"Why aren't there more podcasts for kids?" is a question that to my ears sounds like a close cousin to questions in the kids music world -- "Why isn't kids music as popular as children's books?" or "Why don't more people know about all this great music?"
Those latter questions are ones that I've been asked -- and have pondered -- a lot for more than a decade, ever since I started Zooglobble, a website that has been dedicated to discovering and sharing great music for kids and families. For those of you who haven't followed the kids music scene, since the turn of the century there's been a tremendous flowering in music aimed at kids but sophisticated enough musically, lyrically, and sonically to capture the attention of the parents who listen in. That's not to say that there wasn't some excellent kids music produced in the 20th century, but the amount and diversity of quality kids music today is orders of magnitude greater now.
Three months ago, I wrote a post for my site titled Podcasts for Kids, which was an attempt to survey the situation the kids podcasting field faced. To my eyes (and ears) -- and this hasn't changed in the three months since I wrote the piece -- the biggest challenge facing the field is that of discovery. It is, to be blunt, difficult to find good podcasts for kids.
As I noted in that piece:
"The iTunes Kids and Family podcast chart is sort of a mess if you're a parent trying to find non-music audio entertainment. Imagine, if you will, that the iTunes music charts folded all songs about kids and families into the iTunes Kids and Family music chart, thereby including, perhaps Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" and Lukas Graham's "7 Years." That would be pretty silly, right? But that's exactly what the podcast chart reflects -- by my count, of the top 30 podcasts in that list as I'm checking on it, 20 are targeted specifically at the parents and not for the kids. It's not like the ratio seems to get much better as you roll down the next 170 podcasts in the chart."
I just checked right now, and -- today, anyway -- it's gotten better in the past three months. Whereas before I found just 4 audio podcasts for kids in the top 30, now there are 10.
But before we celebrate, let's step back and consider that we'd be celebrating that one-third of the podcasts in a chart designed for kids and family, are actually ongoing podcasts for kids and families. Stitcher has a Parenting, Family, and Kids chart of its own -- it's not any better. (In fact, today it's pretty awful -- just 3 out of 30.) And NPR's podcast list suffers from the same definitional issue iTunes has, with only three podcasts specifically for kids (two of those launched within the last 3 months), and their fancy earbud.fm podcast recommender doesn't even have a kids and family subcategory. So, yeah, it's not easy for someone to jump in and find great kids podcasts. (In fact, as we've dipped into the data from the listener survey we conducted last month, one thing I've noticed is that some people basically said, for example, "I wish there were podcasts about science for kids" -- this, in a survey run by an organization in which three of the eight founding members are explicitly about science.)
As you may have gathered, I'm the sole founding member of Kids Listen who isn't a podcast producer at the moment. I've made podcasts in the past, and may in the future, but for the moment I'm just a happy consumer of them. Why did I want to join? It was the same animating idea that led me to start Zooglobble many years (and an occasional gig reviewing kids music for NPR's All Things Considered) -- the desire to share all this great audio with a wider audience.
I can put together a comprehensive list of podcasts for kids, but my hope is that, as part of Kids Listen, I can help grow the number and diversity and visibility of kids podcasts so that the very notion of a complete listing of podcasts for kids very quickly becomes an absurd notion.