interactive elements are making their way into the space. Spotify gives all of its Anchor creators the ability to take polls and Q&A and test interactive ads. Other apps, like Facebook, are trying things as simple as just allowing listeners to leave comments – a core feature of YouTube – while podcast apps in China already allow listeners to create “listening circles.” âAndâ discussion groups â.
âWhen I first downloaded Chinese podcast apps, I was shocked at how interactive they were,â writes Helen Li in Rest of the world.
While the interaction is important overseas, it’s unclear how popular it can be in the United States in these traditionally audio-only areas. Do people want to touch their phones while they are in listening mode? âIt’s not really in the podcast mood yet to give that instant feedback to engage,â Major says.
In the United States, the fervor of interaction is nascent but bubbling. On the just launched Corner of the fire, the live audio app co-founded by Mark Cuban, the first thing you see when you visit his website in big, bold and white print: âThe future of entertainment is interactive. Same thing with Twitch, who himself would be working on a specific live audio integration: âWe build communities around live content that is interactive, diverse and always on the next level. ”
In the case of Fireside, viewers can respond with emoji, ask a question, or leave a written comment. On Twitch, listeners can pay to have their name appear in their favorite streamer’s video and join the chorus of commentators.
Amazon, which entered the podcast space last year with podcasts on Amazon Music and Audible (and also owns Twitch), could also work on something specific to the podcast. In a survey provided to podcasters attending a recent industry conference, the company mentioned the possibility of a poll function. Toys and games have also previously relied on Alexa as a mediator and guide for interactive moments, so it’s easy to imagine the smart assistant playing a bigger role in podcasting and ads.
âWe haven’t yet seen anyone crack the code for true listener-creator interactivity on listening platforms,â says Mignano. “So I think it’s just the natural evolution of content and media on the internet, and I think, hopefully now, we can finally catch up with podcasting with the rest of the media.”
There is also the challenge of making the interaction with audio natural. Backtracks, a podcast and advertising analytics platform, has developed an SDK that pairs with AirPods to detect head gestures. A podcast ad might say something like “nod your head to find out more” and give you the opportunity to dig deeper into what you hear. Backtracks CEO Jonathan Gill considers this more acceptable than asking someone who is specifically listening to something rather than looking at them to look at their phone.
âIf you ask someone a question and expect them to answer the phone while looking at the phone, after a while you’re missing out on your audience’s use case,â he says. âSo one of the reasons for doing this as part of the listening experience is that someone can walk, run, be in their house, outside, then if you ask a question or interact with it. [the gestures], it actually fits into the context.
One of the main reasons for this push towards interactivity is the hope that it will make podcasts more sticky. If you can talk to your favorite podcaster in a specific location or build community in an app, there’s a good chance you’ll come back to that location. Then, of course, there’s the announcements feature, a particularly critical feature in audio, which has mostly relied on promo codes to attribute sales to listeners.
Business use cases are clear, but as is always the question with innovation driven by corporate interests, does anyone outside of these platforms want it? Plus, would they use it even if they wanted to? Tap the poll below to let me know.