We Buy “The Why”
“And the Golden Globe for the best podcast adapted show goes to…” could be a phrase we will all be hearing in the near future. In fact, I believe I may have heard an early rendition of it on the most recent awards broadcast.
I marvel at the juxtaposition of billionaire Steve Jobs and his mammoth, international corporation Apple having invented the iPod which ultimately gave power to the lowly individual to change the world.
With a single device, one can record an “iPodcast” and their lone voice could be heard around the globe at any time. It is this rugged individualistic counter-culture ability that gave Apple its appeal to its consumers. However, I find it ironic that the Apple Corporation, being a huge international conglomerate, has empowered the individual to change the world.
What makes Apple as a company resonate with its users according to motivational speaker Simon Sinek is that Apple users do not purchase “the What” (i.e. the device, the tablet, the computer, the phone). There are plenty of companies that sell those devices.
What makes Apple unique, how they differentiate themselves, and what Apple consumers purchase is “the Why.”
Fans and followers of Apple are attracted to and stay brand loyal because they are consumers of the idea behind the product, not necessarily what the product is. And it is that “Why” that empowers the individual to be unique in this massive global inter-networked landscape.
Distribution For All
Podcasts and podcasting are a very integral part of “the Why.” Any individual with a computer and a device can record what they have to say and broadcast it to the world. A Dude and Bro Podcast Show has given me a voice. Podcasts give everyone a voice.
As a result, the medium of podcasting is exploding in popularity. In the past, you could only listen to a heavily regulated terrestrial radio format with a commercial break every 4 and a half minutes.
Or, dating myself a bit, you could always purchase a short-wave radio. But that requires you obtaining the very weird and clunky device and enduring the community of short-wave radio folks who have seemed to have been hijacked by weird apocalyptic type folks broadcasting the Book of Revelations from the deep recesses of their Doomsday Bunkers.
Steve Jobs and Apple changed all of that with the iPod culture. There is a podcast for almost every genre or subject and almost everyone seems to have their own show these days. In the very antiquated world of terrestrial radio, they themselves have quickly picked up that podcasting is another way to reach its consumers. As technology gets cheaper and more readily available to the everyday person, the production values continue to improve and the quality out the output continues to increase.
A Podcast Too Far?
One morning when I was waiting for my espresso to brew, I glanced down with my caffeine deprived eyes at my Alexa device and saw an article headline that read, “Hit Movie Anchorman to Become a Podcast”.
The evening prior to seeing that article I had thoughts while sitting upon my couch and binge-watching TV with my wife, that I preferred the Homecoming podcast over the Amazon Prime television series. The book is always better than the movie so maybe I will coin the phrase, “the podcast is always better than the show”. But I did also think it was cool that a slew of shows that started as podcasts like Lore and Dirty John got started as podcasts.
I wore it as a badge of honor that I was on board from the beginning and was a fan or supporter “before it was cool.” But I did truly feel good for the show's creators that they are enjoying success by getting TV series and maybe making a good living off of something that I was thoroughly enjoying for free all of those times.
But something about the Anchorman podcast bothered me. Does the Anchorman podcast jump the shark in terms of the podcasting world? And, will the ever gaining popularity of podcasting make it too mainstream, watered down, and ultimately become uncool? Or, am I just being a bitter podcast hipster?
I have yet to listen to the Anchorman podcast, so I do not want to begrudge the actual show or give the impression that I am giving it a negative review. It just reeks a bit to me of jumping on the bandwagon and trying to benefit from these incredible podcasts that gained fame through television exposure.
The Sounds Of The Underground
When I was in high school, I was attracted to the music that was considered “underground”. The stuff that was popular and on the radio I thought was uncool and therefore I did not listen to it. I guess that makes me a “hipster” by definition. Podcasts, in general, are still in the vain for me of an underground phenomenon.
I get immersed in a good podcast and try to tell anyone that will listen to me, “man you got to listen to the so and so podcast”. They will undoubtedly turn to me and say, “yeah sounds interesting, but I don’t even know how to listen to podcasts”.
But the old hipster in me gets irked that people are watching Homecoming, Dirty John and Lore on television, not even knowing that they originated as podcasts. I was entrenched deep enough in the podcasting world to have listened to them when they first came out exclusively as podcast shows.
If podcasts get too popular, will they cease to be cool anymore? Will they get watered down like a bad network television series with too much mass appeal, product testing, and totally lose that artistic integrity? Sort of like contrasting a gritty independent movie with a Disney film. Or, will the ever-growing popularity draw the best and brightest talent, not to mention better production values, to make podcasts even better and cooler?
Does all of this go against the notion of “Why” we listen to podcasts versus selling us “the What”? “The What” is a story or broadcast in an audio form that we can easily download to our device. “The Why” behind our obsession is a deeply rooted, grassroots community of individuals that are able to broadcast their individual voices to a welcoming an eager world.
I am a big believer that competition is good. So perhaps with many of the larger media companies getting into the podcast game, it will only increase the quality of podcasts across the board like a rising tide.
I recently listed to the Wolverine podcast and it was phenomenal. Marvel and Stitcher did a top notch quality job in the story and production of that podcast. So it is possible the growing popularity of podcasts in the near future will create an atmosphere akin to the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other networks raising the bar of content, rather than being stuck with the clunky, over-produced, and over-stylized shows that are on the major networks that I do not like nor watch.
Swirling deep in the primitive recesses of my psyche, though, is even more of a feeling that podcasts were something for the everyday common man. A small, tight-knit community that had a kinship with the other podcasts out there. It was something special for us on a grassroots level.
When True Crime Garage and the Drunk Ex-Pastors give shout outs to their fans on their respective shows, it is a testament to their own active and engaged community of loyal listeners. The fact that a lot of money and production energy is now going into the newer bigger podcasts may somehow take that away from our podcast community.
I think the immediate future of 2019 will tell us the direction that this thing podcasting is taking us on. Can a “Dude and Bro” record a podcast in their basement sharing their intimate thoughts and words with the rest of the world and be relevant or will expensive studio time and an “A” list actor lending their voice be a requirement for relevancy?
Or, perhaps there is room for both scenarios along with all the stuff in between and all shall be welcomed for the greater good. Either way, I will be entrenched and thoroughly enjoying the ride.
What say you? Is the explosion of podcasts and the attention from larger entertainment outlets a good thing for the medium of podcasting? Please comment. We want to hear from you.