Free and Open Podcasting: A Conversation with Rob Greenlee – Part 1
“And it surprised me that it took so long for people to adopt the on-demand aspects of audio. It’s been a very, it’s been kind of a slow adoption curve is what I’ve seen. I think that the on-demand side of video grew much quicker, which I think is an interesting case, even as it applies today as we look at the podcasting space. We’re still, you know, we’re still chipping away at it, as they say.” — Rob Greenlee
This episode’s guest for Free and Open Podcasting is the CEO of Spoken Life Media and host of the Spoken Life Show. He’s also the co-founder and advisor to PodcastEZ.com, and has worked in senior roles with Podbean.com, Libsyn, and Advertisecast. He’s a well-known public speaker, technologist, evangelist of the podcasting industry and its potential, and a trainer for podcasting globally. And he’s a founding Board of Governors member, and former founding chairperson of the Podcast Academy (which is responsible for the Ambies Awards). In 2017 he was inducted into the Academy of Podcasters Hall of Fame, and is a current chairperson of the Induction Committee for the eight-year-old “Podcast Hall of Fame.”
Along with Todd Cochrane, who’s also been on this podcast, he co-hosts the 10+ year running New Media Show at NewMediaShow.com and hosts the “Spoken Life Show” at podpage.com/spokenlife/. His accolades are numerous, and his background, extensive. He’s even a former college basketball player at Pacific Lutheran University and is also a Guinness Book of World Record holder for building the World’s Largest Glass of Orange Juice for the State of Florida.
His name is Rob Greenlee, and I’ve been looking forward to this discussion for a number of reasons. The state of podcasting is currently in flux, considering what’s happening with AI, podcast hosting, RSS, and a whole host of other considerations. It’s still going strong, and there’s still a sizable audience out there – my listeners being a case in point. But there’s definitely a lot to talk about.
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Embracing the Timeshift
As the episode starts, Rob recounts his early memories of sound and one of his first forays into the audio industry back in 1999. “I asked this radio station,” he recalls, “it was a small market radio station at the time, if they had a technology talk show. And I said ‘I’ve got some friends, we can come in and do one.’” He tells us about the pioneering days of digital audio and podcasting, well before smartphones and streaming content existed, and how online shows changed the audience’s expectations when it came to radio. “The audience,” he says, “was starting to more and more embrace kind of time-shifting. That’s a term that I used early on, time-shifting of the consumption of radio.”
Everybody Has a Voice
As we continue, the topic shifts to the democratization of sound and how it competes with the commercialization of podcasts and online audio spaces. Rob wonders if the combination of these two factors has worsened streaming audio’s signal-to-noise ratio. “Is it possible that everyone should have a voice?” he reflects. “I think it’s an interesting question. I think the industry would love it if everybody had a voice, but is that what’s really good for the listener or good for the content side?”
Podcasting’s Wild Card
We also talk about the leaps in technology the industry’s seen in just the last few years, and how it’s brought podcasting and a global audio market to the world. “The last three years,” Rob notes, recounting his work with international podcasters, “we’ve seen a big explosion of interest outside of the United States for podcasting.” He also considers what the future might hold for a media industry that’s so far been slow to evolve, whether it’s from audio hardware breakthroughs or from AI and generated voice content. “We’re seeing technology innovation come into the medium increasingly,” he notes, “with spatial audio and software solutions that are using AI technology and things like that that are starting to have an impact on the medium and the quality of what we’re seeing. And AI is one of those wild cards that I don’t think any of us really know how significant it’s going to be.”
It’s Always Been Complicated
The conversation touches on YouTube’s recent entry into the podcasting market, and whether the “video podcasts” it promotes truly count as podcasts. “It’s always been complicated with those guys,” Rob says, “because they’ve kind of, they’ve benefited from podcasting for a long time, but they’ve been pretty much ignoring it for most of the time that they’ve been.” We also discuss digital audio’s traditionally open-source history and whether attempts to wall podcasting behind proprietary platforms might change the industry. “Spotify tried to do the same exact thing,” he recalls, “catching episodes and delivering them off their own platform. You know, Pandora wanted to do that as well.”
- Rob’s early memories of sound and the early days of digital audio
- How podcasting and on-demand content fit into our on-the-go lives
- The balance between an open internet and having too much content
- How new hardware and AI algorithms are reshaping podcasting
- The effort to monetize podcast platforming, from Spotify to YouTube
Tune in next week as we continue to discuss the latest efforts of social-media platforms to tame and silo, the Wild West culture of podcasting, as we talk about how Rob’s new role as a consultant has freed him to speak his mind, and about the prophetic 2013 podcast that he’s now reviving.
Connect with the Guest
Connect with Rob Greenlee on LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/robgreenlee/
Follow Rob Greenlee on Facebook: https://facebook.com/robgreenlee/
Connect with Rob Greenlee on Twitter: https://twitter.com/robgreenlee/
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This interview episode was very skillfully made to sound beautiful by the talented Humberto Franco.