Rob Greenlee: No Podcast Predictions, Just A Look Forward
Updated: May 31
Rob Greenlee returns to the show. He last appeared back in 2017, just after we did a panel on podcasting at the Conclave in Minneapolis. Rob is someone I hear from every week as he co-hosts the New Media Show with Todd Cochrane. So even though he has not appeared on this show, I feel as though I hear from him every week.
Rob has a new position as SVP of Content and Partnerships. He had been with Libsyn the last three years and with Voxnest and Spreaker before that. The Podcasting Hall of Famer joins me to talk about many of the challenges podcasters are contemplating these days, including getting heads around a video strategy for their podcasts and Podcasting 2.0 which Rob and I tackle in the second half of the show. We also had an interesting discussion about the role podcasting can play when it comes to Live and Local. Can Podcasting take that from radio?
As of recently, Rob also made a departure from Podbean in favour of focusing more energy on being a full-time content creator. You can read his full statement in the Tweet below:
If you can't get enough of what we are talking about on the show - you can get a weekly delivery of this on the New Media Show where you can get a PhD in Podcasting.
If you wanted to check out those podcasting tip sheets from YouTube, you can download them here.
Transcript: Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:00:01
The Sound Off Podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill starts now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:11
This week, Rob Greenlee returns to the show. We had him on way back in 2017 in episode 59. Rob was working at Spreaker at the time, and had previously worked at Microsoft working on things like Zune. Zune, if you recall, was a portable media player for Windows PCs. They also had a music subscription service, the Zune Music Pass. Rob returns to help us find our way through podcasting. What we really like is that we're releasing this episode so close to the new year, because it can serve as a look into 2023 and what we can expect in podcasting. There's absolutely nothing like congratulating yourself on your own podcast. Rob Greenlee joins me from Waterbury, Connecticut. Congratulations on the new gig at Podbean.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:00:59
Well, thank you very much. It's a new adventure for me, that's for sure. But I'm excited about it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:05
I don't need a LinkedIn profile to know what you've done, because the first time I saw you, it was- you were behind the desk at Spreaker and then you went to Libsyn and now you're at Podbean. And I've heard Todd Cochrane say that podcast hosts are rather ubiquitous, but you get to be inside all these different places. So what does separate these podcast hosts? And not these ones specifically, but all of them?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:01:29
Well, I think generally when you think about these hosting platforms, there's definitely some different priorities in the organization around what type of features and functions the platform supports and is actively pursuing. They're all essentially software companies, so they all are competing on a feature set to better appeal to potential customers, which are podcasters. So there's different priorities that a particular, maybe, CEO of the company has around the architecture of the platform and how it works with podcasters. But I do see a lot of similarity. Like Podbean has probably some more similarity to Spreaker than Libsyn has to Podbean. But yet Podbean was around in the very similar time frame, right? Podbean started in 2006, and so it was very early in the podcasting medium. Libsyn actually started in 2004, but that's not a huge time difference given that time frame. There wasn't a lot of other hosts around in that time frame. So Pod Bean has had- as well as Libsyn- has had many years to develop features and functions that tended to be features and functions that were something that were a priority back in 2006 or 2004. So it has taken these platforms on a little bit of a different trajectory. So you look at like a Spreaker, and that platform was created in 2010, which was a little bit of a different era in podcasting. So the desires of the platform were kind of commensurate with what was hot back then, which was more online radio. So that's what took Spreaker down the path of mobile recording and live streaming. And I think to some degree Podbean kind of picked up on that too, because Podbean supports mobile recording and live streaming just like Spreaker. So it's actually a platform after my heart, because I love live and I love doing shows. I come from live radio and so that was a passion alignment for me. And that's also what I missed at Libsyn, to be quite honest with you, was it didn't have that live capability built into the platform, but now that I've got that back again, I can play around with that and be a proponent of live broadcasting again, or live streaming is probably the more accurate way of putting it. So that's what has me jazzed and excited about working with a very full featured platform that is Podbean. So it's a competitive landscape with podcast hosts and we do what we can to go after shows. I think all the platforms have really prioritized monetization over the last few years, so I would say that that's really the shift that's really been happening a lot. The core of podcasting distribution and metrics and stuff hasn't changed dramatically, but I would say that the emphasis on programmatic advertising, dynamic ad insertion, those type of things, and then kind of the back end technology of that and the third party technology of that as well, has escalated very quickly as well as things like transcriptions. And the Pandora's box of use cases for transcriptions is in full swing in the podcasting space right now and everybody's running against that. And then of course, there's the Podcast 2.0 project from Mr. Adam Curry that's getting a lot of energy and drive. I'm also part of the Podcast Standards project. That is kind of kind of a new thing in podcasting right now to try and push the adoption of some new tags for RSS, as the industry faced some criticism over the last few years by a large player in the medium about RSS not innovating. I think that RSS can be an open platform that has innovation in it, and kind of dispel that criticism that RSS is an old standard and we need to move on from that and go all proprietary. So that's kind of how I look at the market more broadly right now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:36
