All Posts by Kerry-Ann

Don’t put it all in one podcast platform

Spotify is making a lot of moves in the podcast industry with the purchase of Gimlet and Anchor and most recently Parcast. With this type of money moves, it’s almost certain there will be a lot of think pieces. And rightfully so, because Spotify (and Pandora) have their eyes set on cutting into and taking over Apple’s market share of Podcast distribution and consumption.

Laptop with Spotify icon and image on the screen.

Everyone is focused on what this means for us podcasters and to be honest, it doesn’t change much. We will benefit from the improvements Spotify will make in their quest to make podcasts more discoverable and consumed more on their platform.

The Spotify activities should not be a sign or lead you to question whether to only promote your show on Spotify. In fact, I caution indie Caribbean American podcasters to not focus on one platform based on the buzz of Spotify. Especially since Spotify isn’t widely available in the Caribbean. Instead look at your data to see where most of the listens are coming from.

As niche indie podcasters, we need to give our audience the option to reach us on as many platforms as possible (unless Spotify or Apple gives you or I an exclusive deal). This means promoting your podcast on the “Big 3”:

  1. Apple (Globally)
  2. Spotify (US and European Audiences only, Android users);
  3. Google Podcast (Globally, Android users)

If you want, you can supplement the list with other podcast apps. However, I’d caution not promoting too many apps because it can get confusing. Which is why from a marketing standpoint I focus on the big three because that’s what my podcast data says most of my listens/downloads come from.

Strawberries in different containers.


In summary, as a niche indie podcast producer distribution and discoverability is key but at the same time we don’t want to confuse our audience. When promoting shows the best to offer options but keep it simple. Three is a good number and deciding which 3 should be based on the data showing where people are listening to your show. From what I can see for now, the acquisitions and movement in the podcast industry will not affect niche indie podcasts as much, so long as we are building a strong community with our audience.

Starting a new podcast? Consider all categories.

The podcast space has changed a lot since I first started listening back in 2011 and even more so after I began hosting and producing Carry On Friends The Caribbean American Podcast in 2015. And while it seems that podcasting is “popular” everywhere, 74% of Americans still do not listen to podcasts.

With this increased popularity of podcasts, more African Americans are getting into the space, this includes Caribbeans as referenced in the Nielsen Report “From Consumers to Creators: The Digital Lives of Black Consumers”.

“The ability to inexpensively create a podcast and attract a micro targeted community with common interests has created an explosive medium to reach African American audiences…Listeners either get it or they don’t, which typically creates an intimate feeling of cultural connection and attracts an authentic audience. This authenticity is an especially important element in the digital space and more specifically with podcasts, which are known to cater to the diversity of interests within the Black community such as…Afro-Latinos and Caribbeans, and much, much more.”

From Consumers to Creators: The Digital Lives of Black Consumers by Nielson
man on a train with headphones around his neck

For Caribbean Content Creators considering podcasts, it’s important to diversify our content and categories we produce podcasts in. Here’s the official list of Apple Podcast categories and subcategories. There are 16 overall categories and 11 of them have subcategories for a total of 51 subcategories.

According to our Caribbean Podcast Directory, the top 2 overall categories are Business and Society & Culture. Caribbeans and the Caribbean American experience is multi-dimensional. Aspiring podcasters should consider creating content in categories that reflect our diverse experiences.  Content should be considered for the following categories : 

  • Arts (incl. sub-categories)
  • Comedy
  • Government & Organizations (Non-Profit)
  • Health (incl sub-categories)
  • Kids & Family (Parenting)
  • Music
  • News & Politics
  • Science & Medicine
  • Sports
  • Technology
  • TV & Film  

If you want to jump into the podcast world, consider all the categories available as you develop your new show. There’s no shortage of topics that Caribbean people can talk about. So it’s only fitting that new shows reflect this.

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?

Why Smart Speakers & In-Audio search need a diverse range of digital voices

With the rise of podcasts, there’s a growing trend where podcast platforms or podcast apps, are leveraging the use of natural language (NL) processing to help users find and listen to shows. This is similar to smart speakers that use voice activated Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology such as Alexa, Google Home and Apple Homepod.

With any new trend, where there are opportunities, there are also issues. The issue here is with the increase use of natural language and artificial intelligence presents a diversity and inclusion problem. This doesn’t only affect Caribbean and people of color but all “non-traditional” or “broadcast English” speakers.

Let’s start with the basics:

What is artificial intelligence?

“Artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks. Most AI examples that you hear about today – from chess-playing computers to self-driving cars – rely heavily on deep learning and natural language processing. Using these technologies, computers can be trained to accomplish specific tasks by processing large amounts of data and recognizing patterns in the data.” (Definition by SAS)

What is natural language?

“Natural language processing (NLP) is a branch of artificial intelligence that helps computers understand, interpret and manipulate human language.” (Definition by SAS)

Simply put – AI and NLP learns from what you input, it gets smarter/improves with more human interaction and it repeats the learning cycle.

What is SEO?

“SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the practice of optimizing websites to make them reach a high position in Google’s – or another search engine’s – search results. SEO focuses on rankings in the organic (non-paid) search results.” (Definition by Yoast)

The content on a website is one way to reach high in the search results of Google or any other search engine.

Why is this important?

SEO. “Voice SEO” to be exact. The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) trends in podcasts and voice activated gadgets like smart speakers, is about searching. There’s already a problem with the discoverability of podcasts by people of color without the natural language processing and AI aspects, and this just makes it even more difficult. And if the tech doesn’t understand you when you’re speaking then they are lost in translation.

microphone used by podcasters smart speaker in audio search voice seo needs diversity

Podcasts & Natural Language Processing

A few months ago there was an article about Castbox a podcast app that raised 13.5 million to launch its own programming. The article mentioned how Castbox’s use of natural language was going to revolutionize podcasting.

