March 29, 2023

Podcasts are the future of news: Chris Satullo presents “In Pod We Trust”

Radio broadcasting has managed to survive television and the advent of social media but it may have met its match in podcasts.

Chris Satullo, an expert in civic engagement who worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and WHYY, NPR member station in Philadelphia, spoke Thursday at the National Museum of Industrial Technology about podcasting.

The lecture, “In Pod We Trust,” educated audience members on how podcasting is changing the face of broadcast.

“It’s incredible how easy it is to start a podcast,” Satullo said.

Satullo spoke about the boom of podcasting in 2014 with the introduction of “Serial”, an investigative podcast by journalist Sarah Koenig, which changed what people thought of podcasts.

“From a journalistic point of view, it was crazy. From a creative point of view, it was a phenomenon, “ Satullo said. “I would criticize Sarah’s journalism, but her storytelling and her use of audio media was brilliant.”

Satullo emphasized that podcasting allowed for storytelling in ways that radio broadcasting did not, contrasting podcasting with broadcasts on NPR.

He recounted how he had to follow an “NPR time clock,” a concept that placed shows in specific time slots and didn’t leave room for anything longer than the assigned time slot.

“We used to shave stories down to fit in these holes,” Satullo said. “The stories had to be three minutes long so we’d shave them down. With podcasting, that’s not an issue. The only limit is the attention span of the audience.

Podcasting is a lot less rigid than radio broadcasting, he said.

“With podcasts, there’s no FCC, you can be a lot looser, funnier and interesting.”

Satullo noted how difficult it was for podcasters to attract advertisers in the beginning.

“iTunes let you know how many downloads you had, but you don’t know if those people are listening to the podcast or not,” Satullo said.

Advertisers wanted something definite; including the audience that the podcast attracted, how many were in that audience, and the demographics of that audience, Satullo said.

 Since there was no tool for podcasters to utilize to get that information, advertising was hard to come by.

iTunes now has an analytical section, which enables podcasters to prove to advertisers that they have an audience of listeners and who those listeners are, Satullo said.

With the rising popularity of podcasting, “we’re in a Gutenberg moment,” Satullo said, referring to the communications revolution underway.

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