And that's awesome because that's actually the entire interview I have planned for here today.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:05:42
Well, I think there's a lot of details that we can dig into those things, because there are aspects of AI technology that are coming into podcasting. That's the artificial intelligence stuff. There's brand safety topics, brand suitability, which are hot topics in the medium right now. And then more broadly, the international aspects of podcasting is rapidly picking up steam and there's a whole bunch of stuff we can talk about on that too.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:10
To start me off with transcription, because I listened to the New Media Show, and you were at- I think it was Evolutions in Los Angeles, Podcast Movement. I was listening live, wasn't traveling at that particular point. But you and James and Andy Bowers and Todd were talking about the value of transcription and I thought, I'm not going to get into this because it costs money, it costs time. I've had one request for a transcription in 300 episodes. Why should I get into this? And yet you all convinced me that I should get into this. And I'm into this.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:06:43
Well, I don't know that the primary thing that we're talking about when we talk about transcriptions is the podcaster transcribing their show and putting that out as part of their show notes or something like that. I think that the transcription discussion is really more centered on getting access to the deep context of what the show is about, and how servers and backend tools can utilize that resource for a variety of purposes. And I think that's what's really happening. I mean, a lot of the big listening platforms are starting to, more and more, pull transcripts of popular shows and starting to utilize that information for various purposes. And so I think that, like, the brand safety, brand suitability project, from like a barometer, and some of these newer platforms that are getting involved in contextual relevancy of audio need those transcripts to be able to fully understand what is happening in the content, right? And then they can apply the AI technology to discover keywords and then map those keywords and create contextual understanding of what's being talked about. So that's one of the use cases. Then there's closed captioning capability in the players, which is more and more, I believe, what the industry needs to be pushing towards for the ADA, the Disabilities Act, kind of obligates us as morally and just legally to get more involved in making accessibility of the platform and the content available to all, and not just have it be limited. So I think that the transcripts have a big role to play in that as well.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:08:20
And Dan Meisner at Bumper has done a little bit of uncovering himself. He's found out that Apple is doing this in the back end and adding little words, keywords and tags that we don't have access to. But it is existing and there and likely being used for search capabilities.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:08:37
Yeah, and it's being used for targeting. I think we're also seeing the advertisements being analyzed and contextually understood. So there isn't matchup problems between- especially in these dynamic ad insertion platforms, as well as programmatic, that the matchup of the ad with the content is what everybody wants. Right? And it's based on data. Now granted, that opens kind of a Pandora's box in some regards because then we're analyzing audio on context, which is- it could be utilized as a form of moderation, and looking for copyrighted material, looking for topics that maybe some platforms want to exclude. So that's the issue with technology is that there's a good use and a bad use that always exists. And I think that that's a lot of what we're facing in the world today as our technology gets better, and improves, and becomes more powerful, that we're having moral and ethical questions about how that technology is going to be used and how it's going to impact people's lives. And it can either be a good thing or it can be used for evil. So hopefully we can- as a society, we can value the good uses over the bad uses, but I do believe the bad uses are probably going to come with it as well. And there's going to be some- whether it be a small number of things that go on with these technologies, that may be seen by some as negative use, and has consequences that I think most don't want.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:09
Every year I looked for the big buzzword, what is going to be the big thing in podcasting, and made a prediction. I know podcasting is difficult to make predictions, but one year it was privacy. And I'm not sure that at the beginning of 2022 I thought it would be this. But the last six months has all been about brand safety. So why so much focus on brand safety right now?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:10:31
Well, to be quite honest about it, I think it's what the brands are worried about. The brands and the advertisers are concerned about their brand safety and they don't want to get caught in a big scandal that tarnishes their brand. And more and more podcasting continues to be, I think, seen as a fairly open topic area. Free speech, I think, reigns pretty well in podcasting still, though I think there is a danger that this technology could change that to some degree, good or bad, depending on how the technology is deployed and how it's utilized. That means that certain topics get campaigns and certain topics don't. It depends. It's like what we're seeing happen at Twitter right now. Brand safety is in the eyes of the brand, right? What type of topics, and what type of content do they feel aligns with them? And so that's what this technology is really trying to solve. It's trying to solve what's the commercial message, and what's the context of the content that that commercial message is being aligned with and seen as supporting? And so I know my co host, Todd Cochrane, he doesn't feel like that there's a real need for this. And to some degree I can appreciate that. If you look at it from a podcaster perspective, it may limit the amount of campaigns that you have on. If you have a controversial show or a show that likes to push the envelope on free speech and things like that, that may limit the amount of economic benefit that can come to a program. So that's the downside of it. The good side of it is that the brands feel safe about certain content and they will probably invest more heavily in shows that they feel safe in.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:20
