November 5, 2015

I recently moved from Washington, D.C. to a small farming community outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Over the past three months, I’ve realized that I’ve started to consume news differently.

There are fewer news outlets to choose from here, and I find myself relying on a college newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, for my hyperlocal news. The DTH, as it’s called, is distributed throughout Chapel Hill and the surrounding community, and I often see people who are not in college reading it in the coffee shop or at the co-op.

I read The News & Observer and listen to WUNC, the local public radio station, if I’m in the car. I occasionally scan the headlines on the Times. But more often than not, I’ve found myself using the /r/worldnews and /r/news communities on Reddit as an aggregate. The site allows users to quickly scan headlines and sources, and often surfaces stories I hadn’t heard about before.

I mention Reddit because /r/worldnews and /r/news are basically crowdsourced news homepages. Good material and breaking news floats to the top. And often, the comments contain commentary from eyewitnesses or people who live in that place, which adds more depth to whatever story is taking place.

I was thinking of Reddit’s news sections when I saw that Product Hunt is trying something similar in the podcasting space. Users can submit podcast episodes, which are then upvoted and downvoted and discussed by the community.

This is interesting, but not new. What is new is the Daily Playlist podcast Product Hunt is now releasing on iTunes. The podcast is an amalgamation of other podcasts — a discovery tool for other material. But what makes it really novel is that the podcast links directly to the enclosure URLs the podcasts put into their own RSS feed — so the original podcast gets the download noted on their own hosting system.

Screen shot, iTunes

Screen shot, iTunes

Product Hunt’s Alex Carter says the goal is to “help drive awareness and attention and explore this as a new tool for anyone to curate [podcasts].”

In a nutshell, this makes it so anyone can become their own radio station. It’s slightly different than Nick Quah’s new podcast, which compiles 8-minute excerpts of other podcast episodes (and doesn’t link directly to the enclosure URLs.) It’s also a little different than NPR’s new discovery vehicle, which relied on user submissions and a panel to pick podcast episodes for listeners to discover. I like NPR’s approach, because it’s audience-driven, but think there’s even more room to grow in this space.

I’m waiting for NPR or an affiliate to create or pick up a discovery vehicle for podcasts and then distribute it on the radio. Imagine the possibilities if a particularly good podcast episode — not show — with a niche but loyal audience was heard on hundreds of public radio stations. The show gets a larger audience, NPR gets new material that they could pick up, and attracts listeners to broadcast, and the audience wins by finding out about new material.

This is an opportunity that public media has while they have the reach and the broadcast distribution channels. It reminds me of the way Disney has worked with YouTube to develop partnerships with self-made stars that can easily shift from the Internet to TV broadcast and back to the Internet, generating larger audiences in the process.

I’m also waiting for podcast episodes to be tagged by the type of activity someone might be doing while listening to the podcast. No one listens to audio in a vacuum. Some pieces are actually better for vacuuming — or listening in the car with your kids. Last year, I compiled a list of a few dozen ways to categorize a radio piece — and people helped me come up with even more. And categorizing is an easy way to involve your audience because they can help categorize pieces by activity. The open source GifGif, developed by two MIT grad students, does something similar for GIFs and could easily be adapted in this way.

I recently learned that Japanese public TV plays a short calisthenics video each morning and that people all across the world still tune in on a daily basis to participate. It’s ritual, it’s public, and it’s something you physically do.

How do we make these discovery vehicles into something any listener can do?

Related: Poynter’s News University is hosting the Webinar Producing Great Audio Using Simple Tools on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 2 ET.

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Mel leads audience growth and development for the Wikimedia Foundation and frequently works with journalism organizations on projects related to audience development, engagement, and analytics.…
Melody Kramer

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