Broadcasted on the Parisian station Radio Cause Commune, the show explores various topics related to digital technology, free computing, and its social implications. Each edition of “Libre à vous !” provides interviews with experts, discussions about news and initiatives in free software, and also features sections dedicated to varied chronicles. The aim is to provide a space for expression and information on these themes, in a format accessible to all listeners, whether they are novices or experts in the field. Knowledge sharing and raising awareness of the stakes of freedom are at the heart of this radio show.
The show is hosted by Frédéric Couchet, Executive Director at April.
Frédéric Couchet: In this episode of our podcast, we are joined by Carine Fillot and Benjamin Bellamy to discuss the world of podcasting.
Carine and Benjamin are experienced podcasters, and they share their insights into the growth and popularity of this medium. They talk about the benefits of podcasting, such as the ability to have in-depth conversations and connect with an audience on a personal level. They also discuss the challenges that come with producing a podcast, including finding the right equipment, editing, and marketing.
The guests highlight the different types of podcasts that exist, ranging from educational and informational to entertainment and storytelling. They also emphasize the importance of finding a niche and developing a unique voice and style for your podcast.
Carine and Benjamin provide tips for aspiring podcasters, including researching your target audience and understanding their needs and interests. They also stress the importance of consistency in releasing episodes and engaging with your listeners.
Throughout the conversation, Carine and Benjamin share their personal experiences in podcasting, offering valuable advice and inspiration for anyone looking to start their own podcast.
Tune in to this episode to learn more about the exciting world of podcasting with Carine Fillot and Benjamin Bellamy.
Carine Fillot: Hello. It's always a pleasure for me to come into a radio studio, especially since I started in radio as a teenager. Today, after a long journey, particularly at Radio France, I'm venturing into something that isn't strictly radio, but is still radio: podcasting. Today, Elson is both a training organization and a company. We help individuals as well as companies to design, produce, and distribute podcasts. We also have a service that works with companies or organizations on production. Additionally, we are closely interested in experimenting with a prototype related to content discoverability: how to recommend content not only algorithmically, but also editorially. In recent years, we have spent a lot of time analyzing radio content that is distributed as podcasts, as well as what we call native podcasts, which are podcasts created by independent creators and distributed on the internet rather than on traditional FM radio.
Frédéric Couchet: Thank you Carine. Our second guest is Benjamin Bellamy.
Benjamin Bellamy: Hello. I have been a convinced open source advocate for over twenty years and have been a podcast listener for a little less than twenty years. In 2020, I founded the company Ad Aures which develops open source tools to create fair and sustainable ecosystems for all podcasters.
What does this mean in a nutshell? We develop computer solutions that allow for hosting podcasts, making them discoverable, transcribing them, and monetizing them.
Frédéric Couchet: The concepts we are going to talk about today are discoverability, which is important.
We had the opportunity to meet two experts, one of whom has extensive radio experience.
Many of the people who listen to us do so primarily through podcasts, although we also have listeners on FM radio, of course. Perhaps these individuals have an idea of what a podcast is, but we will still start by explaining what a podcast is, the concept of podcasting. What is it in concrete terms? Who wants to start? Carine.
Carine Fillot: Today, it's a word that we use in many contexts to describe various realities actually. Let's say that if we have to go back to its origin, first of all, it's the contraction of two words: "pod", we'll understand it later, which comes a lot, initially, from the Apple ecosystem and the iPod because, in the 90s, we didn't have smartphones and we often used this digital player to listen to or even listen to music, MP3s. And then "cast", which means broadcasting in English. So it's a portmanteau word, podcast, which emerged especially when Apple's iTunes platform aggregates - Benjamin can clarify, in 2005/2006, at a time when we are actually adopting this digital player. When we talk about podcasts, we often talk about aggregation and we start to aggregate podcasts.
Behind this word, there is a very old web technology called RSS feed, which is a content indexing format. Benjamin, maybe you can elaborate on it if you want to talk about it in a more technical way? I will just finish by saying that "podcast", today, is also content, it's a way of saying "I create content that is not radio, it's audio content that has a slightly different DNA and is therefore distributed through this underlying distribution mode, via RSS feeds.
Benjamin Bellamy: Absolutely. The first thing to understand when talking about podcasts, and to eliminate any ambiguity, is that we can't eliminate the ambiguity. In fact, there is no official definition of a podcast, there never has been, and there probably never will be, so everyone puts their own meaning behind this catch-all term that dates back to 2004. It was Ben Hammersley, a journalist for The Guardian, who first used it, and it was also referred to as audio blogging at the time. Everyone puts their own interpretation behind the term podcast.
As an engineer by training, I tend to see definitions that are more technical in nature. My definition of a podcast is that it is a multimedia content, usually an audio MP3 file, that is in an RSS feed. The RSS feed you mentioned, which dates back to 1995, is simply a way to share information. At that time, it was mainly used for blogs, and in a completely decentralized manner, meaning that everyone can subscribe with the software of their choice.
In 2000 - and I think it's important to note this because there is currently too much French bashing going on - the technical invention of the podcast is attributed to a Frenchman named Tristan Louis, who was the first to come up with the idea of putting an MP3 file in an RSS feed. It was mainly used by what we call geeks. In 2003, Adam Curry, an early podcaster who had already had a career on MTV as a video jockey, created a small program that allowed the downloading of these RSS feeds - at that time it was not yet called a podcast, the term podcast was created later - onto his iPod. In fact, the first device that allowed the consumption of podcasts was the iPod. It immediately becomes clear why it was called a podcast.
