markers and name tags on a desk should we retire the word podcast

Is it time to retire the word “Podcast”?

For some time I’ve been wondering whether we should consider retiring the word “podcast”.  Before I explain why, let’s explore the origins of the word.

Podcast is a portmanteau, which is a combination of 2 words. Pod (short for iPod) and cast (short for broadcast).

Some definitions:

  • A podcast is a digital media file that can be listened to on portable audio devices and computers on demand. (Source: NPR)
  • A digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. (Source: Google)

The medium rose to popularity through the use of the iPod and Apple devices. While Apple is still the primary platform where people consume podcasts, there’s been new entrants to the market including: Spotify, Google Podcast not to be confused with Google Play, Stitcher and even Pandora  are trying to get more market share.

With all this activity you’d think everyone is listening to a podcast, but that’s not the case.

  1. The numbers show that 64% of Americans are familiar with the term podcast.
  2. However, only 44% have ever listened to a podcast.
  3. The number gets even lower, where only 26% listen to podcasts on a monthly basis.

This means approximately 74% of Americans do not listen to podcasts on a monthly basis. (Source: Edison Research)

Why is this the case? What are the reasons why more people aren’t listening to podcasts? So going back to my opening sentence – could the reason be the name we are calling it?  

man with a headphone and back turned to us maybe reason to consider renaming podcasts

TiVo to DVR to On-Demand to Streaming

Remember TiVo in the early 2000s? The technology wasn’t new. Before TiVo it was known as “Replay TV“, but TiVo gave the technology a rebrand with a sleek design and ease of use for consumers with a high price tag to boot. Soon users began to use the phrase “TiVo it” to reference the functionality the device offered.

Eventually TiVo gave way to the more generic DVR device that entered the market and was offered by Cable service providers. The DVR was way cheaper with a subscription pricing or rental fee added to your monthly bill. The DVR, it’s wider adoption has eclipsed the TiVo and has evolved to include the OnDemand and multi-room functionality. However, in the last couple years, there’s been a steady rise of consumers ditching the DVR for streaming services.

Parallels

Similarly, before word “podcast” became the popular word it was previously known as audioblogging. However unlike other technologies, “podcast” has mostly used the same name even as we no longer listen on iPods because our phones, computers and now smart speakers are the main listening devices. Maybe the answer to mass adoption of the podcast is two-fold like with TiVo:

  1. Increasing access to the medium by introducing more platforms where “podcasts” are available. (Already underway as mentioned above with the Spotify, Google and Pandora entering the market).
  2. Retiring the use of the word “podcast” and introduce another term. One that more consumers understand and can relate to.

If we are moving into the customer centric era – how can the podcast industry capture the 70% of non podcast listeners aka soon to be consumers?

Do you think retiring the word “podcast” could be the answer?

Kerry-Ann

Kerry-Ann is the founder of Breadfruit Media and Carry On Friends The Caribbean American Podcast.

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