International Podcast Day
Sep 30, 2020
7 MIN READ

A View From the Podcast Booth on International Podcast Day

Last year on International Podcast Day, we reviewed a list of popular voice AI podcasts in our blog, “A List of Our Favorite Voice AI Podcasts.”  Since that time, so much has transpired, including a worldwide pandemic. This year, we wanted to take it a step further so I asked a few of the podcast hosts we featured last year to weigh in on the effects of the pandemic on content and listenership, and any reflections they may have on the past year, including their favorite podcast and new podcasts they recommend.

List of the podcasters we interviewed for this blog:

Here’s what they had to say about the state of podcasting over the last year:

Q: What has been your experience with podcasting in the last 12 months and has COVID-19 changed anything?

Bret: I’m not sure podcasting has changed that much for the creators. Most of us record remotely with guests and that is the same whether or not people are stuck in their homes. With that said, I do typically record podcasts with live interviews at events several times per year and those opportunities disappeared. That is probably the most disappointing element to lose. That live reaction you get from an event and speaking about an event that you just experienced together.  However, for the long-form interview format with a single guest which is the mainstay of Voicebot Podcast, there is not much difference. 

Carl: The Voice Tech Podcast has had a great 12 months, with listener numbers per episode exceeding those of last year. The COVID-19 crisis hit my downloads by about 10-20% during the first few weeks, but then quickly returned to normal and is better than ever now.

Kane: My experience podcasting over the last 12 months has been… different. As soon as Covid hit, listenership went down slightly, as fewer people were commuting and doing the kind of things that they used to listen to podcasts while doing. This meant that we had to change things. We started doing live broadcasts on LinkedIn and YouTube, Which is something that we’d experimented with in the past, but never found a cadence. Many industries have had to reinvent themselves over the summer, and podcasting is no exception. 

If your listeners are no longer spending two hours a day in the car, or walking, or in the gym, then how can you continue to provide the content that they need and want, but in a way and a format that is more in line with the habits that they are now forming? However, doing live events was something that everybody and every company started doing in March and so we had to fight the live event saturation that everybody felt. Luckily, we have a loyal following and we were able to grow our live broadcasts fairly quickly and now we have established a decent cadence, have an acceptable set-up, and are able to produce high-quality live video podcasts with relatively little effort. Plus, we now have a whole host of video content that we can chop up and re-purpose for marketing purposes.

Noah: For the 2+ years I’ve been hosting the NVIDIA AI Podcast, I’ve recorded most of our episodes from my home office. Every so often we’ve recorded onsite at NVIDIA’s headquarters, which is always a fun change for me — it’s a different dynamic interviewing somebody in person, and doing so on NVIDIA’s campus where so many AI-related innovations are born gives the conversation an extra, very cool, sense of presence. I haven’t been down to campus since COVID-19 took hold, so I do miss that. Also, once a year I’ll spend a few days on-site at NVIDIA’s GTC conference taping a ton of interviews with conference attendees, catching up with people I know at the company, and soaking in the atmosphere. This year’s conference moved online because of COVID-19, which was disappointing for obvious reasons, but had the silver lining of a little extra emphasis being placed on the podcast because we were still able to do a bunch of “Virtual GTC” episodes remotely. 

The flip side is that even though I usually record from home, my guests are usually at their places of work. But since COVID, a lot of them are recording from home, as well. Between the shared navigation of podcasting while kids and families are sharing our “work/school/home” spaces, and the broader shared sense of all of us getting through this time together, there’s definitely been something a bit more intimate about podcasting during the pandemic that’s been very life-affirming for me (not to sound overdramatic!). 

Bradley: The pandemic has changed a lot, both in absolute terms, as well as how we view the podcasting medium. With everyone working from home, the attention span people have to devote to content of all types – including podcasts – has decreased dramatically. It’s become more important than ever to be respectful of audiences and, where possible, reduce content rather than provide more. And that’s what we’ve done, delaying the launch of Season 5 of This Week In Voice and rolling out a newsletter that makes it a bit easier to consume the voice AI storytelling we provide in more bite-sized fashion.

