Popular Music: Podcasting, discoverability and listener engagement

Date & Time:

20th October, 16:00


Online event; the link will be sent to those who register on Eventbrite.


Dr. Lori Beckstead , Dr. Simon Barber and Dr. Craig Hamilton discuss podcasting, with a focus on discoverability and listener engagement.

Dr. Lori Beckstead (University of Toronto) Discoverability: Re-classifying podcasts using new potential meta-data

Discoverability is thought to be one of podcasting’s key problems. Most podcast recommendation engines gather data from podcasts’ RSS feeds, and rely primarily on genre, keywords and descriptions. By analyzing podcasts from a more granular perspective, I outline an approach to thinking about discoverability in terms of podcasts’ underlying characteristics, rather than simply by their genres, keywords, and descriptions. Specific characteristics come up again and again in podcast scholarship and may be important determinants in listeners’ preferences. They include storytelling, informativeness, authenticity, emotion, humour, celebrity, sound design, production quality, niche, and timeliness. My research shows that podcasts of similar genres were rated comparably on these characteristics and, more importantly, that podcasts that do not share common keywords or are not of the same genre, nevertheless share similar ratings in one or more of these underlying characteristics. I propose that using these characteristics to classify podcasts could a) form the basis of a new set of meta-data for recommendation engines which may augment their usefulness; and b) help listeners to understand what the underlying qualities of their podcasts they appreciate are, enabling them to discover a wider range of podcasts they will also enjoy.

Dr Craig Hamilton and Dr Simon Barber (Birmingham City University) Rate and Review: Exploring Listener Motivations for Engagement with Music Podcasts

Podcasts have become an important part of music reception practices (Negus, 1997) for many people, providing new ways of engaging with music reviews and recommendations, artist interviews, and popular music histories (Barber, 2018). Meanwhile, falling technical and commercial barriers to entry have enabled prosumers (Bruns, 2008; Jenkins, 2012) to compete for listeners alongside established broadcasting figures, via on-demand, mobile delivery systems. Recently, the field of podcasting studies has been established by the work of Llinares, Fox and Berry (2018) and Spinnelli & Dann (2019). This article builds on their mapping of the field by incorporating a music focus and data-derived analysis, presenting a replicable working methodology that can be applied to the study of podcasts in other genres. Through our analysis of c. 20,000 listener reviews of the Top 20 podcasts in the Apple (UK) music chart, we aim to examine what it is about music podcasts that draws listeners to regularly engage with their favourite shows. We will describe and reflect on a process that automates data-scraping for podcast reviews and ratings, produces analyses based on unsupervised machine learning algorithms (Blei, 2003), and presents results as interactive visualisations. This exploratory exercise will map how listeners describe their range of motivations for engagement with music podcasts.

About the speakers:

Lori Beckstead is an associate professor of sound media at the RTA School of Media at ‘X’ University in Toronto, Canada. Her current research centres around using podcasting as a means of academic peer review, and exploring issues of diversity in audio-based media. She is co-host of The Podcast Studies Podcast.

Dr Simon Barber is a Senior Research Fellow in the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR) at Birmingham City University. He is particularly interested in songwriting, and the relationships between creative workers and industry, which he explores as a member of the BCMCR popular music cluster. He is currently leading the Songwriting Studies Research Network, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and has published on songwriting in such journals as Popular Music and Society and The European Journal of Cultural Studies. Simon is also the producer and co-presenter of the popular Sodajerker podcast, which features interviews with some of the most successful practitioners in the world.

Dr Craig Hamilton is a Research Fellow in the School of Media at Birmingham City University. His research explores contemporary popular music reception practices and the role of digital, data and Internet technologies on the business and cultural environments of music consumption. This research is built around the development of The Harkive Project, an online, crowd-sourced method of generating data from music consumers about their everyday relationships with music and technology. Craig is also the co-Managing Editor of Riffs: Experimental Writing on Popular Music.