Why audio has not gone viral. Yet

Interesting read.


h/t Kevin Kelly

Some parallels with language learning and perhaps food for thought for those that see value in the lingq model.

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[thought stream no. 1]

So, some quotes that stuck in my mind:

“If you define “viral” as popularity achieved through social sharing, and audio as sound other than music, even radio stations’ most viral content isn’t audio…”

“There is no Google Sound…no BuzzFeed for audio…”

“Audio never goes viral,” …“If you posted the most incredible story — literally, the most incredible story that has ever been told since people have had the ability to tell stories, it will never, ever get as many hits as a video of a cat with a moustache.”

“People will watch a bad video more than [they will listen to] good audio…”

“The greatest reason is structural…Audio usage takes place while you’re doing something else…You can listen while you drive or do the dishes, an insuperable competitive advantage over text or video, which transforms into a disadvantage when it comes to sharing the listening experience…“When you’re driving a car, you’re not going to share anything”.

“The second explanation is that you can’t skim sound. An instant of video is a still, a window into the action that you can drag through time at will. An instant of audio, on the other hand, is nothing. “If I send someone an article, if they see the headline and read a few things, they know what I want them to know,” a sound artist and radio producer told me. “If I send someone audio, they have to, like… listen to it.” It’s a lot to ask of an Internet audience.”

“social media warps our consumption patterns, and not for the better.”

“interest in podcasting seems to have flatlined…12% of Americans listened to a podcast in the last month, the same percentage as three years ago. It is a substantial niche, but smaller than the percentage of people who create online videos, and less than a sixth the number who watch them.”

"While the number of podcasts has proliferated, the vast majority of episodes have audiences in the double or triple digits, judging from the experience of podcast hosting giant Libsyn. “If you want to do the average, our mean podcast? Now you’re looking at like 200, 250 downloads per episode”

“total plays of…hour-long episodes [of the most popular podcast in the world] on SoundCloud peak at roughly 3% of its digital listenership, and are usually under 1%”

“In public radio, only within the last few years has there been a big value seen in disaggregating content from shows” [taking a smaller, edited portion of an audio show and pushing it viral]

“They want listeners to experience the whole enchilada, not take the ingredients and re-contextualize them.”

" audio makers don’t have to wait for a deep shift in technology to court a viral audience. They would, however, have to create audio not for already-dedicated radio and podcast listeners, but for the distracted, impatient crowd that is the web. Audio enthusiasts would have to evangelize on that work’s behalf, not just in coffee shops or emails to each other, but online, loudly, with the same manipulative, click-chasing techniques wielded by the rest of the web."

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I agree with the author, I’ve never thought about it but this essay makes some very interesting points. On the audio defense, I can say that audio books are gaining popularity for some of the reasons it is posted on this artice: Listening while driving, washing the dishes, doing repetitive simple task. This is why the radio still is a modern device and not out of fashion. I listen to national public radio as I drive my car and get my daily dosage of news, I rarely watch tv news because it is too distracting and requires more focused attention. As far a learning languages, audio is a winner for portability, look at the success to Assimil method vrs Rosettastone where the student needs to have a computer running the software and not able to multitask. I can listen to mi Italian Assimil cd as I drive my car.

[thought stream no. 2]

Another quote, from elsewhere:

“language is mostly imitation. I’d say at the beginning, imitating perfectly takes 90% listening and 10% practice. Radio is the best way on this matter, and TV to a lesser extent" Julien Gaudfroy

I agree, people can choose the most appealing instant of a video and place that image which creates the interest to watch the video, but it’s kinda hard to think about something similar to do with audios.

But, in the field of books, as our fellow mentecuerpo said, audiobooks are growing in popularity and I’m not surprised with that, reading takes you to be more focused and it’s not possible to do it together with another activities. It’s a lot more practical and easy (and for me at least, more enjoyable) to listen to a book then to read it.

Audio, i.e content audio, not music, is about interest. It is more like reading a book. You have to think. Books don’t go viral. Videos require little thought. It is mostly about snippets of effects, its cool, you share it, and on it goes. Audio is different, it is more personal, deeper, longer, and more profound, at least that is my take. Interesting post.

“From porch to podcast”

"I’m not alone in my fascination. The podcast [The Moth], which started in 2008, was downloaded by 27 million people last year.

Author, actor and storytelling educator, David Crabb, tells me his relatives and friends often drive home from the shops, or dropping the kids at school, and sit in their driveway for 15 minutes because they’re desperate to hear the end of a story…

…You’re not looking at a screen, which I think is really important, and also I think one of the reasons the podcasts work is because people are sick of the blue screens.

Also as human beings, we are pretty polite and we listen to someone when they talk to us and there is something about storytelling … it feels a little civilised, even though it’s an ancient kind of communication…

…storytelling isn’t for everyone – and sometimes the teller won’t engage you – the beauty is each person has only five minutes to tell their story.

It’s unadorned, so there’s no music swelling up behind it, and there’s no laugh track, it’s unedited human voice, so it’s hard not to like," she said.

[thought stream no. 3]

My favourite “lessons” at lingq are native podcasts that tell a story. Audio, that brings you into someone else’s life.

Being able to get an insight into an interesting life story. And being able to listen and read to these podcasts is - engaging, interesting, and never feels like study.

This is an example - Login - LingQ

I think there is a “premium” business model in there somewhere for this type of content. And I say that, not as a business suggestion. Rather, as a suggestion to get really cool and engaging content onto Lingq.

That’s an interesting article. I just came across this post and it made me think about this site audioburst.com which is doing something different with radio and audio and sort of fits in perfect with that article. Curious what everyone else thinks about this site

“Curious what everyone else thinks about this site”

If they are like me, they probably think you are on the payroll for that site, and didn’t give you a click through.

You join a site, don’t use the site, dredge up an old post, spam a link, then go away? what broader insight could you give us?

Possibly a better link to click on is this one – The Best Factual Podcasts – Cool Tools – this list also includes an indication of which of the rated best podcasts sites have transcripts.

A valuable resource for lingq english learners.

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“What Podcasts Do Professors Listen To?”

“People are fascinating creatures,” Gino said. “This podcast is all about that, and that’s why I love it. It is always interesting, talks about compelling research, and I always learn something new when listening to it.”

…a show “about curiosity, where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”

Also, for lingq English learners, a number of these recommended podcasts have transcripts.

The 4 Stages to Internet medium maturity: Why web audio can’t grow up

-It’s tough to share.

-It’s almost impossible to discover.

-It basically never goes viral.

-It’s difficult to track listening statistics, and the available stats are rudimentary at best.

-The list goes on.

-And it’s a shame. We’re living in the golden age of podcasting.

Popup Archive used their technology to take a few episodes from Radiotopia, created transcripts and then lightly edited them with human editors to publish them on Medium as a way to show that you could actually take audio and turn it into a really attractive reading experience. That was intended to be a showcase both of our partnership with Popup, but also an example of where we think that transcripting and different modes of content consumption really make a lot of sense.