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Last Updated on
April 19, 2023

HotPod’s Big Predictions for 2020 Podcast Trends

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Hotpod is a fantastic news source on podcasting. Hotpod’s Nicholas Quah and Caroline Crampton shared their predictions for the coming year in this interesting piece.Here is a summary of the big ones:

Apple vs Spotify

The two biggest names in audio right now seem to be on collision course over the podcast space.Apple of course practically created the medium, but in recent years audio giant Spotify has been aggressively pushing into the space.This isn’t just about podcasts, because the two platforms have wider ecosystems to think about. As Quah notes:

“The competition is about getting users, audiences, and listeners into their respective ecosystems; every casual Apple Podcasts user that gets flipped into a power Spotify podcasts user is potentially one fewer who could become a power Apple Music user”

Open Podcasting

As big money and even bigger platforms increasingly focus on podcasting - the format is undergoing an evolution and losing its innocence.Openness and something of a DIY 'creator' ethos have been hallmarks of the format in previous years, but will this continue?Quah poses the question thus:

“By the end of the year, will podcasting remain largely open and free, or will it be mostly mediated by platforms that assume gatekeeping behavior? Will openness remain the norm and ideal?”

There is also the question of what exactly “openness” means. Quah takes a big picture view and defines it as:

“Being able to self-actualize without needing to be directly mediated by a centralized governing authority. (Feel free to punch me in the face for overly simplifying the discourse.)”

Nothing is settled, and how this trend will develop is an open question.

“It could well be the case that a majority of podcast publishers will choose to put all their eggs in a single platform basket; it’s equally possible that enough publishers will opt to spread things out”

Independence in 2020

The independent podcaster is getting increasingly squeezed with the influx of real money from big corporations. It’s never fun competing against much deeper pockets.Crampton notes though that:

“There are plenty of creators exploring different ways of being independent, from new business models to a quiet rejection of the idea that success only comes in the form of copious downloads and eager sponsors. Inhabiting a niche has long been a worthy goal for a small podcast; now it can potentially be a profitable one too.”

She also points to a trend of further collaboration in the industry, with podcasters in the US and UK forming collectives that suit their business and creative goals.

“I think now there’s a realization that independence is an end in itself, and that it can often be better experienced together”

Other Players

There are open questions about how a variety of other players will maneuver in the 2020 landscape. Organizations to watch are:

  • Public radio
  • Digital Media Companies
  • Legacy Radio
  • Music Conglomerates
  • Hollywood

Look out for them all making moves and investments into audio in 2020.

The Emerging Global Ecosystem

American companies like Stitcher, Wondery and Art19 are pushing forward with joint ventures and building foundations for international expansion.In recent years the podcast industry has been somewhat fragmented across different global regions and language spheres, but expect there to be more common ground emerging internationally through 2020!Better analytics at last?IAB have done some great work creating the Podcast Measurement Technical Guidelines, and more and more hosts and creators have moved toward compliance with their latest standards over the last year.That said, podcasting has a somewhat deserved reputation for having poor options for tracking, measurement, and attribution.Caroline Crampton put it this way:

“There’s a strong feeling in some corners of the advertising world that podcast ads are still too difficult to track, leading some to push for more programmatic solutions and others to stick firmly to the tried-and-tested coupon-code route”

Expect there to be a lot of effort to solve the tracking problem over the next year, as it’s an essential hurdle to pass for the industry to truly grow (in terms of revenue).

Alternative Business Models

Many podcasters have long been searching for revenue models beyond advertising. The most popular and viable are:

“Recurring crowdfunding or subscription services, donations, live events and performances, and nonprofit or state grants”

Crampton thinks that the mechanics of direct audience revenue through paywalls and subscriptions leave a lot of room for improvement in 2020, and that:

“It’s iterative technology improvements (and those offering them) that I think will be worth looking out for both on subscriptions and donations”

Live events are of course viable for popular shows with huge audiences, but there’s also the potential for smaller podcasters to start experimenting with this route.Investment and InnovationQuah notes that so far, investment in the podcast space has been concentrated on hosting (bottom of the stack) and apps/players (top of the stack).Hopefully in 2020 we see more interest and investment in other parts of the ecosystem. For example, the marketing and reader engagement aspects of the business seem ripe for innovation and improvementWe should all be paying attention to the wider technological ecosystem and thinking about how it will impact podcasting specifically. Broader factors can:

“Reasonably impact podcast consumption, discovery, and creation — stuff like audio-first AR products, wearables that push the boundaries of audio-first computing, and other technical experiments that seek to expand the general listening experience. After all, the biggest changes tend to come from the places we least expect”

Read the full article to see Crampton and Quah’s additional predictions, and their reasoning in more depth.Good luck with your podcasting strategy in 2020!

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