Podcasts have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, captivating audiences around the world. With 5 million* podcasts worldwide, the challenge to stand out is huge: Ben Youatt, Head of Podcasts, at Immediate explains how.
From fashion podcasts with Victoria Beckham´s voice to historical podcasts featuring the first US presidents - AI has the potential to revolutionise the podcast market? Burda expert Peter Kasza explains.
Before we look at current developments, let's look back in time. Although podcasts only began to take off in the mid-2000s, the origins of the audio medium go back to the 1980s. Back then they were called: Audio Blogs. Even then, people wanted to share their thoughts with others in a different way - not just text. With the advent of the internet and portable digital audio players like the iPod, podcasting really took off in the late 2000s. Since then, podcasts have become an integral part of our everyday lives.
There are now more than 3.6 million podcasts on the Spotify streaming platform alone, covering a wide range of topics: Fashion, crime, history, news, media - the list goes on. "This makes it all the more difficult for new podcasters to stand out in this crowded market. Professionalism, regularity and quality content are essential to stand out in the podcast landscape," explains Peter.
To meet these high demands, AI has become an important tool for many in the podcast industry. What used to be done painstakingly by hand, requiring a great deal of expertise, can now be done by AI tools. Much of the production process is now supported by AI. Things that used to take days can now be done in a matter of hours, Peter explains: "Whether it's editing the podcast or creating a video excerpt as a teaser for social media, most podcasters now rely on the AI helper. They save money and, of course, time, so they can focus on what really matters: The content".
But it's not just about assistive technology. AI is increasingly finding its way into the podcast world. A key example is the use of synthetic voices. This is known as voice cloning or voice synthesis. In a history podcast, for example, a person from the past can now be given a voice and tell the story of a particular event from his or her perspective. "In the past, you always had to book external speakers for such programmes. Now, with an AI voice, you can get almost anyone to talk about any subject you can think of," says Peter. Whether it's George Clooney on Coffee Talk or Victoria giving her styling tips or Henry VIII talking about his six wives. But while such possibilities are technically feasible, caution is advised. After all, there are legal aspects to consider. Voices cannot be used without the owner´s permission. "What is more, thanks to such possibilities, podcasts can now be easily translated into different languages. More people can be reached with one podcast than ever before". For many, innovation means new horizons. But AI is still being used very cautiously in this area, Peter points out.
AI also has its limits when it comes to podcasts. If you think about what makes podcasts so exciting to us, it is the feeling of listening to an intimate and intense conversation. And it is that natural and authentic feeling that is quickly lost with synthetic voices and AI-driven conversations. "Authenticity is everything. Artificial intelligence is not the answer to everything and cannot be used successfully for every podcast," Peter stresses, adding: "Personality podcasts in particular thrive on people sharing personal moments from their lives. Podcasts are a very authentic medium and thrive on that.
"And even as the technology evolves and ways are found to allow two AI-driven voices to converse and artificially add 'ums' and 'ohms', AI in podcasts will not become a mass phenomenon", says Peter. "Podcasts thrive on people, their stories and their emotions. Even if the latest technology makes AI more and more human-like, it won't replace us."