“What makes Castbox interesting is the proprietary technology it has under the hood. The platform uses natural language processing and machine learning techniques to power some of its unique features, like personalized recommendations and in-audio search.

The app is capable of making suggestions of what to listen to next based on users’ prior listening behavior, which can help to improve discovery of podcasts people may like. Meanwhile, the in-audio search feature takes advantage of the recent leaps the industry has seen with voice recognition technology, and actually transcribes the audio content inside podcasts, indexes it and makes it available for search within the Castbox app.

That means users no longer have to rely on things like episode titles, descriptions and show notes to find a podcast related to a topic they want to listen to — they can just search the Castbox app for any podcasts where a term was mentioned.” ~ Source: Techcrunch

Both Carry On Friends The Caribbean American Podcast  and The Style & Vibes Podcast are on Castbox. On it’s face all these features are great, however my primary concern with podcast platforms or apps that provide natural language processing via in-audio voice search is it will benefit only or mostly popular shows backed by network providers, and those shows that are in standard English. In my legal industry career I’ve been familiar with natural language processing and the limitations that were causing my concerns. However, being that I’m no longer in that industry perhaps things have improved, so I decided to do some experimenting.

There’s this Castbox demo video on Youtube  showing how the in-audio voice search feature that leverages NLP works. As in the video, a search was done on “how to get through the present”. The results were similar and were categorized in channels (aka shows), episodes and audio. The audio it appears, is the natural language going through the audio of each show and pinpoints the exact timestamp when one or more of the terms in the search is found in particular episodes. A similar search was done using Carry On Friends’ content and didn’t have the same results.

 

The episode used in my demo wasn’t even in patois or heavy in it. I spoke in my natural voice. My simple experiment confirmed my concerns that with natural language processing there are limitations with standard english much less for those with accents.

Smart Speakers

In June, I did a fire side chat during CITE week on the digital voice and had a follow up lunch with a friend where we discussed the topic further. As it turns out the Washington Post and it’s vast resources where already exploring my concerns.

“At first, all accents are new and strange to voice-activated AI, including the accent some Americans think is no accent at all — the predominantly white, nonimmigrant, non regional dialect of TV newscasters, which linguists call “broadcast English”.

The AI is taught to comprehend different accents, though, by processing data from lots and lots of voices, learning their patterns and forming clear bonds between phrases, words and sounds.
To learn different ways of speaking, the AI needs a diverse range of voices — and experts say it’s not getting them because too many of the people training, testing and working with the systems all sound the same. That means accents that are less common or prestigious end up more likely to be misunderstood, met with silence or the dreaded, “Sorry, I didn’t get that.”

for people with accents — even the regional lilts, dialects and drawls native to various parts of the United States — the artificially intelligent speakers can seem very different: inattentive, unresponsive, even isolating. For many across the country, the wave of the future has a bias problem, and it’s leaving them behind.” ~ Source: The Washington Post

Simply put people with accents or communicate in a way their audience appreciates and loves are being left out of smart speaker revolution and if more podcast platforms are using natural language processing to make shows searchable for the audience, shows produced by Breadfruit Media are already on the losing end.

 

Opportunities

 

The same way people want themselves represented visually in images, videos, print or in text the same is applicable with the digital voice. It’s not only an issue with podcasts and voice activated speakers. Don’t believe me? Have you tried to use mic button on your smart phone to dictate and send a message? Forget using patois (patwa) to send a message and sometimes it doesn’t catch my proper english correctly!

I see this as a potential opportunity in the rise of the digital voice. Many people get into podcasting to be the talent/host however I think there needs to be diversity in those producing the technology being used in the space.

I intentionally use a transcription service that understands patois. I would outsource production if it weren’t for me wanting to control the quality. However,  let’s say that I was ready to outsource – I can’t find a production company that I think would be able to handle and understand the nuances of my patois and code switching enough to know when and how to make the edits.

black man with headphones to listen to podcast because smart speakers in audio search the voice seo needs diversity

Bottomline

Podcast platforms and apps continue to offer ways to improve the discoverability of a show to reach new audiences. However some of these new efforts aren’t beneficial to all podcasters. Yes, we should leverage what we can, like Castbox’s commenting feature which allows for more engagement with the audience. However, a content creator shouldn’t have to decide between their show being searched and discovered using smart speaks or voice searchable podcast platforms over the authenticity in language that their audience loves about their shows.

The case can be made that more strides can be made when there’s diversification in the people developing and testing the technology as the Washington Post article pointed out. I think there’s opportunities for minority tech entrepreneurs to get in the space to solve some of the problems content creators are having. Or existing technology companies engage diverse voices to improve the AI offerings.

4 things to consider before starting a podcast

I get asked a lot of podcast related questions and in response to my most frequently asked questions and lessons learned, I created a podcast episode over at Carry On Friends. In addition to answering questions asked, I also share some of the lessons learnt. The blog post also includes some software and equipment that I have used to podcast.

You can also listen to the episode using the player below.

4 questions to ask yourself:

  1. Why do I want to start a podcast?
  2. Do you have the time commitment?
  3. Do you have the money commitment?
  4. What makes you and your show different?

For now, I have decided against creating a specific course of my own because I think there are already plenty of free and paid options available for anyone who wants to do it themselves.

At Breadfruit Media, I collaborate with our clients to clarify their mission, create a content strategy and in turn develop and produce a show that connects with their audience.

If you’re interested or want more information about collaboration options, please take a look at our offerings.