And that's something that we have here at the Sound Off Podcast Network. We have a show or two that lean a little bit on the political fringe side, and on Megaphone the Spotify ad network really doesn't want to have any part of that particular podcast. And then I think back to your co host, Todd Cochrane, whose advice is to grow a set.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:12:44
Right. That's not exactly a technology solution to the question, but it harkens back to an earlier era. And I do believe that radio has some lessons that can be applied here. But I think we are in a different time now because technology is enabling things, whether we like it or not, to be able to do things. And people are realizing that that technology is capable of doing things and so now we're doing it. So it's always been the evolution of tech and podcasting has been kind of a slow follower of advanced technology. So I think it comes to the medium, but it's also fairly measured in its implementation because up to this point, a lot of the hosting platforms and listening platforms have been slow to adopt new things, to some degree. They need to be tried and true and everybody feels good about, and they're willing to invest developer resources to make them happen. So that's always been a gate to a lot of these things.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:44
I look back at brand safety and think that- that's a radio program director. And every radio station has a program director, but we have no program directors in podcasting. And the only job of a program director is to make sure the morning show gets through to the end. You limit the complaints, you deal with any fallout between sales, the audience, corporate, and we don't have any program directors in podcasting to really, you know, oversee this stuff. So it's all for one and one for all, and you can sort of see where all the friction and the strife will come in under the brand safety tower.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:14:20
Yeah, it's a really interesting question. If you back up and you think about the big picture of what's happening with advertising, and you contrast that to maybe what's happening with Twitter, I think it's a really interesting time, because there is some that feel that the context is a risk, and advertisers being concerned about that context is a risk as well. So the evolution of this technology and the implementation of it may push more and more shows away from advertising. And I do believe that that's kind of the trend line that we're going to see with Twitter too. I think Twitter has been primarily an advertising business. But I think the influence that brands have on content, I think is challenging the creators to cope with that. Because I think that there is a desire to talk about cutting-edge issues that maybe the brands don't feel comfortable with. And there's got to be a way to still monetize without having to be beholden to advertisers, right? So that's the blowback that could happen as a result of this kind of contextual moderation.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:28
Another one of the big buzzwords from a couple of years ago was "exclusive," and people taking their podcast and going exclusive, so they don't have to deal with many of these brand safety issues that you were talking about. But that hasn't always been a good thing for podcasters to take the show and put it in a subscription model on Apple, or perhaps on Spotify, or maybe just do video on Anchor. There's not a lot of upside for podcasters to be mortgaging a big chunk of their audience in order to go exclusive.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:15:58
Right, I think it does cut down, and I think this impacted Joe Rogan early in his transition from Libsyn to Spotify, is that I do believe that he lost some audience in that transition, but I'm fairly confident he's gained that back now. But I think that going exclusive does limit your reach. And that's always been the power of podcasting, is the fact that it's everywhere, and it's everywhere, so you can pick and choose where you want to be, so there's still choice in the process, but nonetheless, go to where listeners are has always been the theme that we've pursued in podcasting. And that's this era of exclusives, as it harkens back to an earlier time of how large media viewed scarcity as a model for success. And I'm not sure that we may be coming back to that again, and kind of more proprietary orientations toward distribution and control of content. And that would be a little bit of a sad state to come back to for podcasting, given where we've come from. But the evolutions of these things could take us to some degree back there. I don't know that you can entirely put RSS back in the bag, or ever in a bag and controlled at that level, because its nature and its very fabric of its existence is based on an open relationship. But I do think that certain large players could play a more significant role in the future for making podcasting, not unlike what YouTube did to video podcasting in the early days of podcasting, when video podcasting and audio podcasting kind of were in parallel in the market in a pretty significant way at the time. And then YouTube launched in 2007 and basically siphoned a lot of that content into a proprietary distribution platform. And I think that there's a little bit of a danger of that in podcasting. "The Netflix of podcasting" has always been this fear that the industry has had. I think it was a couple of years ago Netflix announced that they were going to be handling podcasting, or have podcasts as part of their platform. Everybody was all worried, right? That didn't really turn out to be anything to be worried about. But then of course, there's the YouTube of podcasting may be YouTube. So that's a little bit of a forward-looking statement from me, but it still hasn't happened yet. But I think there's a perception that the YouTube could play a much larger role in podcast listening in the future.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:18:33
Do you get the feeling that there's a lot of people at companies who look around and think that RSS is just a giant pain in the ass, they wish it would go away and they could find a way to harvest the audio and distribute it themselves? Like, I know- I don't know, but I pretty much know- that inside some of these places, they just wish RSS would go away.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:18:53
