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Digital Media Hears The Footsteps, Literally

The search for new ways to squeeze attention from each and every human never ends. Add to that, curious people endlessly seek to satisfy that certain craving. The media world is in the midst of all this. Fortunately, algorithms have not - yet - replaced human senses.

mord mordA month ago UK public broadcaster BBC’s director of radio and music Bob Shennan announced he’d be naming a podcast commissioning editor to “nurture the development of content, outside of our station brands,” quoted Radio Today (March 19). BBC Radio has been using the podcast platform to extend reach for years. Among radio people, this has become not just popular but normal. During the same speech at the RadioDays Europe Vienna event, Mr. Shennan said the BBC would no longer push for analogue FM platform shut-off.

Podcasts are a mobile platform, as in mobile phones, as in the whole next generation of media users. Mr. Shennan named, a few days later, Jason Phipps to the new position. He comes from the Guardian Media Group, publisher of the euphonious daily newspaper, where he has been head of audio since 2014. Newspaper publishers, almost everywhere, have also seized the podcast moment.

With this surge in podcast interest has come the inevitable. App developers have created whole toolbox sets for folks interested in becoming audio stars. US app developer Anchor recently repurposed itself as a one-stop shop for anybody interested in surfing the wave. New to its suite of services is Cohost, reported TechCrunch (April 13), which searches out buddies for podcasters. And, true to the spirit of the times, Anchor also offers an analytics feature, all the better to attract advertisers. The podcast has reached, it seems, that inflection point seen with websites 15 years ago.

French public radio broadcaster Radio France recently expanded podcast offerings, largely based on programs produced by France Inter and France Culture. Advertising was introduced on long-form, non-news podcasts in 2016. "We are rather satisfied,” said Radio France development director Serge Schick, quoted by Les Echos (April 10). “When we embarked on this adventure, we did not know if it was going to take.” Radio France podcasts have earned €200,000 in the last year.

What all podcast producers want is that big hit, something that attracts tipping-point attention to the platform. "France has not yet had its Serial," said streaming service Deezer head of content Frédéric Antelme to Les Echos. “We are all looking for a program that will have the same impact and really bring podcasts into popular culture.”

Serial was the true crime weekly podcast series developed by Chicago Public Radio. The first series was released in late 2014, the second in late 2015 and the third is anticipated this year. Downloads for the second season hit 50 million. The show’s producers received the 2015 Peabody Award as “an audio game-changer.”

True crime and crime drama are quite popular on the podcast platform with many variations. German radio channel Radio Hamburg is producing its own comedy/drama: Hummel, Hummel – Mord, Mord! (Bumble Bee, Bumble Bee — Murder, Murder!) It’s a 15 minute monthly series with a cast from the station’s staff and local actors. The name is a spin on a local Hamburg expression, used typically at football matches. The first episode was released April 8th and topped the German iTunes podcast chart.


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