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Podcast Listening: A New Way of Virtual Engagement For Listeners

In the digital age, the trend of podcasting has picked up all over the world. In 2020, Around 75% of Americans were familiar with the concept of the podcast, as compared to 5% lesser in the previous year. Among those who listen to them regularly, the average weekly time spent listening to podcasts went up to 6 hours 39 minutes in the same year.

Podcast has traveled from radio broadcasting, with so many limitations of time and accessibility, to online streaming, downloading, and indie production. The “pod” in iPod stands for the same, which created a lot of trademark issues in the past. Contrarily, the use of the term podcast dates even before Apple’s trademark for the word pod. Now, podcasts are a go-to way to distribute audio content for everyone. Many people release video podcast content (vodcasts or vlogs), especially on streaming platforms like YouTube. Nevertheless, audio podcasts remain the most popular of all. This is because people can listen to it from anywhere and do other things simultaneously. Music remains the most common topic of all, even though many listen to podcasts for gaining knowledge of some kind. There are several podcasts out there dedicated to entertainment and news.

Podcasts about AI, ML, and Technology

Listening to audio diaries and podcasts is so convenient, particularly for those with hectic schedules. Podcasts have a high listener engagement, and everyone can learn quickly with their help. All the jobs today require updating of knowledge and enhancing the skillsets. For example, those in the field of data science need to keep themselves updated with the latest researches and techniques that make work easier. But the same work does not allow time to sit and study. Such job persons can utilize their commute time or the time they use to browse through social media, for gaining knowledge.

Bright Future of Podcasts

Recognizing the potential of the podcast and its bright future, many organizations and universities have started their own podcast series. They aim to introduce concepts such as data science, AI, etc to a larger audience. Big-name colleges such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, etc have podcasts related to AI and technology. There is a huge demand for professionals in this field. Taking these concepts to a platform like podcasts, which is picking up a fascinating pace, would create awareness amongst the population. This is quite beneficial, as the maximum number of podcast listeners are of age 18-24.

A scientist and researcher from MIT, Lex Fridman, is known for the podcasts he releases about data science. He has talked with many other famous experts and covers a variety of topics related to sciences. A renowned podcast dedicated to AI, Eye on AI, is a biweekly podcast hosted by The New York Times. On Apple Podcasts, Chris Benson and Daniel Whitenack have a podcast named Practical AI: Machine Learning and Data Science. Brain Inspired is a unique podcast that explains the connection between neuroscience and AI, and how they work together. There are many more podcasts on this topic on Spotify, Audible, and some other personal blog spots too. Some podcasts by individuals include Linear Digressions, Partially Derivative, Talk Python To Me, etc.

AI and technology applied in Podcasting

Every other industry is experiencing a transformation with the intervention of AI and digitalization, and infotainment is not so far from the scene. A very common entanglement of AI and podcasting is Smart Speakers like Amazon Echo. There are not any huge revolutionary changes that AI has brought into podcasting. It has just made the work a lot easier and introduced accessibility to podcasting tools to everyone.

Generating Transcripts

Machine Learning and NLP allow us to generate the transcripts of the podcasts in minutes, without needing to sit down and listen to every word. The content creators need these transcripts at times for quick reviewing and classifying the episode content. The perk of using NLP is that it will also provide certain tags or keywords for divisions within the text. Obviously, the speech recognition is not still perfect, but doing a few edits requires less time than transcription the full thing manually. Such transcripts can also form long blogs for the website, which would redirect the traffic via SEO to podcasts.

Editing the Voice Files
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Text is the most widely used format on the internet, until now. But as speech recognition and natural language processing is seeing new heights of development, this might not be the case in the coming decades. Just as one can edit text documents by correcting certain words and adding/erasing unwanted sentences, you can now similarly edit the audio files. Applications let you delete a certain part of your audio and still maintain that flow of speech. In addition, some software can recognize the voice type, pick out phonetic sounds or phrases, and help you create words or sentences if you feel like adding missing content! These innovations eliminate the need to have a lot of backup audio files and professional, but time-consuming, editing skills.

AI-Made Podcasts and Storylines

Despite so many benefits of this editing feature, there is a Deepfake Threat issue. It regards the threat of someone generating a whole new audio file or podcast with the help of AI. These artificially generated audio files might sound convincing enough to identify someone’s voice. It could defame someone or spread a wrong message amongst the masses by using a celebrity voice, and there would be no way to verify if it’s real or not.

But on the same lines, there lies a possibility of good and effortless content creation. A research project podcast called Sheldon County works on the same basis of artificially created fictional worlds. The idea does not seem so appealing because the art that a human mind creates would always be more sentimental. But the machine is learning our way of thinking at full tilt, and it may even form sentences, build upon an idea, and create an engaging story for the audience. Moreover, there wouldn’t be any risk of repetition. If we just provide a few keywords/plot points to a computer, we might get a good, readable, and sensible story at the other end. Maybe, writers and podcasters would use this tech to ease their work a bit, so that they could be free to add other animous elements to it.

The Growth of Podcasting Platforms

There are over 1.75 million podcasts and 43 million episodes according to a survey conducted in January 2021. If separate streaming platforms are to be considered, Spotify has a collection of 2.2 million podcast episodes, Apple Podcasts has around 700 thousand podcasts, and Audible accounts for 100 thousand of them. What’s more, the total market estimate of the advertising revenue from podcasts was around $863 million in the year 2020. The market expects to cross a billion dollars this year. In 2019, Pandora was one of the most popular platforms for podcasts in the US. After such a long run, 2020 is the first year where YoY revenue of the company was negative, and the number of streams also went down. Spotify and Apple are the most common podcast streaming platforms as of now.

Apple Podcasts

Apple Podcasts had more than 34% of the people preferring it over other streaming apps in 2018 but it is still the most popular streaming platform with 30.5% listeners. The reason behind its popularity is the huge diversity of topics in the podcasts available on Apple. To help the creators track the statistics of their released podcasts, Apple has its own podcast analytics. It shows a brief analysis of the demographics; country-wise distribution of listeners, number of hours spent, conversion from listener to subscriber, etc. However, the number of podcasts on Apple went down from figures around 900 thousand to 700 thousand since December 2020.

The Rising Spree of Spotify

Spotify entered the podcast business, not more than a couple of years ago, after acquiring Gimlet Media, Anchor FM Inc., Parcast, Ringer, and Megaphone. The company spent about $900 million on these acquisitions. It rose from 19% listeners in 2018 to 19.9% in 2020, challenging Apple Podcasts with a very little margin. Spotify’s podcast consumption doubled in the second quarter of 2020. By Q4 2020, Spotify had 345 million users and 155 million subscribers, all thanks to the situation of people during the pandemic. The annual revenue of Spotify last year was $9.8 billion, but the company profit still isn’t quite stabilized yet.

Spotify Might Overtake Apple This Year

Spotify is growing at a much faster rate than Apple Podcasts. After analyzing the current situation, Spotify is projected to overtake Apple by the end of this year, in the terms of the number of listeners. Apple Podcasts can drop to 23.1% of users, while that of Spotify would grow to 28.2%. There has been competition between the two companies, Spotify and Apple, for the past 5 years now. Spotify had accused Apple of unfair trading in the competitor market.

Continue Reading: Can AI Create a Friction-Free Consumer Experience?

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