Podcasts are the new TV?

Note to my future self…

This week Spotify announced that they acquired two startups in the podcasts space – Gimlet Media and Anchor. I think that this is a great moment to talk about something that I’ve noticed about podcasts and we interact with this format.

In 2018, I started to consume a substantial amount of podcast and 2019 seems to be no different. Before then, I really saw little appeal in the format in part because it didn’t fit my workflow and there wasn’t any specific content to draw me in. However, after graduation I did an internship in Palo Alto and for the next 3 months I had a daily commute of 15-20 each way. Since I have a really hard time reading in buses/cars I decided to give podcasts a try and I was hooked. Most of my podcast consumption in the subsequent months consisted of me “catching up” with old episodes of podcasts that I started to like. Now I still listen to a lot of podcast but it’s more about listening to a series of podcast that I subscribe as they come out and occasionally discovering one-off interesting episode.

Now this brings me to my observation about the podcasting space in 2019. Although I wasn’t alive in 60-80s, it feels to me that podcasting today is what TV was back in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. What I mean by this is that by this time many Americans had access to TV programming but the selection of content was fairly manageable (say 4-5 channels). This meant that people knew the programming of the different channels and there was a sense of “community” derived from watching the same channels and the same commercials.

I think that something similar occurs in podcasts albeit to lesser extent. I think that if you’re into podcasts today most people know about the big players in the field (e.g. Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan, Sam Harris, etc.) and although there has been an explosion in the amount of podcasts been created, I don’t think we’ve yet reached the point where it feels overwhelming.

In other words, there’s an infinite amount of content out there but in reality it doesn’t feel that there’s an endless demand for our attention in the same way that you might see with video (e.g. YouTube, Netflix, etc.). Maybe we haven’t figured out podcast discoverability or maybe the medium just doesn’t lend itself for “hooked” model that drives video.

There’s definitely a better way to articulate this but what I am trying to get at is that it feels that we’re in the early days of podcasts. Not only in terms of the type of content that will be produced but also in terms of the share of time and attention that this new format will demand from us.

In any case, it will be interesting to see how things evolve.

Now back to work…