Betting On Bits For Better Podcasting
Robots are coming for our jobs in podcasting. Well, at least my job in podcasting. Actually though… only some of my job in podcasting. But here’s why I think that’s a good thing for all of us.. in podcasting (because I haven’t said “in podcasting” enough).
Yes, automation will make a lot of human-powered jobs obsolete. And yes, that means some human-powered jobs in podcasting are under threat of being automated away.
But that’s a good thing.
To be a podcaster, you need to be a blend of creative and technical. Podcasting is, by definition, a creative medium. Podcasters create content. But because podcasting is digital from start to finish, podcasters are required to possess technical skills as well.
It’s that second half that’s most susceptible to the wave of automation. Software is eating the world. Ask taxi drivers how software has changed their lives. Ask journalists how software has changed their lives. Ask almost anyone in any industry how software has changed their lives.
Those same forces are at play in podcasting. Software is going to eat podcasting. In fact, it already has eaten a lot of manual processes over the last 15 years. That’s made it a lot easier to podcast in 2019 than in 2004. Every podcaster still podcasting is using software today that they didn’t use 2004. And every podcaster still podcasting today will tell you that it’s easier for them to make a podcast today than it was a dozen years ago.
But I don’t care about easier. I care about the ways software will make podcasting better.
A good step toward that goal is targeting stages in the “creation” process that we’re currently using our brains for that we should turn over to bits. Because there are many non-creative tasks cluttering up our brains as we move through the podcasting process. Those non-creative tasks are better left to automation, freeing up our brains to focus on truly creative decisions.
Imagine what you could accomplish with your show if you didn’t have to worry about all the little technical pieces, knowing that reliable and dependable software would take care of things you may only have a tenuous grasp of anyhow.
I began this piece by stating that robots are taking my job, specifically. You see, all of my clients contract with my firm because we make the podcasting process simpler for them. We do this by taking care of all of the technical hurdles that they don’t want to have to think about. Technical skills you probably have mastered. Things anyone can master, if they have the time and inclination. But for my clients, it’s a poor use of their time to force their creative brains to learn rote, mundane aspects like bitrate, sample size, ID3 tags, image size, keeping RSS feeds valid and updated…
As a working podcaster, I’m still amazed at the people who have recorded content for a podcast that’s just sitting on a hard drive. These would-be podcasters figured out how to use Audacity, Garage Band, or even better DAWs to cobble an episode together, but are at a loss at what to do next. “How do I get it uploaded to iTunes?”, they say. You and I know that’s not how it works. They don’t. Clearly.
But software is eating that problem. There are now podcast hosting companies that will take care of directory submission on behalf of their clients. Whether or not you think that’s a good idea or a bad one, it does meet the stated goal of the client.
And that’s just the start. The future will be good to hosting companies and service providers that eliminate needless clicks for their customers. If they do it right, their automation efforts will put a lot of people out of a job.
And again, as someone who’s livelihood is directly impacted by automation efforts like that: I’m okay with it.
I’m OK with software eating that aspect of my job. Because I want to spend less time making sure files are encoded properly, with the right LUFS, etc. I’d much rather let my brain focus on much more strategic aspects of helping my clients achieve success with their podcasting.
Because that makes podcasting better.
Like most things, this future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed. And a bit clunky. But that’s okay. It’s early in our days of automation in podcasting. Once the processes are streamlined and better integrated, then we’ll see sweeping changes to how we make podcasted content. You may find that scary. Me? I’m excited. I’m cheering for the software companies trying to automate/eliminate all of this manual technical stuff we have to do every day.
What gets me even more excited is thinking about how the creative process can be augmented by software. Yes, people are writing software that will make it easier to be creative. This isn’t easy. Few of us think robots are great at figuring out how to make emotional connections between people and a piece of content on a podcast.
So we’re not quite there yet. But for some creative decisions, maybe we should at least get the robot’s input? Maybe big data helps to figure out the best possible bed music to play to match the tone of the voice-over? And if that’s an overreach, maybe the bits are better at making sure the music ducks properly for accessibility and for ensuring your fades are consistent.
It might even help before that, with some super-smart software program that examines and helps punch up your script. The publishing industry has been flirting with this technology for years. I don’t think it too crazy to expect that in the next 10 years or so (it’s always within the next 10 years, right?) we will have fully automated podcasts, from script to VO to production to publishing. At some point, software might even monitor Google Trends and create episodes based on what people are interested in right now, having an episode available in seconds.
Whether you think that is utopian or dystopian depends on your worldview and resiliency. I don’t think the coming wave of software that eats podcasting will knock all or even most humans out of the mix. Some, yes. But it’ll be a while before software can create content that connects with humans on an emotional level. At least I hope.
But software will make it easier to make a better episode of your podcast. If we let it.
Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 226th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.