Are We in the Golden Age of Podcasts?
A. What is a Podcast?
“Podcast” is a term that people have been listening to a lot nowadays. Coined by a project team that worked on a project called iPodder back in 2004, podcasting was an amalgamation of ‘iPod’ and ‘Broadcast’. Think of ‘Podcast’ as an advanced version of the radio and audio content mashed up beautifully to become a megaphone – albeit virtual.
The first organization to pick up the trend of ‘Podcasting’ was not other than ‘Apple’. Radio podcasts downloaded through the internet could be uploaded to an iPod through iTunes.
Steve Jobs officially announced supporting ‘’Podcasts’ in 2005 and Apple simultaneously added ‘Podcast Support’ to the iTunes. Steve Jobs actually believed in the power of Podcasting. At the time of the launch, users could listen to more than 3,000 automatically delivered free podcasts to their computer and iPod.
After almost a decade, Apple would go on to launch a dedicated podcast app in 2012. This early adoption of the technology has made Apple one of the most prominent Podcasting Platform.
Today, Podcast is all about loyal followers, growing audiences and creating a niche. Just like other social platforms that rely on visual gratification, Podcasts offers an audio one. They range from crime thrillers, tutorials to dating advice.
However, one thing that makes podcasts different is the ability to filter out unwanted content and subscribe to the things that only like. In simpler terms, there is no homepage of unwanted in-your-face content to worry about. While podcasting hasn’t touched the engagement levels of Youtube or Twitter, it is certainly on a growth trajectory.
B. The Growth of the Podcasting.
The Rise of Smart Home Speakers – The growth of voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana and many more have led to massive growth in audio content. On top of that, the exponential rise of devices such as Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod and Google Home has made it easier to play, access and discover podcasts. Almost 17% of the users used their smart speakers to listen to podcasts.
With voice-activated apps and services on the rise, one can surely bet that podcasts can supplement light work in the house and become an integral part of the human experience.
The Rise of Smart Cars – The rise of Tesla’s and growing internet connections in cars along with Bluetooth connectivity in place, podcasts are certainly projected to grow with long journeys on the road or in the traffic.
Leading car makers such as Audi and BMW have already adopted Apple’s Car Play and Android Auto. Thanks to high speed 4G LTE mobile internet, podcasts are increasing substituting and even replacing the traditional AM/FM radio. It is estimated that by 2020, almost a quarter of a billion cars would be connected or smart vehicles.
C. Spotify Making The Move
2018 saw huge gains for the podcasting industry as a whole. More and more listeners heard about podcasts. Spotify acquired Gimlet Media and Anchor for a massive $340, higher than the whole industry valuation. Spotify opened itself as a platform for new podcasters. It also saw an increase in podcast download from 4.4% in Dec 2017 to 8.5 in Dec 2018.
Before Anchor was acquired, it was on the way to become WordPress for Podcasts. Its popularity helped it host around ⅓ of new podcasts in the industry. It was increasingly becoming easier to use Anchor as a platform.
Apps such as Audible, Calm and Headspace are creating a new genre of audio-heavy apps. Listening to audio-books, guided meditation and relaxing sounds are all part of the quality audio content. Other major podcast apps include Pocket Casts, Overcast and Stitcher.
D. Future of Podcasting
The Need of a Single Unifying Platform – Today, discovering podcasts comes down to two main apps – Spotify Discover and iTunes Chart. However, despite the platforms strong push for podcasting, music overshadows it. Today, Apple’s Podcast App accounts for 52% of all podcast listeners, with Spotify accounting for 19% and other players such as Castbox, Pandora, etc. accounting for a major chunk of 29%.
With little engagement and even smaller for indie producers – The main challenge comes down to creating a single platform for “Podcasts’ will could be accessed to access the best podcasts easily. Instead of distributed reach, one platform could serve as single-stop for all podcast lovers.
Sponsorships – Advertising is a big problem area for a lot of podcasters. As the reach isn’t big enough for most podcasters, only a few niche podcasters make the cut. Major companies such as Tinder and Starbucks are increasingly seeing positive results.
One example could be Squarespace’s initiative with the podcasting company Gimlet. Both, created a show to find the next great podcast host via a reality audio series – one of it’s kind.
Revenue Growth – With podcasts rising in popularity, Y-Combinator – the world’s most prestigious startup accelerator has invested in Brew – a subscription-based app developed in Kerala, India. It charges a set subscription fee from its user and pays the creator on its platforms in accordance with unique listens.
However, before Y-Combinator came on board, the startup was tackling the monetization issue. Podcasting on the whole still makes less money than radio despite the fact that 73 million people enjoy podcasts every month. Therefore, despite huge potential, revenue still remains the Achilles-heel for the podcasting business.
Pandora and Luminary are two other companies vying for a prime spot in the growing podcasting ring. Pandora, like Spotify, is a music streaming service that is making a play for podcasting.
“We’re about to see Pandora ramp up their ‘Podcast Genome Project,'” Quah says. And with plans to go live with 40 exclusive shows in July after raising $100 million dollars, Quah explains Luminary “literally wants to be the Netflix for podcasts.”
E. Most Downloaded Podcasts and Famous Podcasters
Apple’s most downloaded podcast shows The Daily By New York Times The Joe Rogan Experience Stuff You Should Know Fresh Air By NPR Fresh Air My Favorite Murder Ted Talks Daily Up First The Ben Shapiro Show Pod Save Americ
Spotify most streamed podcast shows Fest & Flauschig The Joe Budden Podcast with Rory & Mal Dissect TALK-O-MAT
Most-Streamed Podcast Genres on Spotify Crime and Mystery Comedy News & Politics Health Arts
Most Famous Podcasters: Joe Rogan (Joe Rogan Experience) Marc Maron (WTF with Marc Maron) Kevin Smith (SModcast) Doug Benson (Doug Loves Movies) Chris Hardwick (The Nerdist Podcast)
While Apple leads the podcast market, the whole ecosystem is growing steadily. Google has also jumped the wagon with its own podcast app for Android in 2018, but it has to be downloaded and is not available by default in its own OS.
However, with Spotify acquiring Gimlet and Anchor, the industry is poised for cutthroat competition in the future. Other companies Pandora are choosing the safer option, bundling podcasts with their music streaming service whereas Luminary moves to become ‘the company’ known for ‘Quality Podcasts’.
With low entry barrier and a lot of content enthusiasts, anyone can strive to be the Netflix for Podcast but the question remains – is podcasting finally going mainstream?
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