Yeah, well, because it plays into a strategy of scarcity and exclusivity. And I think if you can eliminate something that's considered to be open, then you have more control over where that content goes and how it's consumed. So a large hosting platform, I think if you've been around podcasting a lot, if you know who I'm talking about, has put it out there that RSS is optional, right? Because RSS has not kept up with innovation. And the thought is that proprietary can innovate, right, which is true. Proprietary can do things that are unique to that platform and can push the envelope on capabilities. And I think we've seen that in the past, but I just don't know that it can actually be supplanted. I mean, we've seen discussions about- over the years of, the death of podcasting is right around the corner, or we've peaked, or podcasting is dead. You know, there's been all this stuff that's been talked about for many, many years, but at the end of the day, podcast continues to be what it is. And many people have come and gone that have tried to think that they could control RSS and control podcasting. And the sad fact for them is most of them have failed. So I guess it's a positive vote for the last bastion of open and free distribution of content. And I think we've seen examples of podcasts that have been taken down and because they did something that was- or they talked about something in the show that all the big platforms deemed as inappropriate and not good, they all took it down. But the truth of the matter is that the show never went away, so it was always still available off of a cself-owned, self-hosted RSS feed.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:42
And this is the part of the show where I think I have to bring in Todd Cochrane to say that you've gotta get your own dot com.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:20:47
Well, there is definitely a strategy for that, and I think that cuts to the core of where this medium came from. And I can't sit here and say that having your own dot com is a bad strategy. And Google is a powerful place to be, so it continues to be an important element of discovery of your podcast. So making sure that you're relevant to Google, and to some degree, like a Bing or other browser kind of search platform, is important for your audience to find you. And more and more we're hearing people say that the number one place people are finding podcasts is on YouTube, which is a little bit of a misdirection of what's really happening over there, but I get people's perception of- that's the primary place people are finding content, just generally right now. But a lot of the programs over there are technically not a strict definition, traditional definition of podcast. They may look like a podcast, they may sound like a podcast, but they may also, more than likely, don't have an RSS feed behind what they're doing. They're exclusive content to YouTube, not unlike what we're doing here. This could be a YouTube video that doesn't have an RSS feed associated with it, but it could be seen as a podcast. And I think if you look at a lot of the shows that are on YouTube, successful ones don't necessarily have RSS feeds. There is some that have figured out a way to balance and be successful in both areas. I think it is possible to succeed as an audio podcast and succeed as a show on YouTube, but that takes a little bit of a different approach than most people are willing to do.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:22:28
So I'm going to turn this show into a YouTube video, where I'm going to just have a still image and I'm going to put it up on my channel. Some people recommend against that. I'm still doing it because even if it's three people, I think that's going to be fine. And actually, I do know that there is two or three people who will consume the podcast just through a still image. So that's two or three more people than we had before. But YouTube has come out with a document- and by the way, if you want this document, it's in the show notes of the episode. It's also on Soundoff.com if you'd like to download a copy of it. But it's quite an extensive document on practices to make your podcast better on YouTube. So when I see a document like this, it sounds like they're making an effort in order to make podcast a little bit bigger, better and stronger, even though it doesn't necessarily involve an RSS feed.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:23:17
Right. Well, yeah, there's an opportunity there. And let's be clear, the convergence between YouTube and podcasting has been around a long time, so there's really- in a lot of ways, there's not a lot new going on here from the standpoint of what we see today. But I do believe that there's a possibility that YouTube has bigger plans for their embrace of podcasting, from an audio perspective as well as on the video side. And how those worlds might converge on each other is an opportunity for them. I think they might as well get into it. Plus, you combine that with Google podcasts, which- what I hear is that's going to also be owned by YouTube. So you combine those two together and you have a potential potent mix of driving audience to a podcast.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:24:06
Do you think it's a little bit ironic that Netflix is trying to become the YouTube of podcasting and YouTube is trying to become the Netflix of podcasting?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:24:14
Well, I don't know that YouTube is trying to become the Netflix of podcasting, but I suppose they could to some degree, because YouTube does have a subscription, right? So you could make that mapping there. But I don't know that it's clear whether or not YouTube is going to get involved in exclusives, but it's possible. I think content creators may think that all I have to do is upload to YouTube, and I can do a successful podcast. So that's a little bit of the mentality that Spotify has been pushing, for and I think it's a possibility. I think we've seen a little bit of a crack in the armor to some degree with Apple in this pursuit as well, around subscription, paid content, where you just upload directly to them and they take care of everything. But they are expanding that right now with their formerly-known, delegated delivery type of tooling that they're working on now so that content can come from all sorts of other podcast hosts into their platform. And I know Spotify did do a deal back when I was working at Libsyn to make paid premium content available on Spotify through the product that Libsyn has called Glow. But there has been some cooperation between all of the parties involved to just get more content.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:29
What I love about you is you've seen so many things come and go, so sometimes I'll come and say, hey, have you seen this great idea? And you're like, yeah, that's been tried twice and it's failed. But we see some big players also trying things. So you can grade Google podcasts and their foray into it, and then at the same time look at Facebook as well. That didn't even last a year, I don't think.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:25:48