For the anecdote, which I personally find quite amusing, in 2005, two years after Adam Curry created this little script that allowed him to listen to his podcasts on his iPod, he received a call from Eddy Cue, who was working at Apple, who asked him if he could come to San Francisco to meet Steve Jobs. He found himself in San Francisco one morning facing Steve Jobs, who said to him, "Your thing interests me, and I see that you have a small index with quite a lot of podcasts, will you give it to us so that we can promote it?" Adam Curry was very happy that this thing was gaining importance and that Apple was interested in it, so he said yes. That same afternoon, Steve Jobs, in his keynote, announced what is now known as Apple Podcasts, which, at that time, was called iTunes Podcasts. In 2005, one year after the invention of the term and two years after its usage on iPods, we had the explosion of podcasts, or at least the first one, which made it visible to everyone. It was no longer just a matter for geeks, it was truly a mass media tool, I would say.
Carine Fillot: At that time, a little later, around 2006, I remember one of my bosses walking through the office door and telling me, "The CEO of Radio France, at that time Jean-Paul Cluzel, has decided that within two or three months, all Radio France shows would be available as podcasts." It was a real revolution. Before that, we only broadcasted on the internet, but we didn't segment radio shows. In reality, a radio show is already virtually segmented, it's called a program schedule. The radio had also recently been digitized. So, basically, we had to organize everything so that each show delivers an MP3, because what is a podcast? It's an MP3 file placed within a text file.
Regarding the notion of RSS, I work closely with podcast learners, and it's true that for them, this concept is still a little obscure: what do you need to make a podcast? To revisit that, what do you need from a technical standpoint? An MP3 file, but a podcast is not just the promise of a single MP3 file, it's the promise of recurrence, much like a radio show. You need, just like creating a website, a sort of server, called a podcast host. For a long time, podcast hosts, which are well-known in France today—Castopod is one of them, there are others like Ausha, Podcastics, etc.—provide you with the means to generate this famous RSS file, which is actually a text file that updates itself. This text file is not a complicated coding language for those who don't know how to code, it's a markup language. These tags were created, during that time, in 2005/2006, by Apple. They describe what this podcast is: the podcast title, then the promise of what it will be. We describe this recurrence of episodes. Then, there is a heading in this file: we say who the author is, we say who the podcast thumbnail is. Then, we move down: a podcast is a stream, it's a stack. Then we have the episodes, so an episode has a title, a description, and it has a web address on the MP3 file server.
When we subscribe to a podcast, when we subscribe through an interface, which is most of the time a podcast aggregation application, which today is still Apple Podcasts or Spotify, etc., we are actually subscribing to this file that updates itself, and through the interface of a player, we come to listen each time there is an update.
So, starting from 2006 and in the following years, a use of podcasts started to develop, the opportunity for people to listen to radio shows again. Obviously, at that time, major radio stations like RTL, Europe 1, and the Radio France group embraced this new mode of distribution by understanding that they could address new uses and new needs: listening to radio shows again at the right time, wherever they want, on a mobile device. That's how the first podcast listeners, and we can still see it in the statistics today, were not the most represented ones, they weren't necessarily young people, they were also people who, at the time, had a Mac, an iPod, and started exploring the podcast world by listening to radio shows again.
Frédéric Couchet: Benjamin.
Benjamin Bellamy: I just wanted to vehemently disagree with a detail you just mentioned. Apple did not invent podcasting at all! Apple brought it to the forefront.
Carine Fillot: That's what I wanted to say.
Benjamin Bellamy: It has contributed tremendously to its development because Apple single-handedly supported podcasts, without a business model, for over 15 years, but technically Apple didn't invent anything at all!
Afterward, they said, "if you want a podcast to exist, it needs to have a square image, 1400 pixels, it needs a bunch of things," they standardized, in a way, what was actually a good thing, but technically they didn't invent anything.
Carine Fillot: As you mentioned, RSS feeds have been around for a long time.
Benjamin Bellamy: All the technology already existed, in fact, all these technologies already existed in the 90s. We can give them credit for bringing that to light.
Carine Fillot: Anyway, they invented Apple Podcasts, which ultimately was the first tool people could use to do it because, at that time, remember, in 2006, there was no YouTube yet, there was no Spotify yet, Deezer was just being born. We were in a moment where, actually, the only player capable of generating use was that one.
Frédéric Couchet: I'll pass the floor back to you, Benjamin. I just want to clarify two things: first, about the audio file format. You mentioned MP3 a lot because it's one of the few formats that Apple can handle, but you can use any type of audio format, there are several. For example, in the case of the "Libre à vous!" podcast, we have MP3 format, Ogg format, there are several options.
You mentioned Apple Podcasts, Spotify. There are also open-source applications that allow podcast playback. We can suggest a very simple example, if people want to discover it, it's AntennaPod, a tool that allows you to subscribe to podcasts either by discovering them with keyword searches, or by simply entering the link when you visit a web page. Let's take a concrete example: if you are listening to us right now and you have either a phone or a computer, you go to libreavous.org and you will see "Subscribe to the podcast". That will give you a link and, if your computer is properly configured, it will automatically open an application for you to subscribe. Then you can listen to the episodes on demand, the ones you want or all of them, we encourage you, obviously, to listen to all of them.
