The Tiger, The Virus and The Wardrobe

The Tiger, The Virus and The Wardrobe
Podcasts are at an inflection point, do they stay as they are or do they find new ways to immerse their listeners? James Cridland from Podnews to explore the future of podcasting.

This week we delve into what the future of podcasting beyond three guys one mic might look like. We're joined by James Cridland of to explore everything from choose your own adventure podcasts and how your data from podcast clients might not be as secret as you think, and why that might not actually be such a bad thing.

Clips used this episode are from:

  • This American life
  • Wondery's Joe Exotic
  • Joe Rogan Expereince
  • No Agenda
  • Phoebe Reads A Mystery
  • Serial
  • Twenty Thousand Hertz
  • Marvel Wolverine
  • The Daily
  • Fun Kids Science Weekly
  • Welcome to Night Vale
  • 99% invisible
  • Civilized

News clips:


Ollie: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to my wardrobe. A couple of weeks ago, two things happen to us. One being of ours that brought the world to a whole changing the way that we as humans live our lives. The second of those things, which for some reason, it also happened upon the world was tiger. King

[00:00:15] tiger. King was the number one tweeted show in the U S this weekend.

[00:00:20] Welcome back the Netflix. Documentary tiger team made sensations out of the colorful character in the series. What's his tiger King murder. Mayhem madness is the talk of the world.

[00:00:33] Well, you may have had your first experience of the wacky world of bootlegs zoos and giant feline park warfare through Netflix nearly one year ago, I was listening to the tale of Mr.

[00:00:41] Joe, exotic more like this. He was sitting

[00:00:43] behind about a hundred visitors when he spotted a tiger. It had gotten loose from Wondery I'm Robert Moore, and this is Joe exotic

[00:00:55] before the virus, the world was a bit different. We were commuting going to the gym, waiting for people outside restaurants. Doing something that we do a bit less of these days, listening to podcasts with him.

[00:01:05] He goes out that itch that you used to scratch with a podcast, whether it is getting in deep with the latest true crime case or getting your daily news has been replaced most likely by your TV. However, some podcasts are finding a new spotlight. Ones that do more with the medium, the ones that might be the future of podcasting.

[00:01:24] Welcome to Pathfinder, a show about storytelling.

[00:01:33] James Cridland: [00:01:33] You know, there's usually a drinking game that goes on of, uh, the amount of people that can use the word intimate when it comes to podcasting, because podcasting is very intimate. But I think that there is some truth in that, you know, and figures that I've seen coming out of the UK say that 92% of people who listen to podcasts do so alone.

[00:01:52] I'm James Cridland, I'm editor of pod, which is a daily newsletter about the podcast industry. And that I think really. Says quite a lot around podcasting being me-time podcasting being probably the sort of, um, you know, your happy place, a place where you escape from other things. And it's typically when you look at, um, television consumption, when you look at, uh, consumption of other media, you are doing that with other people.

[00:02:24] And podcasting is very different. Again, we listen to most podcasts through, uh, headphones, not on speakers. And again, the reason for that is that, uh, headphones are far more personal, far more private. So maybe, uh, podcasting is actually offering a bit more of an intimate sort of shared experience. Where people can actually just sort of close off from the rest of the annoying family, who they have to spend 24 hours a day with, uh, and are actually spending just that little bit of me time alone.

[00:02:55] But I think what we're seeing in media consumption as a whole over the last couple of weeks has been how much media is driven by habit. And how much, therefore, when our habits are broken, uh, that, uh, you know, changes the way that we are consuming, uh, all kinds of things.

[00:03:14] Ollie: [00:03:14] The way we consume stories much like everything that we do in our lives is based on routine.

[00:03:18] We carve out little moments all throughout a weeks to escape. Media in a way, becomes our own adult comfort blanket. As James said, though, these moments, the ones that we usually have for podcasts, but changing the time you have for your own head space has shifted where you might've had some time in the morning to catch up on a bit of news.

[00:03:37] That may have changed to the small window before you fall asleep. And we're seeing that in where listeners are going.

