America has over 57 million podcast listeners monthly – roughly 21% of the population.
As a result, media tech businesses are seeking to understand how they can create ear-catching narrative that resonates with these audiences as they traverse throughout their day, from the long drive or subway ride home to running errands around the house.
Content distributors create digital media solutions to this issue across a variety of ways. Fox Networks seeks to pioneer companion podcasts, such as subseries storylines, to build ratings for on-air programming. Apple Car Play and Android Auto will use over 200 models of cars to distribute podcasts to drivers. Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are creating opportunities for audio stories to be propagated throughout the home as well.
What does this mean for the creative economy?
When brands vie for break-through content, the creative economy wins.
Ad Age states that brands will need to “give creators the freedom to do what they do best – create content that listeners seek out – rather than producing thinly veiled, brand centric messaging that will be left on the shelf.”
Audiences will need to be presented with real creative, that is, narratives that inspire, engage and entertain, giving the listener substantive narrative, not just another on-air ad.
This poses a challenge for businesses. Where can they find writers with the imagination, talent and willingness to write multi series audio-only frameworks?
Enter, emerging playwrights.
Audible, an Amazon owned company, recently released a $5M grant to commission hungry young playwrights to create plays designed for the ears, not the eyes. Audible specializes in creating podcasts for download that sell in monthly subscription packages, hosting a wide variety of content such as the podcast Sci-Fi hit, “We Are Legion” to comedy from recognized movers and shakers like Kevin Hart’s “I Can’t Make This Up.”
The company aims to commission about 12 playwrights to create block-buster works. Audible has designed a team of star-studded advisors from the artistic community to vet applicants, such as Tony and Golden Globe award winning actress, Annette Benning and Lynn Nottage, a Pulitzer Prize for Drama awardee and Yale School of Drama Lecturer.
But don’t misinterpret the grant as simply a nod towards altruism – Amazon invested in a highly strategic move for its bottom-line.
Like Netflix, Amazon seeks to create its own house of branded originals that drive viewership. Amazon simply understands the power of narrative for ad and subscriber revenues, investing billions of dollars a year in creating and owning the rights to original and exclusive content. In a media world where “content is king” investing in artist-originated narrative that breaks through the clutter is smart business.
In exchange, the creative economy receives the attention and support needed to flourish.
As audiences for podcast content increases, the reputation of the playwrights themselves could grow. Rather than having to relocate to Chicago or New York to kick-off a career in playwrighting, artists could work remotely from anywhere in the country – and possibly be tapped for more opportunities down the line. Furthermore, their works are expanded beyond the four walls of the playhouse as the audiences for new works scale via digital.
New revenue sources for artists are an exercise in further realizing and capitalizing their value to society.
Our conclusion is clear; smart business involves the arts, and smart arts involves business.