We'll come back later to the role of Apple and other players.
Just a quick question. You come from radio, we also do radio. Earlier you used an important term, "native podcasting". Can you explain, maybe you Carine, the difference between a podcast that is a replay of a radio program, for example, and a native podcast? What does it change both for the person creating it and for the person listening to it?
Carine Fillot: Before we begin, I would like to point out that this is very France-centric!
Benjamin Bellamy: I was about to say it, but you read it in my eyes.
Carine Fillot: We discussed this together with Benjamin, we talk a lot about the subject of podcasting, why do we actually make this distinction? In my opinion, it needs to be compared to other ecosystems. In France, we have a strong radio presence and we can see that here, we are in an associative radio station. In France, there are many associative radio stations and different categories (A, B, C, D, etc.), there are public service radios, there are major national radios, etc.; there is FM broadcasting throughout the territory, even though, admittedly, there may be a lack of transmitters and radio diversity in some areas, there is still that. So, when the French-speaking podcasting actors emerge, when we talk about 2006, as the adoption of these practices is taking place, there is a gap between these years 2006/2007 and the arrival of what we call native podcasts, even though there have always been podcasters since the invention of this possibility. Myself, in 2007, I had a web radio station; we did streaming and podcasting. We clearly saw that yes, there were people downloading our podcasts, but they were mainly geeks, there wasn't a mass usage of this yet.
At one point, at least in France in recent years, a sector has become structured and this is also when the term "native podcast" appeared. Today, there are well-known podcast studios - Louie Média, Binge, Bababam, pure players like Slate - who have come up with new editorial proposals because with podcasting, we break free from the radio schedule. What does that mean? It means we can have different formats with non-homogeneous durations, with episodes. We can appropriate radio, but we can create our own formats, and above all, there is often a strategic positioning, but sometimes it starts from a very personal and natural intention: I want to bring up a topic of expertise, a niche subject, often a societal subject, so I can do it, the radio is still quite accessible to me. We have witnessed a DIY (do-it-yourself) trend in all other creative and cultural industries - music, studio recording, home studio for musicians - the fact of doing it yourself, we are no longer dealing with film, we are in the digital era, etc., so podcasting remains accessible today. Even the cost of investing in a microphone, a recorder, a podcast hosting subscription is affordable. As a result, it opens the door to these new voices, to people who carry a unique discourse. It doesn't mean that we don't have the same voices on the radio, it means they take a different path. Since then, we have also been influenced by social networks, personal branding, figures like influencers, even if we don't find the DNA of influencers in the podcasting world, at least not in the mainstream, so we have people who also want to stand out, to say "we are not radio". Not to differentiate themselves from radio, but to succeed in existing, especially considering that today in France, podcasting, the replay podcasting of radio shows, is actually the most consumed form of media in the history of radio.
The term "native podcast" allows us to say "in fact, we are a bit like the new podcasts, we are a bit like the new trends, we are a bit like the new subjects. We are not broadcast on radio." However, those podcasts also have to promote the usage of podcasts. I think that is why in France, there is this desire to differentiate the two terms in order to stand out and exist.
Benjamin Bellamy: To add on, Carine can read my mind, and she said that this notion of difference, this dichotomy between the native podcast and the replay podcast is very French-specific. It doesn't exist at all in the United States. As an anecdote, we work a lot with a movement called Podcasting 2.0, which aims to enhance the functionality of podcasts by adding transcriptions and various other features. We asked them to add the possibility of having a tag that indicates whether a podcast is a native podcast, meaning it is original content that was first created as a podcast, or if it is content that was published elsewhere before. We talk about radio, but it's not only about radio. For example, is HugoDécrypte's podcast a native podcast or not, since it was first published on YouTube? This is a question that can be asked.
It is clear that all of this is very cultural. I am not convinced by this distinction. If Anglo-Saxons don't make it, there must be a reason. In video, we can see that we have transitioned from a linear view to a non-linear view, and the same will probably happen with audio. We call it podcasting, we call it whatever we want, it doesn't matter, it's all a question of usage. And whether the content I listen to in a podcast was previously published elsewhere? I would say it's almost secondary.
Carine Fillot: It is within the podcast ecosystem that these two terms are differentiated.
Frédéric Couchet: Okay, I understand, but I still see a significant difference in the way people who produce these shows, either for radio broadcasting or as podcasts, behave. Earlier, you used the term "niche audience," "they have something to say." I listen to a lot of podcasts, and one thing I constantly notice on most of them is a lot of jargon! We listen to a podcast because we were interested in that particular topic - I was listening to one this morning, as I am interested in marketing.
Carine Fillot: Honestly, I think marketing is the crème de la crème!
Frédéric Couchet: I spend a part of my time trying to understand this jargon and I think that one of the main differences is precisely the audience. When we do radio, we first address the person who listens to the FM band, so we make an effort to popularize and make it understandable. On the other hand, people who do native podcasts often address a niche and don't think about the people who might discover them by chance, so those people will have to hold on to understand. I don't know what your opinion is on this.