[00:03:42] James Cridland: [00:03:42] Well, what I think is interesting is, uh, the last couple of weeks and seeing that, uh, fiction is going up, and that's probably a nice thing in that maybe that showing that people have had their fill of the news and now wants to escape some of that one death.

[00:03:59] And certainly, uh, you know, some of the podcasts that I'm listening to a very much focused around anything, but probably tying into the fact that we have quite a lot of people who are watching, um, a little bit more TV or different TV than they, uh, currently used to. And of course, kids and family, uh, is also going up as well as we're listening to more podcasts with our children in earshot this week, we'll learn about Caterpillar who is just seemingly realized.

[00:04:26] So I think that there's certainly something to say for this is sort of broadening the amount of podcasting that we're listening to. But also I think it's quite easy to fall into the mistake of assuming that since we're all working from home, we have masses of time. Um, and that is not the case. Um, you know, certainly if you are looking after kids who would otherwise be at school, you have very little time and very little me-time and I think that's what we're missing.

[00:04:53] Particularly, you know, no commuting, uh, less time walking by yourself, you know, going out with the dog and, um, having a half-hour walk that is now going out with the rest of the family and having a half hour walk with you in your state sanctioned exercise. Uh, and so again, that's actually causing a bit of difference there.

[00:05:17] I think it's certainly changing the way that we are consuming podcasts. Uh, it's changing the way that we're consuming all sorts of media. So there are these sorts of, you know, subtle changes. What we're also saying by the way, is I'm seeing more podcast consumption in the afternoon, in the evening in the daytime, which, you know, again is interesting.

[00:05:37] And I think that does communicate that, uh, podcasts listening used to be very habit forming. Um, And very habitual around the time of day that we were listening. And now, you know, again, uh, quite a lot of that has actually changed habits, might

[00:05:54] Ollie: [00:05:54] be changing for the listeners. On the other side of the microphone businesses, relatively normal podcasting is always been a productive standing

[00:06:00] James Cridland: [00:06:00] in wardrobes.

[00:06:01] I mean, there are some changes. There are some shows that of course used to be done in fancy studios and are now recorded under a towel or under a duvet or a duner as we call them in Australia. Um, and, uh, you know, so there is some of that are a glass, uh, tweeted, uh, something a couple of weeks ago, showing him recording the introduction to this American life that all kinds of extra space recovered, all dressed up in a suit and a shirt, but weirdly no shoes.

[00:06:29] I'm not quite sure what was going on there. So there's clearly, you know, some of that going on and we're seeing of course that going on in terms of radio, in terms of TV as well. And I think what is interesting is, is that podcasting has always been the Vanguard of that. Podcasting has always been recorded for many people at home, for many people in the spare room, in the clothes closet, which is a very good place to record by the way, because there's no echo.

[00:06:55] And that's

[00:06:55] Ollie: [00:06:55] exactly where I'm coming to you from my wardrobe. I think so much of the intimacy of what you can do with podcasts and the stories you can tell with them. It comes from the warmth of the people that make them and the humble beginnings of those shows, you're

[00:07:08] James Cridland: [00:07:08] listening to 20,000 Hertz. Hello friends.

[00:07:11] Welcome to the shizzle is 99% invisible I'm Roman. Hi, it's

[00:07:15] Ollie: [00:07:15] Phoebe for costing is older than you perhaps realize for many, the boom started with cereal, but if you've been around a while, you probably remember the names Leo LaPorte and the pod father himself, Adam Curry, rather Fundly once again, it's time for the program that has, while these two jumped ship from radio.

[00:07:30] The best bit about podcasting was it didn't require a license, expensive transmitting equipment or even much experience. It could just be two people in a room talking about the things that they were interested in. Intimacy is one thing, but much like music podcasts hold that unique feeling of being part of a club that no one else has discovered yet.

[00:07:48] Back in the day of having to sync those MP3s. If the shows that you liked to your iPod, this was very much the case while that feeling is still there times have changed. There are now over 1 million podcasts. There are constantly more listeners in the medium is growing up.