Yeah, I worked with them pretty extensively on the Facebook side, and I also worked a lot with the Google podcast folks too in the early days of their planning and run up to working with podcasts. Facebook was- I think they had a vision, but I think they lost the vision because they did face some elements of pushback from the industry as some of the things that they wanted to do really kind of broke some of the podcast models around monetization. So it just may have been that the headwinds of doing what they wanted to do were just too significant, and I think they felt under threat from a platform called TikTok and wanted to really focus their resources on trying to fight that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:32
In just a second, more with Rob as he evaluates radio's venture into podcasting... so far. And what's the future of live and local in podcasting? And is it something podcasting can wrestle away from radio? And what is this Podcast 2.0 thing? Rob explains all. There's more, including a transcript of this episode, at soundoffpodcast.com.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:26:56
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Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:21
And here we are looking at Podcasting 2.0. What is it?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:27:26
What is podcasting 2.0? I think it's thinking of new things in how we utilize the RSS feed. What is that relationship with the listening apps, and how do we get audiences more connected to the shows? I think really at a high level, that's kind of at the core of this. I mean, how do we create, like Adam Curry says, a value for value type of relationship with an audience, right? And I think some of the new tags in the RSS 2.0 or the Podcasting 2.0 project will integrate comments, right? So audience participation in the show will be shared across platforms, listening platforms, so a person that adds their thoughts to a show, or feedback, or a comment, that will get visible across multiple listening apps. And then the whole value for value thing is applying a little bit of the Satoshi connection to the Lightning Network and Bitcoin as you look to the future. And I do believe that Twitter is going to play a significant role in the same- somewhat the same model that I think is being talked about with podcasting. They're definitely going to get involved in transactions more based on Bitcoin. So I think that is a model that hasn't really been talked about. But if you look at what's going on there- so I think that's kind of like the next thing. I'm not necessarily talking about NFTs and that kind of stuff, but I'm just talking about looking at this stuff is almost like a rewards program. So you can exchange miles, like frequent flyer miles, between the listening platforms, the audience and the show, right? So you have this- kind of this value exchange. You deliver terrific content. You vote with your Satoshi's to support the continued creation of that content in a form of a currency that will, over time, go up in value or go down in value. But it creates a much more dynamic relationship with the audience. And I think that's what's really kind of next, is we just need to connect with audiences at a more significant level, and have a conversation with your audience. Now, certain shows are going to be able to take advantage of that. Certain shows are not, depending on their genres, like if you're doing fictional or things like that, it's a little bit of a different relationship. It's not like a program like this, where you could have audiences give us real time feedback or after the show, kind of feedback and thoughts.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:29:59
So this podcast is a part of the network, so if you are using a newer podcast app, you can do so right now. And if you don't want to support this guy Cundill, because he's a big windbag, you can just go over to the new media show and support Rob and Todd.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:30:12
Those two windbags. So if you like to support windbags, there's plenty of us out there that you can support.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:30:21
There's a bit of an educational piece to podcasting. I mean, for years it was like teaching people how to download a podcast, and now I feel as though with Podcasting 2.0, there's going to be a few more educational pieces on maybe what sort of app you use. It feels like we're always educating and we should be entertaining, though.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:30:38
Well, it depends on who you are in the medium and what kind of show you do. You and I do shows about audio and about podcasting, and you have a strong connection with the radio side too. And so that is our orientation here. And I do think that podcasters need to be thinking, continuing education, because that's the world that I live in too, is I'm constantly trying to keep up with and constantly getting outreach and pinged by new startups, new platforms, new ideas, constantly coming into this medium. To be quite frank, many of them don't get much traction because I think that the podcasting ecosystem is really only interested in things that actually work and that drive value. And that is sometimes a difficult thing to determine early on in the life of an idea because it hasn't been put out there very much. So you don't really know if it's going to work or not, if it's a good idea or a bad idea. Like you said earlier, I've seen a lot of stuff come and go, and things work and not work, but that can also just be about timing too. So it just may not be the proper time. The generation that's coming up- I'd say that the other big thing that's coming is called Gen Z. If you look at what the trend lines are, that Gen Z generation is going to be very impactful on the future of podcasting. And I do know that all those listeners that started listening like you and I did in the early days, we're getting older and thus we're seeing the older end of the spectrum of podcast listeners and creators start to increase more and more, because that's what happens. People get older. So I'd say that's the two ends. I think that the middle age type thing, like the 30's to 40's type range, I think is not as big because there's not as many people in that age group.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:32:36