Carine Fillot: I absolutely agree with you. I convey this message to the people I train in podcasting, of course! As you've understood, my DNA comes from radio. However, there are many people who do it out of mimicry. I think we'll talk about monetization later, but when I train people, I tell them, in fact, in our trainings, we explain it like this: the radio know-how for the benefit of a podcast project. Then, it's up to people to choose whether they want to do something very specialized. Just like some people want to do community radio their whole life, there are people who want to professionalize themselves, etc.
In terms of audience, let's not fool ourselves, in certain themes and subjects, it's very beneficial to be in a niche and create a community. But yes, you are right, it creates an echo chamber, and I often tell people "think about removing these jargon words, stop talking about KPI, talk about key performance indicators, make that effort in teaching". Indeed, I agree, you will gather a lot more people. Then it's up to each person to try and find the right balance to showcase expertise. Indeed, in marketing and many other professions, even in all French companies in general, there is this tendency towards jargon and echo chambers, and radio doesn't have that DNA: there is a much more inclusive approach with radio and a much more exclusive approach with podcasts. If your strategy is to be exclusive, then fully embrace it, but it means that you will leave people behind; the entry barrier is high. This doesn't mean that there won't be people who will make the effort, like they do with other media "I will listen, educate myself; I will listen to a podcast, and at the same time I have the Internet to understand", but you will leave people behind. And since the DNA of radio is to be an FM transmitter, the fact of not knowing, of feeling, of understanding - there are obviously surveys, studies - but it's about always having that magic of "turning the button - even if we don't turn it much today but still - on the car radio and stumbling upon a surprise, something that we can later turn into a habit of listening, etc. There are always two communities in the radio audience: those who are already acquired and those who are around. Radio has a much broader reach, I completely agree.
Benjamin Bellamy: There is obviously a big difference in terms of training. Generally, someone who goes through radio training will be trained, informed, and attentive.
Carine Fillot: What do you mean by "formatted"?
Benjamin Bellamy: Not addressing an audience in any way.
However, as we were discussing freedom earlier, one great thing about podcasts is that they can be a bit chaotic. There are people who have no training at all in doing this, who just jump in and learn as they go. As a result, the quality index, if we can even talk about a quality index, is uncertain. Nevertheless, there is much more content and it also generates a lot more diversity. The level of standardization is much lower in podcasts, which also contributes to the richness of the medium.
Carine Fillot: I completely agree with that. In any case, what I had in mind is something that is technical jargon and things that narrow it down a bit.
However, indeed, sometimes we find the markers of community radio. In a community radio station, the framework is sometimes much less formal than in a private radio station, etc., so there's this thing of saying "I can do it myself, I can do it in my own image," so it's interesting.
At Elson, we did a lot of curation, we listened to a lot of podcasts that were starting out, amateur podcasts, and some more professional podcasts. When we presented them to a listening committee of about twenty people, there were sometimes things that were striking: the voice of a person who has a unique perspective on a subject, and that doesn't lie, but as often happens in radio; more often than not, the voice doesn't lie.
People often ask why we don't do much vocal coaching in our training programs. I often say that the aesthetics of the voice is no longer a subject, unless there is a problem with elocution, etc., which can be worked on with a speech therapist or other medical professional. Nowadays, we no longer have this code of voice aesthetics. The voice is the person speaking, and if a person is aligned with what they are saying, there is no such thing as a bad voice. We often talk about the new voices of podcasting, but the podcast reveals this.
What is also interesting to see is the journey that some of these podcasters take: at first, they start, they try, they try something else, etc., they try not to give up along the way because it's thankless, moreover, to be your own medium. People will try to create something, in addition they have to do the marketing, etc. but it progresses, and what is interesting is to see how someone goes from "I do" to "do I become a podcaster" or "do I also become an author." We are in an ecosystem at a time when, moreover, we question this, especially with regard to the funding of certain creators. And what does it mean to be an author of a podcast or radio? It's a question that is being asked today.
Frédéric Couchet: We're going to talk about it. I just wanted to clarify that I wasn't criticizing the podcast because I'm a very avid consumer of podcasts and I completely agree with what Carine just said. There are definitely voices, and I'm not just talking about the voice we hear, but about the stances taken.
Carine Fillot: The unique and individual expression of people.
Frédéric Couchet: To the people we invite to the radio show who say "I'm not comfortable, I'll stumble, etc.", we tell them "don't worry, you're going to talk about your experience, your life, what matters to you, your story, and that's what will interest people". So it wasn't a criticism of the podcast, it was just an observation about a certain number of podcasts that target individuals and don't think about others.
Before the musical break, we're going to start talking a little bit about podcast actors, so the people who create, the people who listen. A really great thing about podcasting, as you mentioned earlier Benjamin, is that indeed you can grab a microphone, a recording tool, you can even create your own website, to get started in podcasting. In any case, from a technical point of view, it's very simple to get into podcasting, it's not a big investment, there are no barriers to entry.
Benjamin Bellamy: Today there is no entry barrier as all you need is a mobile phone.
Frédéric Couchet: It's true that with the phone, it's even easier. Carine may not completely agree, but she will say so later. Go ahead Benjamin.
Benjamin Bellamy: I know she completely disagrees, but since she is very polite she doesn't interrupt me.