[00:08:02] James Cridland: [00:08:02] The first thing to say about where podcasting is going is that it is clearly growing and the rate of growth is more now than it ever has been.

[00:08:11] So, you know, the new figures that came out of the U S only a couple of weeks ago, although it feels like many years ago now, Really showed that 37% of people are listening to podcasts every single week in the U S. Now let's bear in mind that over 90% of people in the U S watch TV or listen to the radio.

[00:08:30] So there's still quite a lot of growth there, but I think you can clearly see that the amount of growth is actually for podcasting is actually increased.

[00:08:44] I think the second sort of part on that is that actually we are moving away from, um, you know, three Mike's, one brain type of podcasts where you've got, you know, people in, in a, in a basement talking about a funny film that they went to see last week to much more produced, much more carefully put together, or do you.

[00:09:07] Paco's in the ocean. And I see Sammy, one of the things that I do a fair amount when I'm, when I've got my radio consultants hat on and I'm around talking to radio, broadcasters is I will play them a clip of their, uh, speech breakfast show, which is typically. I live interview with somebody. I will play them a clip of that followed by a clip of the New York times daily from the New York times, Michael tomorrow, where you have music and you have lots of archive material weaved in making the point that the journalist is making all the, all of the time.

[00:09:43] And there are those. Um, techniques, which are now being used in podcasting far more, uh, which really sort of changes the way that podcasting is, is sounding. And there's still a place for Adam Curry. Um, and there's still a place for Leo LaPorte. Um, but there's also, you know, many places for a much more carefully produced, uh, sound in there as well.

[00:10:12] Ollie: [00:10:12] The question really is though, does podcasting need to go further than its older brother radio? The tools are there to be more interactive, much like video streaming services and video games can react to the viewer. Podcasting has the tools to craft much broader worlds, not just in journalism, but fiction too.

[00:10:28] The restriction to them going further though might actually be the way that podcasts are delivered as a medium.

[00:10:33] James Cridland: [00:10:33] There's a podcast called civilized civilized and improvised, dark comedy Saifai podcasts, um, which is a very clever podcast, which is a podcast delivered via email. And the way that it works is you listen to an episode and it's a much like a choose your own adventure book.

[00:10:52] Um, you listen to an episode and you then vote as to whether the. Person, you know, whether the story, you know, whether he should open the door or whether, or whether he should lock it and walk away. Um, and when you've done that, it then gives you the next episode versus that is influenced by your choice in what the character ought to end up doing.

[00:11:15] So you can begin to do some really quite interesting stuff around that from a content point of view. And of course around that from a advertising point of view as well. Well,

[00:11:28] Ollie: [00:11:28] producers are trying to go outside the box on how they can create unique situations, but the way that people listen through stores makes this a difficult and clunky process for the listener.

[00:11:37] When we listen to podcasts, we want them all in one place. Which is normal. That's how the rest of our media works. Interestingly, there is an error of podcasting. The part that you don't necessarily like that may pave the way for what's next and making podcasts more immersive.

[00:11:51] James Cridland: [00:11:51] Well, there's a really clever company called a million ads.

[00:11:54] Um, and a million ads are fascinating. And what they've done is they've got technology that makes. Uh, radio ads, podcast ads on the fly. So say that you're listening in Glasgow and, uh, that, uh, it's a cold day. So say that it's raining, the ads can actually come on for Starbucks and it can actually say, you know, um, it's a cold morning, uh, in Glasgow at the moment.

[00:12:22] So why not get a, a nice warm Starbucks latte? And you can hear in the background, uh, you know, latte for Ali. Because they know who you're called and they know where you are and they know all of this information that they can then make something which is really personal. Um, and that is either really scary and freaky and tracking and dreadful, or it's a really powerful piece of audio.

[00:12:48] Um, and the jury is still out as to whether or not it's a good or bad thing.

[00:12:57] Ollie: [00:12:57] Creating these customized personal audio experiences comes at a cost. This technology dynamic ad insertion needs data to work. It needs the same kind of tracking that you find on web pages that suggests stuff like what socks you should be buying next. This is a huge conversation for podcast is and podcast, app developers, part of podcasts.