How does all this sort of pertain to privacy? I was going to ask, because that was sort of a big thing in 2019, 2020, when we were talking about attribution when it came to advertising and privacy. And I think Gen X, and to a large extent Millennials, have some consciousness around privacy, and I'm not sure that Gen Z does. So when you mentioned that this generation takes over, that maybe the definition of privacy is going to change. They seem to be totally fine with an AI image as their profile pic. Who knows what country that's going to and what artwork was stolen in order to create it. I also don't think they really care about AI voices. I mean, if you look at TikTok for example.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:32:36
Well, does anybody really care about AI voices is the other question, right?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:19
As a voice over person, I do a little bit.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:33:22
Right. But yeah, I agree with your premise. The Gen Z folks are- I see it as a real opportunity for podcasting as you look to the future, because of the values that that generation has, and what they could bring to this medium. And it's authenticity, it's being real, it's being really all-in and embracing of technology, because they've grown up with it, right? And accepting of the good and the bad of technology, at a level that many of the other generations are, I think, less accepting of. So I just have a lot of feeling of alignment between the early days of podcasting and Gen Z. The early days of podcast was about community and connection. And I think one of the things that's really fascinating about the Gen Z generation coming in is how podcasting has, especially over the last few years, has been such a mental health opportunity for that age group to connect with others in ways that the pandemic and kind of lockdowns and things like that have had a dramatic impact on the Gen Z's development. As a young person, that is so driven, you know, I think back to my youth, my early twenty's and that time frame, and how important social connections were to my personal development, and to just think about how that's impacted all those Gen Z's orientation. And now they're so dependent on technology now, their mobile phones and to connect with others. But it's also caused, I think, some mental health challenges for that generation that I think they are grappling with right now and continue to grapple with. And technology is really their only option at this point. So they're figuring it out.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:35:06
I've got three Gen Z boys between the ages of 20 and 22 right now. And I think their development, social development, educational, career, all of it has been stunted by the Pandemic. They turned four year arts programs into six, six and a half years in order to get through it on Zoom, just doing remote learning and, and all sorts of things. And yes, I still have kids in university six years later who are still trying to catch up from that period. You're exactly right.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:35:34
They're going to use this medium as a way to educate themselves, to share their passions at a level, I think, that the technology needs to align with. And I think the Podcast 2.0 is going to increasingly enable that to fit with what the Gen Z wants.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:35:52
For the average podcast listener who's just listening to this right now, what is something that they can do in order to participate in Podcasting 2.0?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:36:00
Well, I think go download the Podcast 2.0 listening apps that embrace the new tags. Like the one I'm using is Fountain, and I don't know which one you're using, but there's a handful of apps out there. I don't have the list of all the apps in front of me.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:36:15
NewPodcastApps.com, I think, is the website, and I'm using Fountain as well. That's my gateway Podcasting 2.0 app.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:36:22
Yeah. So I think if we can build some popularity of those apps, it'll go a long way toward putting pressure on the the more mainstream apps out there, like the Overcast and Spotify and even to some degree Apple, if we can get them to adopt some of these new tags. I think the industry has been a little bit beholden to Apple for far too long to dictate what capabilities RSS brings to the medium. And I think it's time for us to kind of take that back as an industry and say, this is what we want to do as an industry. Now, obviously, Apple is still going to continue to have their, kind of, more proprietary view on tags, and I think that there's no reason why we can't support that as well. It's just- let's try and think of tags, and more kind of creative ways, that we can solve the connection and build community in podcasting and also build probably a new monetization approach that is less dependent on advertising.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:37:23
So you'll have to catch me up just a little bit, because Apple has an API that a lot of podcast apps can attach themselves to, and they could draw in those shows. So, for instance, like an Overcast. So if you put your podcast up on Apple, it will populate to a bunch of other podcast apps as well through the API. But then the Podcast Index has now been created to kind of counter that. Do I have that right?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:37:47
Well, I think it's kind of like a backup option. So I think there's been many in the medium that have been fearful that Apple will change their mind about making that publicly accessible, that API, and that there needs to be a backup. I know Todd Cochrane has been doing the same thing with the Blubrry platform for a long time. He's been keeping a comprehensive catalog of the whole medium, and I think that has always been kind of like a backup plan. And the Podcast Index project is another alternative to that. So it's another reflection of the industry taking its own future in its own hands, and not being dependent on a large tech company to drive all the innovation and the accessibility of the medium across all these other listening apps.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:38:34
You're an excellent person to ask this question to, because you've got a background in radio. You had a national show which was up on satellite for a while, and you've also appeared at the Conclave, you and I were on stage together, I think, a few years ago talking about podcasting and it's all of its possibilities for radio. And this was sort of right around the time when radio was going to do this little bit of a splash, or a jump, into the podcast pool and we watched it happen. So between the years of about 2017 and 2020, how would you score and look back on that time when radio began to jump into the podcast space?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:39:06