Today, podcasts are created using a mobile phone. Sometimes, we use headsets or things like that to ensure that the quality is not too bad, but with a mobile phone it is entirely possible and we can do many things.
Carine Fillot: A mobile phone plus an accessory!
Benjamin Bellamy: No more accessory, okay.
Frédéric Couchet: What accessory?
Carine Fillot: The question that arises is: do we do our podcast alone where we talk by ourselves and don't interview anyone, or do we interview someone? There are actually quite a few accessories developed to attach to a phone. However, I still need to make this gesture: I speak, you speak, and bring the microphone close to the mouth.
Benjamin Bellamy: If we were to make an interview podcast, but it's not necessary. We can also create a monologue podcast where we talk to ourselves, where we share our life stories.
Carine Fillot: Of course, absolutely, but there aren't many of them, it's not the most common type of podcast, but yes, it is possible. However, it's always the same, it's like with any tool, you need to know how to place it, how to use it, how to transfer files from your phone, etc. In any case, it's not the most common kit for a podcaster. Most of the time, we would rather invest in a digital recorder, maybe an additional microphone with a digital recorder, but even with a kit like that, the prices won't exceed 450 euros, which is still reasonable.
Benjamin Bellamy: 450 euros, that's already very high quality.
Frédéric Couchet: It's still quite a budget!
Benjamin Bellamy: Today, for 50 euros, you can get a recorder or a microphone that will make a significant difference in terms of quality.
Carine Fillot: We're talking about someone who wants to start either an outdoor podcast or an interview podcast with a long-term project in mind. This is not the first thing we do. In training, we say: "For now, don't buy any equipment. You don't know what your project is going to be, how you're going to realize it, in what conditions, whether you're going to do your interviews remotely, in which case, is it going to be a phone, a computer, or a USB microphone?" There are plenty of possible configurations. You can do your first tests with a smartphone, of course, and once you want better sound quality and more comfort for recording, you can turn to a basic kit.
Obviously, there may be a financial cost for each person, but that's not the main thing. In any case, in order to find an audience, what is essential? What are we talking about? What is this podcast about? What is the editorial proposition going to be? What is the subject? What is the promise? The technique is the tool that will allow, and maybe even enhance the podcast. It may even have an impact on the concept itself due to the technical choices we make, etc., but above all, it still comes down to: what is the message going to be?
Benjamin Bellamy: But even then, when it comes to podcasting, we have the right to change our minds. Podcasting is truly the medium of freedom: I can do whatever I want, I can change the format, I can change the duration, I can change the frequency, I can change the topic, I can do absolutely anything I want, and of course, I can change the microphone.
Carine Fillot: Of course!
Frédéric Couchet : We will continue our discussion, which started during the break, on the topic of podcasting, with our guests: Carine Fillot, founder of Elson, and Benjamin Bellamy, founder and CEO of Ad Aures and Castopod, which we will talk about later, of course.
Right before the musical break, we were talking about the people who create the content, who create the podcasts, and the technical barrier to entry. Carine emphasized the importance of the project, of the message we want to convey.
Carine Fillot: The Voice of Others, as well.
Frédéric Couchet: Or the voice of the voices of others, indeed. We will continue on this topic. We will also talk about the issue of podcast discoverability, which has undoubtedly evolved today: finding a podcast that interests us or making ourselves known, and also the question of monetization because, until now, we haven't talked about this aspect, but there are people who create podcasts to monetize them, to make some money, which is probably not the majority of people, at least that's my intuition.
In this first part, regarding the work of people who create podcasts, finding their way, finding the voice of others, what advice would you give? What tips, what steps should these individuals take when embarking on a podcast idea?
Carine Fillot: There are often two ways to approach podcast creation: either it starts with a personal desire - what is your personal intention? This is often intertwined with a theme or subjects - or we take a journalistic approach, where we move from a subject to what we call an angle, which is a specific way of approaching the subject, often involving a cast of individuals. In a widely spread podcast, let's call it the interview podcast, for example, the person being interviewed is often our material, as we can see here in this show. We often come across this and think, "this is what matters most, and then we'll see who we find along the way in terms of audience."
Another option is to say, "I start from the end of the funnel, which is the target audience community I want to reach," so, just like in good marketing, I describe people: who are these people, how do I imagine their interests, etc.? Here, in fact, we will rather drive the podcast's creation through audience strategy, which is often linked to a theme or subject. This is where we touch a bit more on the question of the niche, knowing that the two can intersect and that at a given moment, a niche subject can become much more mainstream over time. We can see it: podcasts that have emerged on the topic of feminism, or even on many subjects, such as geopolitics or defense strategy, some podcasts have existed for a while, like Le Collimateur, which today, with all the current events in geopolitics, etc., has become a quite popular and listened-to podcast.
Will I also get tired? What is the size of the subject? Will I at some point have covered everything there is to cover?
Frédéric Couchet: And also the frequency: is it a monthly or weekly podcast?
Carine Fillot: Exactly. That's the frequency. Then there's the recurrence, which also goes hand in hand with the frequency of release. I like to ask our learners this question: does your podcast have an end, and who will lose interest first, you or the listener?
