In October, 2018, I asked a group of experts a question: ‘what is a podcast, exactly?’

Just as it is now, the medium was then on the up: awareness of podcasts was at an all-time high and – shock of all shocks – podcast companies and independent professional podcasters were starting to make real money from successful shows that reached a global audience.

So, nearly 15 months later I thought I would ask the same group of people to see if the needle had moved. From our standpoint it certainly had. Since 2018, Stabl has gone through some major changes – we raised a seed round, brought onboard new staff members and started developing exciting new original shows for us and well known clients. It all seemed more exciting than ever…

…but are podcasts better defined now?

 

ABC Audio Studios, Andrew Davies, Australia

I would say that the core definition of a podcast is a digital audio file (or series) that’s available for download or streaming via the internet, mobile devices or smart speakers. And it’s something that anyone can listen to at any time. I still think it’s a form of media that offers audiences a very intimate experience and can be a variable length, style and format.

But I was really struck by this Tom Webster article where he talked about the line between what is and isn’t a podcast becoming more blurry. As more people consume podcasts on YouTube what does that mean for producers when it comes to the way we construct and talk about our shows? I think the definition will continue to morph and evolve as more people consume podcasts in different ways.

https://medium.com/swlh/three-ways-to-survive-podcastings-existential-crisis-fe679f0da603

 

Pete Naughton – freelance audio producer (former head of audio, The Telegraph)

Re your question, two years on. I’d stick with my basic, tell-your-nan answer that they’re radio programmes from all over the world that you can listen to on your phone. But one thing that’s happened these past two years is that I’m finding myself having to explain what a podcast is less and less often. I imagine that the BBC relentlessly promoting their own podcasts on linear radio has helped with this, as has the continued “mainstreamification” of the medium (increased coverage on traditional media; big magazine-cover interviews with hit podcasters; Love Island: The Podcast etc etc). Even people who haven’t listened to a podcast now seem to have a pretty decent idea of what one is.

One other notable development that I’ve been aware of is the way in which “podcast” has become a zingy concept in parts of the economy that would previously have paid it little mind. See the rise in VC investment, and the Hollywood, publishing + advertising types who are stepping into the game — often, in my experience, without having a particularly informed sense of what making a podcast involves. Hardly a big revelation for anyone who follows the medium; but I’ve been curious to see some of this lap up on the shores of the UK recently and expect more over the next two years.

 

Steve Pratt, VP, Pacific Content

I don’t think I’d change my definition at this point – even though I get that podcasts are living on places like YouTube more and more, I think the core of podcasting is on-demand audio series.

 

CEO, Castbox

The podcast industry has definitely changed quite a bit in the past year. I think this year, we will see if podcast remains true to its original intended form, of being an open way of storytelling and knowledge sharing. So I partially agree with my previous statement.

However, I think with a lot of large players entering the space (Spotify especially), as well as a lot of investment money coming in (with Luminary for example), that the industry is moving towards a more professional and corporate environment, meaning it will be harder for independent podcast creators to stand out because they just don’t have deep pockets. This means that not all knowledge may be shared, as only the ones that bring in the most revenues or the most listens will be the ones that are heavily produced and marketed.

But I think this is a phase that the industry needs to go through, since more money coming in usually is a good thing, and leads to better content. And what we want is for the industry to grow, and be able to support all types of content that can satisfy the needs of every person. Personally, I’m very excited for the future, and see all the changes happening in the space as positive for the overall podcast industry.

 

Tim Watkin, Radio New Zealand

Some of the characteristics of podcasts have predictably changed in the past couple of years – length, frequency, content, genres, story-telling techniques – as people have tried new things. It should be obvious, but it’s worth saying – anything can be turned into a podcast.

The only question is whether you do it well. For me, however, those defining points remain. A podcast is audio you want, where you want and whenever you want. At its core it’s intimate and conversational. If anything, what we’re learning is that they are becoming less like radio and that they have a very long tail – even podcasts that are years old can wow an audience if it’s a tale well told. In many senses they are more like film than any other media. And always, always, it’s about story-telling.

 

Russell Ivanovic, PocketCasts

My answer remains the same. A TV Show is a serial piece of video content, regardless of how it’s distributed. Ditto for a movie. A podcast to me remains a piece of on demand audio. The only thing perhaps I’d add to my definition is that much like a TV Show is serial in nature, so is a podcast. Eg: there are multiple episodes.

Some people would like to attach lofty ideals of RSS feeds or openness or unicorns to their meaning of what a podcast is or should be, but I’m not one of them. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe that RSS is the best delivery mechanism (I do), and that openness isn’t important (again, I think it is) but I don’t think a peace of on demand, serial audio that is behind a paywall and doesn’t have an RSS feed isn’t a podcast.

 

Arif Noorani, CBC, Canada

A ‘podcast’ is now like saying the word ‘television’. The latter includes your nightly newscasts, and anything you find in the 100+ channel universe or on streaming tv services (Netflix ironically leads the Oscar nominations this year). The future is the same for podcasts, it includes everything from the short-form content (a couple minutes and up), feeds the news diet of many, and contains as many subject categories as your local library. Podcast now even have it’s own Pulitzer prize category.

 

Rob Walch, Libsyn

Nothing has changed. That is still the same definition.

 

For the most part, the definition seems to remain somewhat the same. Whether that’s the case in another year or so remains to be seen.