New York –
We live in snarky times and that doesn’t make me happy.
But it’s one of the reasons why I decided to leave the comfort of a steady job as a journalist and newscaster with American ABC News, and plunge into the uncertain, exciting world of podcasting, where there are no rules or formats.
After more than three decades of reporting from four continents and more than 20 countries, it’s time to be part something new – and a little bit crazy!
Podcasting is the new Wild West. Listening to a show or story is the most intimate way to connect with the outside world. Just pop in your ear buds and listen to another human voice.
It’s a great way to build trust and imagination. Any brand that already uses websites, social media and YouTube to deepen a relationship with followers and users should consider digital audio.
Most of us spend hours each day away from our screens while driving, walking or doing the dishes. But we can still listen.
Here in the States tens of thousands of podcasts are vying for attention – from a couple of friends having a conversation in their basement, to “Serial,” the breakout hit about a Maryland murder mystery from public radio’s “This American Life,” with 100 million downloads.
According to the 2015 Edison Research survey, more than 45 million Americans listened to a podcast in the past month. 50% were women. 50% men. The percentage of regular podcast listeners has almost doubled since 2008. Nearly half of all podcast listeners are aged 18 – 44.
Car dashboards (the “center stack”) are rapidly changing. CD players and simple AM/FM radios are being replaced by online audio entertainment systems that sync with drivers’ smartphones. Apple has embedded a “Podcast” app on all new iPhones and tablets. Major auto makers are installing Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay entertainment systems.
With the technological revolution, brands of all kinds are facing disruption. My business, the news media, has become atomized. I believe consumers have changed faster than most of the brands that are serving them.
The internet, when it arrived with so much promise 20 years ago, promised to democratize information. And in many ways it has – challenging the privileged media establishment and opening up a vast new world of information to anyone with the time and curiosity to learn new things.
But that promise has also brought new hazards. Today, it seems, everyone is entitled to their own version of the facts. Instead of gathering around the radio, as our grandparents did, or watching the nightly news, we sit on our own, searching Google for opinions that comfort us and screen out those we don’t agree with.
Confirmation bias has always been part of the human condition. But the internet has expanded the size of our information bubbles and fed into partisan division and distrust.
I write this from New York, a place of extraordinary diversity, which has always been a city on the make. But even in this noisy, commercial city the whiff of nihilism of late has become too strong. This year, politicians Donald Trump on the right and Senator Bernie Sanders on the left have built large followings that are fueled by anger.
What passes for original thought is too often no more than an angry swipe at what we don’t like or understand.
It’s time to build constructive ideas in the public square. Branded content has a role to play as businesses look for new ways to engage.
Our new weekly podcast, “How Do We Fix It?”, is also one small attempt to be positive, going beyond divisions of left and right . Instead of feeding the beast of division and distrust, we look for solutions to stuff that matters. From fixing education and facing up to climate change and identity theft, to personal debt and diet, we seek out new ideas from out-of-the-box thinkers.
We’re edgy, even contrarian, but our intent is to do something different and have a little fun. Who knows if we’re doing it right, but it’s worth a try.
We challenge our listeners to get into their DIScomfort zones.