In fact, there are two forms of podcasts. There can be a streaming podcast, which is more popular, a bit like a radio show: we have regular appointments, so we don't necessarily know when it will end. Plus, when we start, we don't imagine stopping. Or there can be a podcast with a more heritage DNA: there we may decide on a certain chapter structure, a certain number of episodes, a certain storyline, and there are stories that end at a given moment, topics, documentaries, etc. These are other forms of podcasts, maybe other formats as well, and it doesn't mean that we can't maybe follow one heritage series with another, in the same stream of podcasts, etc.
I tell them this because not seeing the end sometimes makes it difficult to see what the primary objective is. Maybe the first objective, when you start, is to create a demo.
What is certain is that the streaming podcast, with a recurring promise, is much more appealing to the audience than a heritage podcast.
Benjamin Bellamy: This question was actually present right from the beginning of the podcast's creation, in the podcast metadata. In the metadata, there is a title, what we call "shownotes" which includes the description and summary, and there is a specific field that indicates whether the podcast is episodic or serial. The original reason for this field was to answer the question: should I start with the latest podcast because there's no point in going back in time, as it is a news review or something that is meant to be ongoing, as you just mentioned? Or am I telling a story with a beginning, middle, and maybe an end, in which case I need to start from the beginning? There was thus a need to explain, to tell the listening applications: display the very first episode, which is the oldest, or display the latest one because it's the most recent and most relevant.
Carine Fillot: Today, we are faced with a difficult question unless you are a strong brand or media outlet that is able to keep a podcast alive even after it has ended. You see, once people subscribe to a podcast and receive notifications on their chosen application saying "there is a new episode, etc.", it's already a long journey to get to that podcast. So, if you create a podcast and it stops after a while, and you don't have the means to promote it, it becomes complicated. Even some big studios today are wondering how they can try to create a big umbrella, a podcast title that is very general, to cover various subjects or series that may have a somewhat common DNA but can be very different because they capitalize on the same RSS feed. The question of what we call titling, the act of titling episodes, etc., and making it readable is therefore very important today. What do people do when they come across a podcast for the first time? They look at it before listening to it. So the readability of the title, the chapter divisions, etc., is important to understand what we're dealing with in these different contents, in these series because it's actually more effective to have something that continues.
So, it's very annoying when you're a creator, and I am currently facing this issue: creating a documentary series is very promising, but inevitably, a documentary series comes to an end after a certain number of episodes.
There may also be possibilities in the multi-format realm. Even though, and I fully agree, I often say this: a podcast is a space of freedom. You're not bound by the constraints of radio, so if you want to create multiple series within one feed, if you want to have multi-formats, if you want to do a short episode and then an interview the following week, as long as you don't betray the overall promise and who you are, it doesn't matter. There's this freedom: the multi-format of episodes, maybe even multiple podcasters in one podcast, who knows, maybe together we are stronger, there are still things to be created. As today we are in what is ultimately promising, we'll get there, there is an open ecosystem thanks to this RSS feed, but at the same time, when you're a podcaster, alone in your feed and you have to produce and you're obliged to produce to keep the feed going, it's also complicated.
Frédéric Couchet: Just before giving you the floor Benjamin, there's something I really appreciate about podcasts, and it's the consistent duration. This allows me to choose a podcast that fits my schedule. For example, when I go for a run, I will choose a podcast that I know will last between 50 minutes and an hour, because it will align with my workout. I really like this aspect, and I've noticed that most podcasts adhere to it, respecting the duration.
Carine Fillot: You like to be reassured!
Frédéric Couchet: Well, I like to be reassured about the duration. It's a personal preference.
Carine Fillot: That's true. Unless you are in a podcast where the subject is already very specific, it is often the title that carries the weight, it is the subject. When we are faced with a list of episodes and we have too many choices, often it is still the title, sometimes it is the name of the person mentioned in the title.
Frédéric Couchet: Benjamin, I'll let you react, and then we'll talk about discoverability specifically.
Benjamin Bellamy: It's best to avoid calling your podcast "my weekly podcast" because, in general, it doesn't guarantee good discoverability.
I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about discoverability. We discussed the difference between serialized podcasts and episodic podcasts. It's important to understand that for 15 years, podcasts were driven by Apple Podcasts, so in a way, Apple Podcasts was the only discoverability engine. It was Apple, in fact, entirely Apple, who decided what a discoverable podcast was, what made a podcast visible, what made a podcast part of its top 100. Apple imposed its conditions on everyone and everyone accepted them without complaint: it meant having a nice, square image, as I mentioned earlier, with 1400 pixels, and having unwavering regularity.
Today, the unanimous advice from everyone working in the podcast industry is: be consistent. I disagree with that. I say no, do what you want, just don't betray your audience, but it was Apple who originally imposed the need for regularity on everyone and said, "if you haven't published anything in a month, you no longer exist." Today, there's something incredible happening: there's an immense wealth of podcasts, especially serialized ones, that have been forgotten and are no longer visible because Apple decided that a podcast that hadn't published anything in over a month no longer had the right to be seen. And since Apple has never been very strong in search engines, we don't see them, we don't find them at all.
Things have changed in the past five years, thanks to the podcast buzz that has been building for about five years now, and a lot has happened. I think it all started with the podcast Serial, which had 230 million downloads and completely changed the game. Nevertheless, today, Apple Podcasts, as we were looking at this morning with Carine, represents roughly 37% of listening shares, which seems huge, but five years ago it was 100%, or almost 100%.
