Recently, I read an interesting article on what could be holding the podcasting industry back from becoming a more mainstream medium, with the ultimate conclusion being centered around a person’s preconceived idea of what a podcast is — and how it’s not something they’d personally enjoy.
To summarize, podcasting still has an association with low quality content in the form of people sitting around a mic talking about their favorite movies. As much as it pains me and many other podcast listeners, the truth is that many potential new audiences don’t have a reason to seek out podcasts yet.
It’s not a medium that consists of the latest “must-binge” content, especially compared to popular Netflix documentaries or certain long-awaited HBO shows.
Besides other possible factors like not having a podcast app (hmm…) or not knowing where to start, one of the biggest barriers seems to be the idea that the content to convert new listeners just isn’t there.
Whether you agree with that or not (and I am personally on the fence), there is hope for a new wave of converts to the podcasting side. And that hope is: Established franchises.
First, let me preface this by saying that I don’t anticipate big brand podcasts ever actually pushing out indie content for a number of reasons. But regardless of how you feel about large companies versus indie creators, those big names are coming in — and they’re coming in hot.
A few months ago, Marvel aired its first original podcast, an audio drama called Wolverine: The Long Night. The show followed two agents in charge of investigating the escalating deaths of residents in remote Alaskan city, who find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery with potential mutants involved.
Needless to say, Marvel’s first foray into podcasting was a wild success, and it quickly became one of my personal favorite shows. Although the first season of Wolverine was not as much of a traditional Marvel story following the main superhero, but rather more similar in style to an Agents of Shield spinoff, the show’s reception was good enough to warrant the creation of a second season, coming later this year.
And this is no new trend. Over the past few years, we’ve seen big names like GE (The Mission / LifeAfter) and McDonald’s (The Sauce) experiment with branded podcast creation. And obviously in the case of GE, the first was successful enough to justify a second show.
So why do I see this as a good thing?
Well, because established franchises help to solve one of the original issues with new audiences adopting podcasts as an entertainment medium. Fans of Marvel, for example, looking for more content after watching the latest movie, may try out the Wolverine podcast.
Fans of established franchises are more likely give another medium a try if the content is something they’re already familiar with. More big names means more options, which means more fans will listen and hopefully get hooked just like I did last year.
So while these industry giants are moving into podcasting with spinoffs, new series and branded content, I’m hopeful that it means a greater interest in podcasts as an entertainment medium.
More audience is always a good thing. And an audience who discovers a new medium through something they already love will hopefully continue to explore and become as engrossed in the audio drama / podcast world as the rest of us.
Or at the very least, we’ll get some more fantastic shows.