I mean, I guess there's two ways that I can present that. One is 100% frank honesty, or I can present it as kind of like a hopeful perspective.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:39:16
I think both answers, by the way, are correct, because depending on which company did what.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:39:21
Yeah, right. So I think that there's definitely been a recognition that podcasting is probably the future of many of those companies, at least on the radio side. But holding on to that broadcast tower is something that I think is a culture thing. It's a culture thing. I think it's also a practical recognition that their business continues to be funded primarily from the broadcast tower. But yet that's slowly slipping away, and it's been slowly slipping for a long time. And I think the industry has had time to make a shift to more on-demand. And the live part is going to be- I think it's a little bit up in the air right now. That and also local. Radio is really owned local, for most of its existence, and podcasting to some degree threatens that. And then also- is also at the same time, an opportunity for local. So I felt that way for a long time. I've done panels at Podcast Movement on local podcasting for years now, because I've always wanted to keep that flame alive. As podcast audiences grew, the opportunity for local podcasting was going to grow. So it's all a matter of scale with local podcasting. And just to be clear, what I mean by local podcasting is like a company like Citycast. I'm sure you're familiar with that project, but it's creating content, podcast content, about local communities and local cities and things like that, to support those. And there has been many in the industry that have launched shows to support activities and things going on in cities like Detroit and others around the country. So this isn't kind of a new idea, but I just wonder if radio, as you looked, like, over maybe the next five to ten years, really start to expand into local more. The challenge that I think is, and we saw this with the Pandemic, was so many local businesses were forced out of business because of the shutdowns, that the opportunity for monetization and financial support of local content has been diminished quite a bit. So that would be my biggest worry. Is there the financial resource to support local content?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:44
Well, there's a follow up question to it, because when we talk about Podcasting 2.0 and maybe a local tag that goes into the podcast. So what that means is that I can wake up in the morning and type in Montreal, and get podcasts from within my neighborhood. And also, to your whole point when you were at Spreaker and really big on the live podcasting, maybe there are some live podcasts in Montreal that are going on right now that I can listen to.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:42:10
And I think that that clearly is the opportunity of all this, and Citycast is an example of that that's pushing forward out there. And yeah, I think, you know, the whole kind of lit tag that's in the new spec with the Podcast 2.0, of notifying the players that a show has gone live, I think has a certain amount of connection to that potential opportunity, and I would love to see more local content be available. I guess my question is of the shift towards more national and global content. Are people as interested? Is the question, and is it a generational thing, and is Gen Z interested in local? I think that's a question I don't have an answer for. Are they so plugged in to the internet that they don't see local, they only see global, because that's kind of what is happening more than anything. But is local going to become more important to them because of that connection? So it's an interesting question. I think the Sounds Profitable folks or the Edison folks need to do some research on that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:43:16
There's nothing like giving Tom and Brian things to do. I love that. Did you get a Mac?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:43:22
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:43:23
What happened? Were you kidnapped? Were you brainwashed? What happened?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:43:28
Well, this new role that I started at Podbean, is that the whole Podbean is on Macs. So I didn't want to be the only odd man out that was only on Windows. Though I have lots of Windows devices, two Surface computers. I've got a desktop. But I do own an iPhone and I have had an iPad and I have an Apple Watch. So I'm living a world of being ambidextrous, I guess is the term that I like to use. It's one of those things that it's always been kind of like in the back of my mind. I need to become a Mac user too. It feels like the right thing to do. So to kind of fill out my technology embrace. I do own two Android tablets, so I'm fully embracing all of the ecosystems that exist and trying to be knowledgeable about it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:44:19
We all have a moment where we have to make the jump, and I- well, you worked for Microsoft at one point, right?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:44:24
For seven years, right. Yeah.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:44:26
So how hard was it? It wasn't too hard to make the switch?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:44:30
No, actually, my experience over the years with the Mac, there has been times when I've had to interface with Macs, so. And then I think that the years of having my iPhone I still have an iPhone ten, so that gives you some idea of how long I've been an iPhone user. But I did spend a lot of time with Windows phone, so that was part of my job when I was working at Microsoft, is as we went from the Zune HD, we transitioned out of that and kind of I became more part of the Xbox team, and then transitioned to working with Windows Media Center, and then started to migrate the Zune platform over to Windows phone and Windows mobile, and worked on that project for quite a while. So I still have some old Windows phones in my drawer over here. So I was a big fan of the Windows phone platform. It's unfortunate what happened to that, because I think it was a very simple and powerful platform. It was built on the vision of the Zune HD, and it really had an interface unlike anything that we have today. Other than Windows. I would say Windows still carries a lot of the Metro experience that was developed by the Zune team and was rolled out into Windows. So all the millions of people that are on Windows today have incorporated Zune into their experience. They just may not realize it, but it's kind of an interesting history. If I think back to it, I had a great time working on Zune. It was like a startup company inside of Microsoft, and got a chance to work on bringing podcasting to that platform, and then also worked on bringing the TV and movie store to Zune and then over to Xbox as well for a while. So I worked on both.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:46:13
