Twitter’s Podcast Tab Might Not Spell Disaster

Maybe it’s just a place to chat

Key Takeaways

  • Twitter's mobile interface has a hidden "Podcasts" tab. 
  • Twitter doesn't seem suited to long-form audio. 
  • But it could be the perfect place for conversations about podcasts.
man in white shirt taking into a microphone at his desk

ConvertKit / Unsplash

Twitter is looking to jump on the podcasting bandwagon, but it doesn't really seem like the place to listen to long-form audio shows.

Twitter is the drive-by of social platforms. You drop in for a quick hit, maybe fire off an ill-considered and, frankly, quite rude reply, then get the heck out. If you come across a link to something with a little more depth or context, you might save it to read later. But what Twitter is not is a place to get deep into something without distractions. It's like settling in to watch a Paul Thomas Anderson movie in a McDonald's bathroom.

"Twitter has always struggled to be anything more than a micro-blogging site," Andrew Selepak, social media professor at the University of Florida, told Lifewire via email. "Twitter podcasts is another attempt to add something to their platform that is already more successful somewhere else."

Podcast Gold Rush

Developer Jane Manchun Wong posted a screenshot of a new podcast tab, found hidden in Twitter’s mobile site. Wong’s Twitter account has since been deleted, which may or may not have something to do with the discovery.

But what might Twitter plan for podcasts? It already has an audio chat room in the form of Spaces, although that doesn’t seem to be getting nearly as much buzz as the service it copied, Clubhouse. 

If Twitter plans to go deep into podcasting, then it’ll have some work to do. Just adding a tab to the app to play podcasts won’t be enough. How would that be any better than just launching another podcast app? And dedicated podcast apps come without the added distraction of a Twitter timeline.

woman speaking into a microphone and recording using her laptop

Soundtrap / Unsplash

"When I'm looking for the kind of honest, well-formed, in-depth, and thought-provoking conversations which long-form podcasts are so well suited to, I definitely think of Twitter first," said Verge reader ahlam99 in a comments thread, confirming that sarcasm on the internet is still far from dead. 

Podcasting is undoubtedly huge and only seems to be increasing in popularity. We only have so many hours in a day, and every one of those we spend listening to podcasts is one fewer hour available to waste doom scrolling, trolling, or looking at cat videos.

But that doesn't mean Twitter should become yet another silo for podcasts. It's already bad enough that Spotify is trying to lock podcasts into its ecosystem; we risk having to use a different app for every podcast we listen to. It could end up like streaming TV, where every network has its own app, and all of those apps are optimized not to be good TV streaming apps, but to maximize engagement, even if it really, really annoys users

But maybe there's another option? 

Core Competency

The problem is that Twitter has struggled to do anything that isn't microblogging. But that's something it does better than anyone else, so why doesn't it stick to making that even more compelling?

"Twitter's acquisition of Vine was a failure once Instagram added video, and Twitter's acquisition of Periscope was also a failure once Facebook added Instagram Live and Facebook Live to its platforms. Twitter's brief offering of temporary content with Fleets also died a quick, although easy to predict, death," says Selepak. 

Twitter has always struggled to be anything more than a micro-blogging site.

By their nature, podcasts aren’t really suited to real-time conversation. We download them to have them ready for listening at a time and place of our choosing. Some podcasts offer live, members-only chat rooms where you can listen to the live recording and sometimes interact with the hosts and other listeners, but those aren’t podcasts at that point.

But what if Twitter lets you subscribe to a podcast? Not to listen to it, but to talk about it. If a conversation were tied to an episode, it wouldn’t matter when you dropped in. That goes against Twitter’s customary approach, where nothing lasts for more than a minute or two before dropping off your timeline, never to be seen again. But Twitter is already experimenting with long-form articles, which also don’t fit its usual format.

Twitter could add a valuable extra dimension to podcasts, giving fans somewhere to come together. I listen to a bunch of podcasts I’d love to talk about, but where would I do that?

A Twitter podcast community would be a great way to start.

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