[00:13:16] DNA has always been the lack of data, the freedom to own the content and not track your listeners. There might be a little bit of a misconception on how much of that data is already out

[00:13:25] James Cridland: [00:13:25] there. I think that there is a bit of conversation at the moment around privacy, which is the right conversation to have.

[00:13:33] But it's conversations that are being done by people that don't actually understand the issues. And that's a difficulty because you know, you then end up with this really complicated, um, conversation of, uh, talking about, uh, IP addresses and whether or not they are the super secrets personal information.

[00:13:54] Um, but when you combine them with other things, then all of a sudden they become. Super secret personal information. And, and so it's all of that kind of stuff that we need to be careful of, but then you have a look at, um, the worst podcast apps for leaking your personal information to podcast publishers and the worst.

[00:14:16] One of all. Is Apple podcasts. And everybody says that Apple is the best and the, in the best possible, you know, and it's brilliant in terms of privacy with Apple podcasts, I can actually tell whether or not you have left the house, um, because, uh, Apple podcasts. So connect to me, not to somebody else, but to me, I can actually see what IP address your connected, uh, from every single hour.

[00:14:47] Uh, which is quite a thing which very, very few other podcast apps do. So you have these sort of conversations, uh, going on from people that don't necessarily fully understand this particular space. And I think it's an interesting conversation to have. Once you start talking to folk who are a bit more technically savvy about the world, other than just podcasting and once you've, uh, once you've actually had that conversation, then.

[00:15:14] All of a sudden it opens up some really interesting conversations around whether where the future of podcasting might be going, how that impact in terms of privacy and what we should be careful of and what, and what we shouldn't at the moment. If you're. A podcaster and you are on Spotify. You can actually go into Spotify.

[00:15:34] You can find out not just how many downloads you've got. That's a lovely number, but it's relatively meaningless. You can find out from Spotify when they stopped listening, you can find out how many of them are boys. How many of them are girls? How many of them are aged 35 to 44? And what music they like?

[00:15:51] Um, you know, you can find all kinds of informations because Spotify can actually tie that in with other information that you. It actually has. And some of that is really helpful to us. So, um, you know, I think, I think it's, uh, an opportunity rather than a threat to the podcast industry

[00:16:12] Ollie: [00:16:12] at the end of the day, podcasting is still in its awkward teenage years. People were formed habits around the way that they listen to podcasts, but habits change. We see debates and struggles, but the medium is being forced into a new generation. And it will be you the listener that votes with your ears, how, when and where you want to listen.

[00:16:30] However, the future of podcasting, as we see it now might not actually be podcasting, but a whole new medium. This might be a splitting point, much like video had where video had video games. We might be looking at much more personal immersive experience. After all audio occupies this amazing space, that video can't for a moment.

[00:16:50] It's yours and no one else's

[00:16:52] James Cridland: [00:16:52] I think, you know, it does come back back to the fact that it's a very intimate medium. You're not experiencing this with other people. Typically you are experiencing it alone and you can do a lot with the mind with the imagination. And, you know, I always used to joke that pictures, uh, rather better on the radio than they are on.

[00:17:12] On the TV because the TV doesn't leave anything to the imagination. Whereas radio, if somebody tells you or audio, if somebody tells you to. Enjoy lying on the beach with the sun. And you can hear the beach in the background. Now, some people may have thought of a beautiful Sandy beach. Some people may have thought of a Rocky beach.

[00:17:33] Some people may have thought of a heavily beach. The thing is he doesn't matter. That's actually the wonderful thing about audio is that you can be really personal. Without actually deliberately showing somebody an image that doesn't necessarily help.

[00:17:58] Ollie: [00:17:58] This has been Pathfinder a show about storytelling. Thank you to James Cridland of pod news. You can sign up for his newsletter at Thank you so much for listening to this first episode of Pathfinder. If you'd like to be sure to subscribe wherever you find podcasts, you can find out more about the stories on our and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at Pathfinder show, the show is written by me, Ollie Judge.

[00:18:24] It is edited and produced by Roger Morley. So you next week.