Podcasting’s Tipping Point

A few days ago Slate’s Panoply Network launched a new series with best-selling author, speaker, and quirky, insightful social scientist Malcolm Gladwell called Revisionist History. The day it launched it hit number one on the iTunes Podcast Chart. The podcast series of ten episodes will be released week by week and examine past events that were mis-interpreted the first time around – Gladwell will attempt to “correct the record.”

This is a big score for Slate’s Panoply Media, and for the podcasting industry. Panoply’s Andy Bowers thinks Gladwell’s big name will bring new listeners, who haven’t already listened to a podcast before, not to mention new advertisers.

The launch of the program came with a live reading at the iconic 92nd Street Y in New York by Malcolm Gladwell. Attendees were given a handout with instructions on how to download to a podcast on Apple’s purple podcast app – the Revisionist History podcast series is sponsored by Apple’s iBooks, another remarkable aspect of the show. Apparently, Gladwell was thinking about writing a book about these misunderstood historical events, but was convinced to do the podcast series instead.

Everyone is hoping the new series will see the same kind of blockbuster success that Serial saw in its first season. In addition to the live reading, Gladwell’s been tweeting about the series to his 373,000 followers – “My mother says it’s amazing!” Meanwhile, his motives for producing the series are characterized as kind of a lark, more of a challenge than producing another bestselling book.

It just might be a social experiment as well. Gladwell just might be hoping his new series hits at The Tipping Point for podcasting. In his book The Tipping Point, Gladwell examines “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” Podcasting is arguably at its Tipping Point – as Tom Webster of Edison Research pointed out in his presentation on the Podcast Consumer a few weeks ago. Podcast listening has been growing modestly for a bunch of years, but this year things have taken off, says Webster, citing the 24% growth in monthly listening and referring to a possible hockey stick pattern in growth. (All hail to Gordie Howe)

When a product reaches the tipping point, “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point,” it can spread like wildfire with a few simple factors, which Gladwell calls “agents of change.” The podcasting pot is arguably ready to boil. I’m thinking this new show Revisionist History is both a new podcast and a social experiment, where Gladwell is looking to be one of the agents of change that propels podcasting into epidemic status. Read the book and see what you think…

This week I listened to the intro and first episode of Revisionist History, and also listened to Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour. 

 

 

 

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