Carine Fillot: It has really dropped.
Benjamin Bellamy: So today, continuing to obey Apple's rules doesn't seem to be necessarily the best strategy, or at least not the only one.
The second platform today is Spotify. I'm not a big fan of Spotify, but in terms of discoverability, I personally find that they do a much better job than Apple. They are able to find older content and make more personalized recommendations, rather than just saying "here are the top ten shows of the week: Les Grosses Têtes, Guillaume Meurice, Choses à savoir, After foot, HugoDécrypte, and so on!" In fact, I haven't discovered anything new, the discoverability is practically nonexistent.
Carine Fillot: I just wanted to clarify about Apple. There's probably this discourse around the fact that Apple has indicators that cause it to decrease if there's no regularity. I was talking about it more from the perspective of the podcaster with their audience. Anyway, most of the time it's something that we self-produce, that we do ourselves. So, when we talk about regularity, it doesn't necessarily mean doing a show every week, it means being present on your RSS feed with that content, so the promise is reiterated and we create that connection. It's more of a relationship with an audience and it also imposes a certain production rhythm. I often say, "if you don't feel up to it, 15 days is already pretty good. Squeezing in a show, a podcast, in episodes every 15 days is not easy, but start with a month, try to get to three weeks, and then, depending on your topics, if the podcast is easy to produce or not, if you depend on other people to make it or even interview", it's more in that relationship, actually. It's saying that at least, if you're present just with your episode, with a certain regularity, you maintain the connection and you don't have to do a whole bunch of social media presence communication. You're already there in your RSS feed and that can be enough. But at least that connection is established.
Likewise, I often tell them, in order to maintain this connection, stop talking at the end: you need to add stars, things, subscribe. I tell them, "if you have a call to action to make, maybe it's a newsletter, your website, create something on the side, but you're live with your audience."
Benjamin Bellamy: If we're talking about links, we're not really talking about discoverability anymore. If we have the link, people don't need to discover us, they already know us.
In terms of discoverability, which means finding new listeners, especially for a podcast series that has ended, I like the metaphor from James Cridland, a podcast journalist who has a daily newsletter called Podnews, which you can find on podnews.net. He says that we have a paradox in the podcasting world, in that Apple has created an ecosystem where it's as if we have a library where we can find all the books that have been published and released in the past two months, and all those that are older than two months have been discarded because they're no longer interesting. There is an incredible wealth in podcasts, and just because a podcast has stopped publishing and is, in quotes, "dead," doesn't mean it's not interesting or valuable, quite the opposite.
For us, the challenge of discoverability is also there: it's about saying "I'm interested in a topic," and there are podcasts about everything because the decentralization of podcasting and the fact that it's a very open medium means that there are no algorithms, no censorship, so there are podcasts that cover everything. Today, it's complicated to find a podcast that interests me, and that's where the challenge really lies. It's about how I'm going to find a podcast that interests me, in my language, for a specific duration, on a topic that has been discussed.
Frédéric Couchet: Very quickly Carine.
Carine Fillot: The starting point of the Elson project is this. It is the realization that podcasts are being forgotten, that podcasts also disappear from the web because, after a while, we have to pay for the RSS feed of a podcast that has run its course, etc., but it has value. It has value especially in discovering historical artefacts, but not only that. It was necessary to find this balance.
When we launched the first prototype of Elson, which gathered 2000 users, we also had an editorial committee. People would suggest podcasts to us, and we would do human curation, testing this curation on our website with a player. People would sign up and receive a newsletter of recommendations, the sound of the day for those who wanted to discover a podcast each day, a playlist to try to create cross-connections, ultimately trying to bring transversality between these RSS feeds, and also drawing on our knowledge of radio to see: what do they have in common, what is different about them? When we curate a playlist of podcasts or a playlist of podcast episodes, should we start with the most specialized, or with the more general ones, etc.? What does this listening and discovery experience of podcasts actually mean? It means that at some point, we have to be able to qualify, source, and human curation, at a certain point, accounts for this discoverability that we can achieve in a certain way. However, at some point, we encounter a barrier, which is a more technological barrier, as well as the barrier of the mass of podcasts, even if we are far from the numbers in the United States, there are still a lot of French-speaking podcasts.
These are the common issues we have with Benjamin. At the beginning of the show, we also talked about transcription. So there is this challenge: to eventually find the elements that will allow us, through the technology of transcription and semantic analysis, to know what it is actually about, what these contents are talking about, and also to try to deliver a listening experience for the listeners. As Benjamin said, the listening experience on Apple is subject to the goodwill of Apple and its rules, the same goes for Spotify, etc.
There is still, without a doubt, room today for a podcast discoverability platform that plays with different codes, different rules, one that takes into account both the content and the users' habits.
Frédéric Couchet: Before I let you react because we only have five minutes left before the final questions, so we won't talk about monetization. However, we are still a show that talks about digital freedoms. We have just talked about Apple and Spotify, and I fully understand that. But Benjamin, I want us to move on, and it will be relatively brief, unfortunately, on closed ecosystem versus open ecosystem, and more importantly, what is the role of free solutions and free platforms in podcasting? It will be very brief, I apologize for that. We might cover it in more detail in a second episode. Go ahead.