As we record this we're in December, and it's inevitable that people have asked you for your predictions for 2023. Have you made any or are you past that?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:46:22
I think a lot of what we've talked about in the show up to this point are going to be big factors in 2023. I tend to- when I talk about the medium, I do generally talk about forward looking concepts. So I think programmatic monetization is being rolled out by all the major platforms right now. Sure, some of the platforms have a little head start on that because they got started earlier. I worked on programmatic back in 2017 when I was working for Spreaker, so programmatic to me is a little bit old hat, but I would say programmatic advertising is rolling out big time. I think this brand safety, brand suitability, using AI technology, is going to be everywhere here soon as well. That's going to bring good and bad with the moderation stuff. And then increasingly we're going to see more crackdown around copyrighted music. I think that is actually in full motion already, but I think it's going to ramp up. And the danger that I see with that, is that people start abandoning music and podcasts. I've been worried about that for a long time. And then I think the other big thing that's coming is more advanced audio processing capabilities, from the standpoint of sound sweetening and recording capability. Like the Mono device out of Norway is a little bit of a glimpse of the future of audio recording, and what might be possible with creating very high quality audio without big boom microphones like this. But it does create a situation where people have to think differently about how they create content. Because I was thinking about it too, is that you and I have these big boom microphones and we have this feeling that we can't create quality content unless we have these big boom microphones. So it's like your A-game comes when you pull up the SM7B or the mic that you have there. Can I actually create quality content with a clip-on lavalier? I mean, that's a perception issue that we have to get over, because I think that it will be possible to create this quality of audio in a little clip-on thing that transmits it wirelessly to a voice processing box, like a Pneumono type of a device that utilizes AI technology and spatial audio technology. And the whole Dolby Atmos technology is going to be more and more widely adopted in podcasting. And so that will enable us to record audio in a lot of different situations, a lot of different places that we've all liked to do. But it's like, we've been hesitant to be able to do that because of the concern for audio quality.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:48:58
You know what, Rob, I think you'd be a really good program director for podcasting.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:49:03
You think I would, huh? My new title at Podbean is Senior VP of Content and Partnerships. So that's kind of what I do. I work with all levels of content creators, and I do think a lot about content because I spent a lot of years creating content, you know, and I go to events and I talk about- I can basically talk about any topic and podcasting and because I've been through it before, you know, experienced it myself and talked to many people about all these issues for many years, as you might imagine.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:49:33
So for people who get to a new job, they look at it and they're pretty excited about the one or two things that they're going to bring to the table or get working on right away. Can you share what you're most excited about about working at Podbean for the next 365 days?
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:49:48
Well, I mean, it gets back to me coming in and helping the current owners and the current team reach their goals that they have, that were established before I even showed up. So, I mean, I'm certainly going to bring a different outlook over the long term, but in the short term, I'm here to help them reach the goals that they've already set for themselves. And one of the key things is kind of through this economic downturn to keep the business healthy and to keep working with shows, kind of rolling out this new programmatic platform that can better drive some revenue into shows that are on the platform. And then to expand more into kind of the enterprise of podcasting, whether it be corporate internal communications, which Podbean kind of specializes in and has a very robust tool. I've known about it for years. Blubrry and Libsyn have Pro Tools, but Podbean has emphasized these corporate internal network kind of podcasting abilities, and has an app and things like that that is very robust and built out. So working in that area, working with big companies, too, is important. But at the end of the day, Podbean came out of the era of the indie content creator, and not unlike Libsyn in its orientation towards the market, but we are all about indie creators and trying to support them in the best way possible.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:51:14
Rob, thanks so much for doing this and taking the time to talk podcasting. It is always a joy to talk to you.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:51:20
All right, well, it's always great to be on your program, Matt, too. You bring a terrific perspective to the medium from, you know, a person that's coming out of radio and I always appreciate that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:51:30
There will come a day when I'll have spent more time podcasting than in radio.
Rob Greenlee (Guest) 00:51:33
Yes, well, you're probably getting very close to that now, I would imagine.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:51:36
Still a few years to go, but yeah.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:51:37
The Sound Off Podcast is written and hosted by Matt Cundill. Produced by Evan Surminski. Social media by Courtney Krebsbach. Another great creation from the Soundoff Media Company. There's always more at soundoffpodcast.com.