Back in March, I asked: Where are all the kidcasts? Podcasts had been proliferating, and children learn by listening, so I wondered why adults weren’t making more podcasts for kids. After chatting with producers, parents, and people in the industry, I learned that the hole wasn’t the result of insufficient interest, but of a dearth of data and lack of precedent.
In the weeks that followed, I received dozens of reader emails from people working to fill that void. One high-school teacher in Minneapolis had started a podcast called How to be a Grownup to provide his students with life advice and adult role models. A husband-and-wife duo from L.A. were well into their first season of Ear Snacks, a playful show for children 11 and under, packed with kid voices, jokes, and original music. I was also alerted to Shabam!, a quirky ‘cast that follows three children using science to solve their problems during a zombie outbreak. Meanwhile, in Roam Schooled, a musician, sound engineer, and intrepid dad named Jim Brunberg ventures out in his ‘91 Winnebago and seeks answers to questions from his twin daughters in the backseat.
The kidcast space is already looking less empty.
Last week I heard from Lindsay Patterson—a producer of the science show Tumble and a major advocate of audio for kids—about an organization for kidcasts she had just helped launch. Kids Listen hopes to promote the creation of top-notch podcasts for children while setting standards and ethics for the space—creating guidelines about the touchy topic of monetization, for instance. Founding members include the producers of Tumble, Ear Snacks, Brains On!, Book Club for Kids, Story Pirates, Sparkle Stories, The Show About Science, and the children’s audio blog Zooglobble.
“We quickly realized that our podcasts didn’t have to have the same subject, market objectives, or strategy in order for us to have some shared goals,” Polly Hall explained over email. “Raising awareness about kids podcasts is an obvious one, but a broader objective is for all of us to get better at what we're doing.“
The organization was borne of a late-night FaceTime between Patterson, her husband and co-producer Marshall Escamilla, and Andrew Barkan and Polly Hall of Ear Snacks. The couples had connected on Twitter, where they had both expressed interest in running a kidcast audience survey. So, Kids Listen’s first initiative is gathering data from parents on how, where, and when their kids listen to podcasts. (The data will be made public late this summer.)
“We think those findings will be interesting to advertisers, researchers, and producers,” said Hall. “For example,” explained Patterson, “if you’re making a podcast for two year olds, how long should it be?” You can find the survey here.
Here’s hoping that Pineapple Street Media—the baby of podcast veterans Jenna Weiss-Berman and Max Linsky—will get in on this, too:
@AbbieRuzicka let's make one!!!! Cc @maxlinsky— Jenna Weiss-Berman (@WBJenna) April 1, 2016