Benjamin Bellamy: Carine was just talking about podcasting and how some podcasters want to keep their podcasts online without continuing to pay monthly fees. That's one of the reasons why we developed Castopod, castopod.org, which is a podcast hosting platform. We weren't very original in the sense that we took a model that seemed to work quite well, which was WordPress. WordPress allows you to publish content websites, but Castopod is specific to podcasts.
Castopod allows anyone to download the solution and self-host their podcast, at a very low cost or even for free if they already have their own server.
As we mentioned earlier, podcasting technology dates back to the 90s and has not evolved much since then. In the 90s, the web was completely decentralized, and there were no closed platforms like there are today. If you're on Facebook, you're confined within Facebook; you're not on the internet as a whole. The same goes for YouTube; you're confined to YouTube, meaning that Google is the only one who decides what content is allowed to be there, what content is visible, and what content is recommended. With podcasting, we don't have that at all because we can choose our hosting platform. Carine mentioned a few of them, but there are others as well. I would mention podCloud and Vodio because they're very nice and very good platforms, and they're French companies, by the way.
You can choose your hosting platform, so if your podcast gets removed from one hosting platform, you can easily move to another without losing your audience. Your listeners can go to a listening platform; we mentioned Apple and Spotify because they have the money today, but there are many others available.
Carine Fillot: Podcast Addict created by a French developer.
Benjamin Bellamy: There is Pocket Casts.
Carine Fillot: Podcast Republic, there's a whole bunch of them.
Frédéric Couchet: AntennaPod.
Benjamin Bellamy: There are plenty. There are open source ones, ones for mobile phones, there are really a lot of them. So, the fact that it's decentralized, meaning that there isn't a single platform where you can listen to podcasts and that, as content creators and as listeners, we have the ability to switch, gives us a freedom of tone, a freedom of speech that has become quite rare on the internet today. The simple fact of not having a recommendation algorithm in podcasts, at least not a single algorithm, is an incredible wealth to me.
Carine Fillot: That's why the comparison to blogs is often made. Let's say they are blogs created by creators, without being filtered by an algorithm or a Google-like search engine. They exist, they have their host, they have their voice, and if we search for them, we can find them.
Today, the issue of discoverability is being tackled by many actors, from the biggest to the smallest, including public services. Radio stations are less focused on this issue, as they often have strong brand identities and their main concern is strategic positioning in terms of audience. However, discoverability is crucial today. Anyone who starts exploring podcasts, even just looking for a specific topic, still faces many obstacles and often needs to invest a lot of time in finding the podcast they are looking for. Once they find it, though, they can become completely hooked.
Frédéric Couchet: Thank you. We will do another show because there are some topics we didn't cover and we rushed through the last part, but you were both fascinating.
One last question, really in two minutes max each, if you wish: what are the key points you would like to convey to the listeners in two minutes max. We'll start with Benjamin.
Benjamin Bellamy: First of all, we are very happy to be here, and it is no coincidence that we are on the show "Libre à vous!" because, once again, the podcast ecosystem is free, and for us, that is important and needs to be defended. I especially invite all podcasters to stop saying "rate us on Apple Podcasts," as Carine mentioned. Why? Because, first of all, it puts all our eggs in one basket and it entrusts our audience and content to a GAFAM. Strategically, we can see where that has led with other types of content. In any case, that is not the advice I would give.
It's complicated, and that's why we are working tirelessly on it.
We haven't talked at all about Podcast 2.0, which, in my opinion, is the major challenge in the coming months and years, which is: it's nice to say that we should use free and open-source software and not blindly trust the GAFAM, but what do we do? Podcast 2.0 is one possible answer to that. If you go to newpodcastapps.com, you will have access to applications, not all open-source, but at least decentralized.
Carine Fillot: Personally, I would say don't pit radio against podcasts; they are actually highly complementary. I believe that both radio and podcasts have their own talents, and there are plenty of reasons for them to come together. Maybe I say this because I come from community radio, that's where I started, but also because I see a significant difference: FM radio is regulated by Arcom, formerly known as CSA, etc. On the other hand, the web is an entirely open ecosystem, but both have their own advantages.
Today, it's interesting to consider this for professionalization. When you're on the radio, you potentially have the status of an author, and you can also professionalize yourself by collaborating with others instead of being on your own. At the same time, podcasts bring a new freshness, new DNA to audio content. It's therefore interesting, and it's also great to see people from both worlds come together. That's why I'm thrilled to be here.
Frédéric Couchet: Perfect. I think we should do a new episode, if only to talk about Podcasting 2.0.
I'm letting people who are interested in podcasting and are in the Paris region know that they can go to the Paris Podcast Festival on October 13th and 14th, 2023 at La Gaîté Lyrique. Soon there will also be PodCastres in Castres, in the Tarn, where Benjamin Bellamy will be. Do you have any dates in mind Benjamin?
Benjamin Bellamy: October 28th and 29th.
Frédéric Couchet: October 28th and 29th, 2023. You will be able to meet Benjamin and of course they will come back.
That was Carine Fillot, a founding member of Elson, and Benjamin Bellamy, founder and CEO of Ad Aures and Castopod.
I wish you a nice end of the day and see you soon.
Carine Fillot: Thank you!
Benjamin Bellamy: Thank you!