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Is podcast = all audio content?

In this article I want to talk about how much and how we have been using the term podcast. Of course, the podcast universe involves a lot of content and many subdivisions but, are we calling everything a podcast and excluding the possibility of other narratives to emerge? Or would these narratives be better accepted if they were also called podcasts?

Most people have used podcast as the term that defines any listenable entertainment or information content that is not music, from interviews, to fiction podcasts, to corporate podcasts. But at the same time that this facilitates the understanding of what audio content is - a format that despite not being new, became the digital entertainment choice only recently - we often end up considering that podcasts and audiobooks, for example, are very far apart, and this could not be less true, they are all stories to listen to. Guga Mafra from Gugacast even created a third name along the way: Podbook (his trademark, by the way).

It is interesting that we tend to want to fit everything under the same familiar name, to make our lives easier - like vegan bacon - even if inside this name completely different things fit as a product and audio content, like a news podcast and a fiction one.

This makes me think that podcasts in Brazil became the official and familiar name for everything that can be listened to but is not music, something like the Gillete brand name of audio. I have seen very different concepts about what a podcast is, like: if it has advertising it is a podcast, if not it is an audiobook; if it is free it is a podcast, if it is paid it is not.

There are differences in narrative structure and in the way you deliver the content, if it is serialized or all at once, but in reality, the listener really wants to know if the story is good... if it is, he will listen to it. Even because an audiobook can be listened to in chapters and a podcast can be marathoned.

Anyway, I will present here how in the industry we have differentiated these contents and, honestly, I believe, this matters more to those who work with audio than to the listeners:

PODCASTS: typically, shorter content (on average 1 hour) that is divided into episodes and seasons. Within this format there are categories such as: interviews, news, fiction, true crime, etc. It can have one or more voices.

AUDIOBOOKS: longer content (on average 8 hours) to be consumed in a single content, divided into chapters. Audiobooks can be part of a series with more than 1 title. Within this format there are categories such as: fantasy, romance, biographies, business, etc. Usually one voice.

AUDIODRAMA: contents with more interpretation, sound design, and soundtracks. These are contents that have a length closer to that of a podcast, with 1 or 2 hours. Within this format there is a concentration on fantasy and fiction content, but there are also adaptations of plays and major reports.

AUDIOSERIES: more than a format, a way of organizing content by episodes and seasons, very similar to what we see in video streaming series.

Podcast, interviews, True crime, audiobook, News, audiodrama, audioserie fiction podcast...there are many names! But the truth is that it's all audio entertainment. Of course, there are narrative differences between a fiction story that is 8 hours long and a chat between 3 people that lasts 1 hour. There are also particularities of foley, sound design, etc.

In my opinion we could define that listening is more important than the technical name of the format. But I think we are still at the beginning of this journey here. And this definition comes a lot from the platforms as well: what Spotify calls a fiction podcast, Storytel calls an audiodrama. Strictly speaking, these are fiction contents in audio.

The other day I listened to a podcast with industry professionals. They were all asked about what they perceived as the future of the podcast. All of them were unanimous in saying that: longer narratives in audio are a very interesting option. This already exists, it is called audiobook. It is, although, interesting to see how they are still treated as different worlds.

My dream is that we reach a moment in audio where people put on their headphones simply to listen to a story, regardless of the format or technical name. Because when we talk about video, nobody says "ah, today I'm relaxed, I'll stay home and watch a made-for-open-tv 4k short movie on Netflix"... you just say: I'll watch something.

And you, do you think everything could simply be audio? Everything should be called a podcast to make it easier? Or that we need to differentiate content with different names?


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