In recent months, Slate has invested heavily in podcasting as a medium (and revenue source). With its network of top-tier podcasts—Panoply.fm—and its own audio publishing platform with dynamic ad insertion—Megaphone—Slate has positioned itself as a leader in podcast publishing.
So it’s no surprise that they are trying something new on Election Day.
Slate’s Election Day Special will be providing a near-real-time election day podcast stream today, hosted by Zoe Chace (This American Life) and Alison Stewart (PBS Newshour). At least once every hour, the stream will be updated with news, analysis and stories.
Interestingly (and perhaps tied to Slate’s ad insertion or metrics analysis), the feed is not available via iTunes or other podcast apps/services. Users can go to slate.com/newscast in their browsers, and leave it up and running all day.
We applaud Slate for experimenting with the form and for not being afraid to try something new. It should be noted that Slate is also partnering with Votecastr today to provide, for the first time ever in American politics, actual real-time vote projections throughout the day. The podcast stream may also give the publisher some additional insight into its user data that could drive future decisions.
But we also wonder whether this is an attempt to shoehorn a certain type of content into a medium that’s not intuitively the most practical for that content. Thinking of it from the user perspective, there already exists live radio and TV coverage from a gazillion sources (that’s an accurate count, we checked), most providing access via mobile devices and computers. And there is no shortage of news sites and blogs devoted to the same today, as well. This continuously updated audio stream that’s only available via browser sits somewhere in the middle; it’s not quite live radio, but still provides the user with fresh coverage without having to read articles or constantly refresh websites.
While Slate’s coverage today will likely be top-notch and provide listeners with valuable content, we wonder how this serves a need not already provided by, say, NPR and local public radio stations. Should podcasting attempt to reinvent radio, or focus on doing what radio can’t do? It would be interesting to know what Slate learns from the experiment.
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