Peter: Today is the 751st consecutive episode of The Smart Speaker’s Daily podcast. I started recording podcasts in 2013 and have totalled nearly 1500 episodes of various shows. It’s been in the last few months that there’s been yet another resurgence in interest in the format from friends and contacts. (In fact I’m leading a webinar in a few weeks to train staff with various European orchestras in the production of podcasts!)

Podcasters and listeners

Q: What was your favorite podcast episode to host over the last 12 months?

Carl: All my guests are fantastic in their own way, but my personal favourites would be episode 74 with Byron Reese, as he really kept me on my toes (I think he asked me more questions than I asked him!). My other favourite would be episode 71 with Elie Dordek, an asynchronous interview using my new audio creation tool, Rumble Studio. This was a totally new way to record a conversation, and the results exceeded my expectations, thanks largely to Elie’s wonderful answers.

Kane: Without a doubt it was the episode with Bob Moore from IBM. Bob is a conversation analyst turned conversational UX designer and the author of Conversational UX Design, A Practitioners Guide to the Natural Conversation Framework. The attendance was amazing, the interaction with the audience was amazing, Bob was amazing and it was one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had. Anyone who is even remotely interested in conversation design and how to design natural conversations should check it out here.

Bret: Interviewing Mike Zagorsek from SoundHound Inc. about the rise of custom voice assistants, of course! We also had a few COVID-specific episodes that were unique. We spoke with the organizers of the largest voice industry events about how they were adjusting to the lock-downs back in March. We had a journalist roundtable to discuss how the quarantine and pandemic might impact the voice industry. And, there were a few guests that discussed their efforts to use voice technology to help diagnose and treat patients. 

Noah: We get a mix of internal NVIDIA employee guests and external guests who are doing cool things with AI at their own companies, universities, creative studios, and so on. The NVIDIA guests are often audience favorites because they provide a peek behind the curtain, and great insight into this “History of AI” that’s still being written every day. The external guests run the gamut from individuals who made something really interesting on their own to executives and startup founders talking about using AI in larger-scale initiatives. Honestly, I enjoy the variety as much as anything – it speaks to the importance of AI across so many parts of life, and makes our podcast what it is. 

But I also feel something of an excitement or kinship with the individuals who are doing amazing things either on their own or as part of smaller, lesser-known organizations. 

All that said, I’ll cite two episodes here, though it’s really impossible to choose:

AI4Good: Canadian Lab Empowers Women in Computer Science – Ep. 103: I’d never heard of AI4Good Lab or Doina Precup before this episode came together. In addition to her own technical prowess and accomplishments, Doina helped found this amazing summer program to empower women in AI. The episode is a great listen in its own right, but the broader message really encapsulates what I think it’s all about: The whole point of all the advances, all the technology, needs to be helping humans work to make life better – more equitable and meaningful – for all people.

Here Comes the Sun: NASA Scientists Talk Solar Physics – Ep. 123: I got to talk to people who work at NASA! What made it extra good was that we talked a bit about the challenges of working from home (bc COVID). Turns out NASA scientists grapple with USB cables just like the rest of us!

Bradley: We did a special healthcare series of This Week In Voice over the summer – a five-episode slate – that led up to The Voice of Healthcare Summit, which was virtual. The panels were strong and the content felt timely. That was a lot of fun to do.

Peter: I am a great advocate of Flash Briefings (sometimes I think more so than Amazon themselves!), but whether they are Briefings or podcasts, short daily updates are a terrific way to drip-feed an audience with information on your particular AI niche and regularity build a stronger relationship.

Q: Any advice for podcasters or listeners for the next year?

