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Why podcasting is on the rise: 8 trends publishers cannot ignore

The Global Podcasting Market size is expected to reach $41.8 billion by 2026, according to a recent report published by the analysts Research and Market. 

Rising at a market growth of 24.6% CAGR between 2020-2026, they attribute much of this projected success to the accessible nature of the medium, and the rise of at-home listening during the COVID pandemic. 

As the podcasting market continues to expand across the globe, here are eight ideas and implications shaping podcasting continued ascendancy: 

1. Podcasts can offer advertisers flexibility in an uncertain world

With many media brands being hit by ad tech blacklisting during the early stages of the pandemic, podcasts offered a potential solution for publishers and advertisers alike. 

“In the early days of COVID-19, the media formats that remained resilient were those that provided agility to marketers to change messaging,” argues Sue Hogan, Senior Vice President, Research and Analytics, IAB.

Most popular global formats for podcasts, via Grand View Research

2. Seamless integration with content can help 

Given that 66% of podcast advertising is host-read (compared to 27% which are announced read or pre-produced ads), podcasts offer an effective, low-cost, way for brands to deliver their messages. 

“Brands increasingly see the value of “owning” a podcast series, says Zoe Soon, VP, Consumer Experience Center of Excellence, IAB, and “podcast hosts are becoming trusted influencers with loyal communities. That translates to more consumer engagement and, ultimately, stronger ROI.”

The David Tennant podcasts include the host interacting with his wife, Georgia, to share details of special offers and other promotional opportunities.

Listener comment on the accessibility of ads within Tennant’s podcast

3. Ad Spend is becoming more strategic 

More widely, IAB data also shows that podcasts are becoming an increasingly important part of the annual buying process for brands and agencies. Those making podcasts part of their annual buy nearly doubled to 47% in 2019, up from 24% in 2018. 

Fourth annual IAB Podcast Advertising Revenue Report

4. We’re seeing growth in programmatic audio ad buys

Despite this strategic growth and the perceived value of host-read advertising, podcasting’s ad mix is beginning to shift.

Back in 2017, Digiday commented how “podcast ads remain stubbornly old-fashioned.” As the medium continues to grow and become increasingly valuable to consumers and marketers alike, this perception is slowly starting to change. 

One example of this can be seen in the rise of programmatic advertising. Around 4% of podcasting ads in the USA are currently delivered this way, although that’s expected to increase to 6% in 2021 and 8% in 2022, eMarketer predicts

This move will be driven by “investments in audience measurement and the shift from untrackable baked-in ads toward dynamically inserted ones pave the way for programmatic buys.”

Research from IAB Australia indicates that this trend is already well underway “Down Under” led by the data and targeting capabilities associated with this delivery method. 

via 2019’s Audio Advertising: State of the Nation report

5. Investment in original content is growing

Spotify has garnered a lot of attention for its largescale investments in content. Over the past 18 months, it spent more than $400 million to acquire podcast producers Ringer, Parcast, and Gimlet, as well as create new high profile shows such as The Michelle Obama Podcast

Its biggest content deal, worth more $100 million, was for “The Joe Rogan Experience.” The long-running show had an archive of 1,742 shows at the start of December 2020 and is estimated to the most listened-to podcast in the world, with over 200 million monthly downloads (compared to the New York Times’ The Daily, the second most popular, at around 60 million).

As Variety noted: “Under the multiyear licensing pact, “The Joe Rogan Experience” will become exclusive to Spotify later in 2020. There will still be clips from the show on YouTube but full versions of the show will only be on Spotify after the end of the year.”

This type of exclusivity is a strategy we’ve seen emerge recently on video streaming platforms (HBO, Disney+ Peacock, Netflix, et al), and now it looks as though audio platforms are following suit. 

6. Major audio platforms are expanding overseas

As data shared by the Visual Capitalist (above) shows, many of the biggest podcast titles enjoy a worldwide reach. 

These efforts, coupled with domestic investment in other major markets, form part of efforts by major podcasting companies to create truly global empires. 

Spotify now has 299 million monthly active users listening to podcasts in 92 markets. This represents a 200% increase in podcast listening year-on-year. 

Elsewhere, as we noted in our free to download report, The Publisher’s Guide to Navigating COVID-19, on the subcontinent, Audible Suno, Amazon’s audio streaming service in India, has grown considerably during COVID. 

The service offers more than 200,00 titles, including exclusive Hindi content. Its Android-only app notched up over five million downloads in its first nine months. Audible India Country Head Shailesh Sawlani attributes a lot of their growth to the lockdown, arguing that “screen fatigue has led a lot of people to proactively explore audio content.”

Meanwhile, the Grandaddy of these services, Apple Podcasts, continues to expand. By April 2020 it featured over 1 million shows in more than 100 languages, covering 175 countries and regions.

Bollywood star Kaali Awaazein hosted a fictional 10 episode audio web series based on India’s most haunted places, via Global Prime News.

7. Podcasts offer opportunities to drive membership and subscriptions

For some publishers and platforms, podcasts are a potential route to attracting new subscribers. 

The New York Times’ podcast, The Daily, frequently features an oral call to action encouraging listeners to take out a subscription to support the Times’ journalism. Elsewhere, back in 2019 Slate forecast that would drive nearly half of its revenue that year. Audio has also been at the heart of the publisher’s first-party data strategy too.

Growth in Slate’s Audio Business 2017-2019, via The Idea

As The Idea, a newsletter from Atlantic Media, recounted

“Podcasts are also the main driver of Slate Plus subscriptions, accounting for 65% of revenue… In September 2019, the program had 60,000 members, who pay for access to ad-free episodes, bonus episodes of select shows, early access to tickets for live podcast tapings as well as other benefits.” 

Separately, data from YouGov this summer found 17% percent of Americans have paid to listen to a podcast. 

Within this, “Men (21%) are more likely than women (12%) to have paid, while heavy listeners who listen to podcasts more than once a day (37%) are also more likely to report pulling out the credit card to listen to a podcast,” the researchers found.

Their research also suggests a growing opening to paying for audio content, with 20% of listeners who have never paid or donated money to access a podcast saying they are “somewhat” or “very likely” to do so in the next 12 months. 

via MarketingCharts

8. Podcasting and Audio remain growing markets

Lastly, it’s worth noting that although Vulture recently cautioned that “Podcasts Are Always the Next Big Thing,” this is a growing medium, in terms of audience, content and revenue. 

The growth of smart speakers, the integration of audio on platforms like Twitter (who launched voice tweets in the summer), increasing focus on dynamic ad insertion and data-driven targeting, coupled with continued investment in the medium from major players including Amazon, Spotify, Apple, Google and others, suggest that podcasting will only continue to grow in importance for brands, publishers and listeners alike.

via Westwood One’s Podcast Download – Fall 2020 Report

Podcasting may have always been the next big thing. But this time, despite the dystopian landscape COVID has created for many media companies, the odds seem to be forever in audio’s favour.


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