5 things that will change in podcasting in the next few years
Updated: Sep 1, 2019
Podcasting is booming in 2019, that is a fact. But it has been growing for the last few years as well. What else will happen in the next few years?
There are some signs that show us that the podcast industry is going to radically change in the coming years, besides just growing bigger. There are going to be major changes happening that might impact you and your business, if you are in the podcast space.
Warning: of course, nobody knows the future! In this blog post I'm trying to make the best guess based on my own knowledge, observations and some insider infos.
So here are my 5 predictions for things that will change in the podcasting industry in the next few years, and how they affect podcasters and publishers.
1. Spotify is going to become the largest podcast playing platform, but Apple is not dead yet
It's not a secret, that Spotify is on its way to becoming the biggest podcast platform in the world. They've already partially achieved this goal in some countries, yet some others still resist. And why not say it out loud: given the size and ambition of Spotify, I'm pretty sure they won't stop until they become #1 in the world's largest and most advanced podcast market: the United States of America.
Still, I'm not saying that Apple is going to lose the podcast battle without a fight. I actually think that the larger the threat of Spotify, the more motivated Apple will become. Apple hasn't had any noticeable competition in the space for a decade, no other company would even get close to threatening Apple's rule in the podcast space. Yet now it's not an if anymore – it's a when.
For us, publishers and people working in the industry, a major shift in the usage might be a bit scary at first. Uncertainty is not something we like to have for breakfast. And sure, Spotify has some problems, too. Like not opening their directory up for usage by other apps. At the same time, it brings a completely new young and different audience to the table, and has analytics that actually work and provide lots of value.
In the end, we have to make the best out of it and use and understand what each platform has to offer.
2. Old podcast hosters will decline, new podcast hosters will arise
The trend has already begun, yet in the coming years we'll see how traditional podcast hosting companies will start losing their market share to newer, fresher ideas. At Podigee we call it the"second generation of podcast hosting" – one that is more modern and challenges the status quo.
Many of the traditional hosting companies have been riding on the wave of success for way too long, and competition has appeared everywhere.
Until recently, there was a bit of a falsely perceived dichotomy in the podcasting space: you are either an established, solid and boring company, OR you are fresh, new, with great ideas, yet probably not very stable or reliable. In 2019, this isn't true anymore. Some hosting companies have both now.
How is this going to affect publishers? Well, many of them have already moved on and found new solutions that allow them to be more productive and enjoy great features, like fully functional and customizable webplayers, podcast transcriptions or audio enhancing algorithms. Others push the social aspect by allowing listeners to record audio feedback to be included in the show. A few are adventuring into machine learning and big data for getting even more interesting usage analytics and listener insights.
3. Acquisitions and mergers will happen
I'm explicitly not talking here about Spotify buying their next podcast company, that we all know already.
I'm talking about podcast hosters, marketers, ad-insertions solutions, directories. The VC money that is getting pumped into the system will eventually cause a need for some bold moves and reactions from the players in the market to avoid just getting overrun.
This means that possible acquisitions and mergers will happen that will reshape the industry. Small players will disappear, as they won't be able to survive in a space dominated by large players with deep pockets.
Some features, like audio hosting and publishing are becoming a commodity, while others like podcast analytics supported by machine learning will soon get out of reach for the smaller players, as it will be too costly to operate them on a small scale.
Also here, for publishers, it probably means keeping your eyes open and not riding a dead horse. If you feel like your tech and distribution partner is not delivering, or might be closing shop soon, don't wait until it's too late. Move on. And use it as a chance to get even more, even better features. Don't just look for a 1:1 replacement.
4. Smart assistants and voice UIs will change the way podcasts are produced – or a completely new medium will emerge
In a way, you would think that podcasts are just the most natural and perfect match for voice-first or even voice-only platforms such as Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri. Yet interestingly, to this day, podcasting hasn't found a natural way of fitting into these platforms. There is something about the discovery and subscription process that makes podcasting large unsuited for voice platforms.
My prediction is that there are 2 possible outcomes here.
1) Podcasts will largely adapt to the new platform, given that someone "cracks the code" and brings a truly native podcast-like audio experience to smart speakers
OR, more likely
2) podcasts will mainly ignore the voice platforms and a completely new genre of audio will appear – let me officially coin it as voicecasts. Shorter, more concise audio "snacks" which will expand to full-featured podcast-like shows when needed. They will be searchable with voice, since they will have better metadata than the good ol'fashioned RSS feed.
In order for this to happen, new tools will appear to support large, diverse audio portfolios that will not only include podcasts, but more generic forms of audio content, adjustable for different ways of distribution, including voice-first and voice-only interfaces.
For publishers: keep an eye on the new outlets for your podcasts, and be ready to adjust some of your content for a new medium. It's going to be a lot of learning from scratch, but it's probably going to be well worth it.
5. The Netflix of podcasting is the next big thing in podcasting
No, I'm just kidding with this one. There is not going to be a Netflix of podcasting anytime soon. Or ever.
And I'm not saying that companies who try to achieve this goal aren't good or even necessary! I love seeing more and more new, diverse projects and ideas in the podcast space, since the more clever and ambitious people are in the business, the more attractive the medium will become.
It's just that not only have so many tried it before (and failed), it's just that it's enough to know a little bit about podcasting as a medium to understand that it's too late for a service like this to even appear. There is too many independent producers and shows, with their advertising pipelines full for months in advance. Why would these producers give up the total control they have for fewer listeners and probably not very favorable contracts?
Sure, exclusive content is here to stay and will become an important weapon for platforms to attract new listeners or subscribers. Yet even the largest producers of exclusive content such as Spotify and Audible have started publishing publicly past seasons of their exclusive podcasts – even on Apple Podcasts!
My recommendation for publishers here: be skeptical about any platform promising you things too good too be true – if it feels too good, it probably is not that great.
In the end, and as I wrote in the beginning, nobody knows what the future will bring. It's up to us to keep an open eye and challenge existing assumptions. The good news is: podcasting is here to stay – let's make the best out of it!
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