Spotify ushers in professional pivot to third wave podcasting
Spotify made its claim to dominate the world of podcasting last week when it announced the acquisition of content company, Gimlet Media and creation platform, Anchor.
The purchase of Gimlet, thought to be worth $230 million, is the biggest deal in podcasting history to date and has positioned Spotify as the “Netflix of podcasts” as it ramps up its efforts to create original audio content.
Its purchase of Anchor (for an unknown sum) is allowing it to empower people to create their own podcasts and providing the distribution platform to host them.
It’s a bold but perhaps not surprising move by Spotify which has said it plans to spend up to $400-$500 million in the podcasting space this year alone and which could usher in a new wave for podcasting.
Over the last 14 years, podcasting has gone from niche content consumed by a handful of technology geeks to one that has a broad, international audience.
According to the Reuters Digital Institute’s latest digital news report, over a third of people surveyed across 22 countries have listened a podcast in the previous month.
The survey showed there is a gap in levels of adoption between countries with the usually-tech savvy UK at the lower end of the adoption rate.
Only 18 percent of respondents in the UK had listened to a podcast in the last month according to the report. This is in stark contrast to other anglophone nations like Australia and the US, both of which have 33 percent of citizens frequently listening to podcasts.
The report fails to disclose why so few people are listening to podcasts in the UK. Perhaps our high quality radio stations (which usually also come in podcast form) are thwarting adoption.
Whatever the reason, these numbers will only increase as the big players in streaming and mobile continue to innovate and launch new features.
Spotify continues to grow in the UK and at last count in October 2017 it had 7.1 million users and 2.8 million subscribers.
In 2018, Google launched its own dedicated podcast app for Android allowing podcasters to submit their own to its directory.
Apple had the podcast genre for fourteen years. Indeed its name comes from Apple’s pioneering mp3 player, the iPod.
This means there is a genuine opportunity in podcasting to reach and measure an engaged audience through easily-consumable media.
For starters, podcasts are portable so you can listen to one from almost anywhere. In the car, at the gym or while out for a jog are common podcast listening activities.
It’s a multitasking medium whereas you can’t watch a YouTube video while driving and you can’t read a blog post when running on a treadmill.
You can capture a younger audience. Podcast listeners, in the UK at least, are in the younger demographic. According to an Ofcom report, almost half (49 percent) of podcast listeners are under 35 whereas only 29 percent of ‘traditional’ radio listeners are in this demographic.
Finally, podcasts are an intimate form of communication. Listening to one is usually done alone and the power of listening to another human’s voice can create a deeper connection than perhaps what reading can.
This greater awareness along with a higher quality of content and an easier way to discover new shows will bring in some big changes in the future.
Branded podcasts will launch at a greater rate.
The last few years have seen an increase in major brands launching their own podcasts around subjects their customers care about.
While reaching a mass audience is not the goal, targeting smaller segments of engaged customers is.
So far this has mostly been large multinational brands running a limited set of podcast episodes before moving onto a new campaign.
Increasingly there’ll be an influx of brands both large and small launching their own podcasts but for the long term.
The larger brands will benefit from having their own in-house podcast studios whereas the smaller brands will take advantage of one hour sessions in the ‘rent a studio’ services popping up in large cities.
Monetising podcasts will increase
For brands looking to get into podcasting but aren’t quite ready to commit to creating one, sponsoring podcasts is the next opportunity.
Podcast advertising can reach the ‘unreachables’ – the people who use browser ad blockers and skip YouTube ads. Skipping ads on a podcast is more difficult and skilled podcast hosts know how to slip them in just before an important section is about to start.
Because of this, brands will work with podcasters who have developed an engaged audience around a topic related to the brand’s target market.
This will bring more money into the medium and greater competition also.
With more money comes a greater need to measure
The nut yet to be cracked in podcasting is a way to measure user behaviour properly. In a world where we can get detailed metrics about visitors to our website, Facebook page and so on, podcast metrics are relatively scarce.
You can track the number of subscribers, downloads, geography of listeners and the service they use, but that is its limits because once a podcast has been downloaded it’s free from any analytics.
In 2017, Apple started providing podcast analytics for the first time in the 14 years it has been supporting them. While they’re basic, they are a start.
If Spotify can position itself as the only destination for podcasts and cracks the analytics issue, they will win.
Many podcasts will fail
Like blogs in the early noughties some podcasts will be launched with great fanfare but the enthusiasm will eventually wane.
A lot of brands will drop off when a key team member leaves, when the company changes direction of when they aren’t getting the ROI they would like.
Creating any kind of quality content for the long-term is a slog. It requires effort, forward planning and most importantly time. Quality and consistency are key.
The brands that persist and evolve with the genre will be the ones that succeed in this new third-wave of podcasting.