Nick Quah's Hot Pod newsletter is a lode from which I occasionally extract a nugget. Today, in the wake of the latest Edison Report on podcast listening (in the US) he quotes a bloke from Audible who says:
To me, the fact that 40% of US adults have tried podcasting, yet only half of them listen regularly, that's astounding. Show me any other medium that has that gap. None. When people sample and don't habituate, it speaks to interest that isn't being met by the content that's available today. There either isn't enough variety of things for people to listen to —or there isn't enough of what they like to meet their appetite. With 350,000 podcasts, that seems like a strange thing to say, but the simple truth is that potential listeners aren't sticking with it — and there are only two potential reasons: not enough good stuff — or they simply can't find it. Solving this could go as far as doubling the audience for podcasting.
I wonder why "Eric Nuzum, Audible’s SVP of Original Content," even bothers to raise the straw man of not enough content. And why he does not raise the question that discovery and subscription are two sides of the same coin. Right now, neither discovery nor subscription is easy.
Nick Quah himself doesn't think discovery is a problem, and that's a problem for me. He says:
It has always occurred to me that discovery functions in the podcasting space along the same dynamics as the rest of the internet; there is simply so much stuff out there, and so the problem isn’t the discovering an experience in and of itself — it’s discovering a worthwhile or meaningful experience within a universe of deeply suboptimal experiences.
But to me that seems to miss the essential difference between audio and the other things on the internet.
It is hard to get audio at a glance. And the solution is not to make ever shorter bits of attention-grabbing audio. It is to find other ways to recommend and share audio in ways that make it easy to hear a piece, to sample a show and eventually, maybe, to subscribe.