Peter: Listening to daily audio is habit-forming, and having it in bite-sized chunks makes information easier to consume when you can’t face, or don’t have time for, a ‘feast’ of a voice tech podcast 10, 20 or 30 times longer. One voice tech podcast on my phone is over an hour and a half long and is unplayed because I don’t have the uninterrupted time to listen to it. My professional advice (I’ve been in radio for 30 years), is edit, edit and edit again. The average UK commute time is 30 minutes, which seems a good rule of thumb for the duration of a podcast; I will have lost the thread of the conversation if I try to pick up on it 8 or even 24 hours later. 

Kane: My advice for podcasters is the same advice that I give myself every time I plan an episode, which is to make stuff that you enjoy and cover things that interest you, not the group. Having an audience is cool, but if you try and give them what they want, or pander to them, then you will lose personal interest and enthusiasm. You don’t want podcasting to be a job that you’re bound to do, you want it to be a vocation you love. The approach that we take on VUX World is to explore subject matter areas and speak to individuals that we are genuinely curious about and that we are genuinely interested in learning more about. I think if you keep yourself curious and use your podcast to explore your curiosities, you’ll keep your audience curious and take them on the journey with you.

Bradley: Podcasters need to embrace a mindset of continuous improvement and look hard at everything you’re doing to gauge whether it all is really necessary or not. Getting down to basics is what serves most audiences well right now. No advice for listeners, other than keep supporting the podcasters you like and don’t hesitate to reach out to them to engage in conversation amidst these times, where everything is so impersonal and digital.

Bret: Check out the back catalogs of podcasts and not just the current episodes. If it’s a news oriented show, then that might not be of much interest. However, for interview-based podcasts, there are often some gems that were recorded in previous months or years that will be relevant no matter when you listen. At Voicebot Podcast, a significant portion of our listens every week are from that back catalog, even going back to 2017. 

Carl: Podcasters: Keep an eye on how your podcast appears in search results, and whether your audio content is returned in the SERPs. Pay particular attention to voice search, and consider writing your questions to match voice search queries!

Listeners: Experiment with asking your voice-enabled devices for the specific content you want e.g. play me podcasts about <topic>, and see what you get. You might be surprised!

Noah: For podcasters, find yourself a great audio editor and producer — or some kind of partner — if at all possible. I’ve done some “one person” pods in the past where I tried to do everything from recording to editing and promoting all on my own. Now, having the luxury of working with two amazing people on this show is just so great. Having done a lot of DIY work in my career, I’ll be the first to say that when you find the right team, it really can be so much more rewarding.

For listeners, I think it’s just never been a better time to find great content. So many people are publishing, and experimenting with new formats and content ideas and such … And it’s really easy to listen from anywhere. I mostly listen to pods while running or while cooking and cleaning up after cooking. I have friends who love listening to podcasts at slightly sped up speeds – I hear that’s a great way to enjoy even more podcasts, at least until somebody figures out how AI can extend each day beyond 24 hours ;-).

Q: Any new podcasts in the voice AI space that we should all be paying attention to?

There are many great podcasts in the voice AI space now. Newer ones include Future Ear Radio with Dave Kemp, and the The Conversation Design Podcast by Botsociety. 

Two Voice Devs is fairly new and produced by Mark Tucker and Allen Firstenberg. There’s a need to hear the perspective of two people who have independently done a lot of interesting and successful work in the space and this ought to be the vehicle for that as the market continues to expand.

The world of podcasting has long been a mainstay in the voice AI community, helping to keep us up-to-date on the quickly evolving technology and introducing us to a constant stream of interesting people and innovations. For the next year, we’ll keep listening and we hope you will, too. Based on the recommendations from our hosts, we have a few new podcasts to keep our ears on, and we look forward to talking to even more people in the space next year. Until then, to all our podcasting friends and their listeners: Happy International Podcast Day!

If you’re looking for more content from voice AI industry experts, check out our Speech-to-Meaning ® blog. 

Developers interested in exploring Houndify’s independent voice AI platform can visit Houndify.com to register for a free account or talk to us about how we can help you bring your voice strategy to life.

Karen Scates is a storyteller with a passion for helping others through content. Argentine tango, good books and great wine round out Karen’s interests.

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