Before I cut the cord, to use the parlance of a decade ago, I was a serious TV channel surfer. I liked flipping—often aimlessly—through the channels looking for something that sparked my interest.
When I found a show that grabbed my interest, it was often something I’d seen before. And quite often, I had a copy of that something in my media library. But I’d still watch the show on TV. Yes, right from wherever it was during the re-broadcast. Yes, even with the made-for-TV-edits. Yes, even with commercials.
Back when I was listening to radio in my car and working in radio, I was a station-seeker. I’d hit the SEEK button and let it scan through various stations, stopping when a conversation struck a chord. I’d let the host and the guest go on, figuring out where we were in the conversation just by listening. If I got bored, I’d hit the SEEK button again until another interesting-sounding conversation came over the airwaves.
Occasionally, I still consume content from newspapers and magazines in a similar way. No, I don’t start reading a column from the third paragraph or anything like that. But I let my eyes flit around the page, scanning headlines, leads, and other text. With magazines, I’ll open to a random page in the middle much more often than I’ll start at page one. Unless I’m on an airplane and bored.
The Opportunistic Media Consumer Is Dead!
To many, this opportunistic style of content consumption is rather antiquated. We don’t flip through channels on our TV anymore, favoring interactive TV guides that tell us what is on and what’s coming up. Our car radios are nothing more than an interface to our mobile devices. The contents of newspapers and magazines are delivered in our news apps, with stories often isolated from the larger publication.
We’re choosing the content we want to consume, often when we want to consume it. A perfect environment for podcasting to exist within because podcasting is the opposite of opportunistic. When we open up our podcast listening apps, podcasts do not start playing. Even when we navigate to the show or episode we want to hear, it still takes action on our part to make it play.
And that’s a good thing, right? Well…
Long Live The Opportunistic Media Consumer!
If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you know that Netflix automatically plays content without any express “play this” input from you. If you’re like me, you’ve probably mastered the art of the mute button or become very good at quickly switching through sections to minimize that annoying autoplay feature.
As much as it annoys people like you and me, it’s not annoying to the majority of Netflix’s users. To them, it’s very much a feature. A feature that they, the paying Netflix subscribers, derive great benefit from. Because while you and I lament not finding anything good to watch (that we haven’t already watched), the opportunistic Netflix watcher is happily slurping up content that seemed interesting to them that they didn’t expressly choose.
Appealing To The Opportunistic Podcast Listener
Podcasting sucks for the opportunistic listener for all the reasons I listed above. I used to blame the apps for that, but my position has changed. I suppose there’s a chance that a podcast app developer might design a new UX that allows for both “normal” podcast listening and opportunistic podcast listening, but I doubt it.
Because those apps already exist. They’re just not what you and I think of as podcast listening apps. And a good number of us podcasters don’t think the content on those apps qualifies as true podcasts.
Fortunately for the listeners and wiser podcasters than us, the opportunistic listener cares not what we think.
Drop-in audio apps. Live recording sessions streamed to social platforms. This is how the opportunistic podcast listener is consuming podcasts, even if they don’t know that’s what they are doing.
The opportunistic listener uses these services with little or no intention of being social or engaging with the creator. They just want to lean back and listen/watch. And they are.
From the creator’s perspective, we may see dozens or more people commenting on our “lives”, boosting our streams with hearts, or raising their hands to get on stage with us. But what we’re not seeing—simply because we’re not looking—are the hoards of silent participants doing none of those things, content to listen to or watch us do our thing.
Conventional wisdom tells us to create content specific to the strengths of a platform rather than the lazy method of repurposing content to another medium, shoe-horn style. I may have been complicit in that wisdom. On more than one occasion.
But maybe it’s time to rethink that position. Maybe we should look less at making an engaging social-worthy experience on those platforms and just give the opportunistic consumers what they want: a lean-back experience of our content as we’re making it.
The technology barrier to inject our recording sessions into one or more live spaces is low. Who knows how many people are surfing through a drop-in audio platform, or looking for a live session to occupy their time for a while? If we’re already recording it, why not take a few extra steps upfront to let the world in on what we’re doing behind the scenes? Maybe they’ll love it, giving us a chance to turn an opportunistic listener into a true fan?
As you can tell, my opinion on this topic is evolving. Yours too, perhaps. So share this article with your podcasting buddies. Find out where their head is on the topic of using these new platforms to expose the opportunistic listener or watcher to their content. Maybe that’ll spark some ideas amongst you all.
And if this got you thinking differently, please check out BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and consider buying me a virtual coffee to show your support.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.