The Download on Podcasts is a regular feature sponsored by PodcastOne.
Podcast discovery — it’s a persistent challenge that affects listeners, creators, and distributors.
The headline problem? An ocean of content and no easy way to dive deep. The hits get bigger, success leads to success, worthy programs cannot attract listeners who would love them. Islands of well-publicized content develop around network brands, while the iTunes “Top” lists bolster shows that already benefit from built-in leverage such as radio promotion or star personalities.
In other words, just like the rest of media! Google built its search dominance by developing an algorithmic popularity contest for websites. Google News is like a newsstand — limited selection of giant media brands, and users have to leave that walled garden to dig deeper.
In streaming music services, 30-40-million tracks are available, but listening traffic consolidates around the hits.
So maybe it is podcasting’s fate to mature into a rich-get-richer industry just like other categories. If that feels like a painful outcome, it’s because podcasting started as a populist medium, like blogging, pioneered by skilled amateurs drawn into audio for the love of audio.
Audio search suffers from being indecipherable. That is to say, audio content cannot easily be searched by keyword, the way internet content is generally laid bare. If Google’s broad popularity contest isn’t sharp enough for you, you can feed it more detailed queries and descriptive keywords to drill down. Not so with podcasting.
Unless the programs are transcribed into text, the searchable language of the internet. Text transcription services have been available for years, and ambitious podcasters determined to be found invest in them. But that investment is unfeasible for no-budget programs trying to get a toehold in audience development. And most successful shows simply don’t bother … because they have attained a level of success to which text discovery in Google might not be worth the cost and effort.
A tech company called Audiosear.ch (www.audiosear.ch) is working on a solution that includes both transcriptions and a dedicated search engine for audio. The site claims “10,000’s of podcasts indexed,” with more added.
Searching on the site can be addictive. A broad search results in matched to audio, but also to show title and description. You can check a Clipmaker box to restrict the search to shows which use the Audiosear.ch Clipmaker tool. Those results pinpoint clips, many of them less than a minute in length, all of them playable on the site. (The clips work in Twitter, which makes an interesting episode promotion tool.)
In promoting the Clipmaker service, Audiosear.ch highlights well-known programs — Science Friday, 99% Invisible, and FiveThirtyEight. That makes a good demonstration of highly produced clips. But the real value of both Clipmaker and the search engine generally is to low-recognition programs that need new incoming discovery paths. And while the search engine is valuable and fun, it too suffers from discovery issues, just like all new web services.
So the higher value probably remains in transcripts which show producers can post on their websites to accrue general search traffic.