LIFESTYLE

Your Pick Of The Airwaves

Startups are shaking up the traditionally low-key world of podcasting. With over 750,000 from which to choose, see why more people are tuning in.

10.25.2019 - Kevin McLachlan, Vice President, Portfolio Manager

We’ve all listened to podcasts right? Well, maybe not all, but many of us. The word podcast was originally suggested in 2004 as a combination of “iPod” (a brand of media player) and “broadcast.”1

Since its humble beginnings, podcasting has grown into a globally recognized medium for distributing audio content, similar to radio programs. The major difference: You can play podcasts at your convenience on a variety of devices, most commonly now on your cellphone.

An interesting thing about podcasts is the rich variety of content that has been created by all sorts of people. Some podcasts are long—lasting an hour or more—while others are less than 10 minutes. June 2019 research reports say there are over 750,000 podcasts and over 30 million episodes from which to choose.2

The numbers reflect the low “barriers to entry” for creating a podcast. You or I could produce one or a series. In a sense, technology has democratized the airwaves, adding a new dimension to the corporate world of radio. However, because new or small podcasts likely have a limited marketing budget, their shows generally rely heavily on “word of mouth” to reach new listeners. Some organizations, such as CBC or iHeartRadio, have created large podcast libraries.

Making More Noise

Initially, the low-key world of podcasting gave listeners an open door to ad-free content. As a natural step in the evolving digital marketplace, companies have been creating models to profit from podcasting. Today, “free” content typically features advertising as a means of generating revenue for the podcast provider, similar to traditional broadcasting formats. It’s estimated that total podcasting advertising revenue in 2018 reached $600 million.3

Marking the growing interest in podcasting, larger media companies are acquiring podcast producers. For instance, Spotify, the music streaming company, recently acquired Gimlet Media, a podcast producer and network (for approximately $230 million) and Anchor, a startup that makes it easier for people to record and distribute podcasts.4Spotify says it has other podcast acquisitions in mind and expects to spend up to $500 million on producer deals in 2019.5

Then there’s Luminary, the startup that launched in spring 2019 with its focus on being the “Netflix for podcasts.” Introducing its precedent-setting iOS and Android app and subscription model—sign-up for free, listen to ad-absent regular content and pay a fee for premium content—Luminary had a rocky start, sparking the ire of competitors. Media reports have rumbled about “podcast wars.” Then there’s Luminary, the startup that launched in spring 2019 with its focus on being the “Netflix for podcasts.” Introducing its precedent-setting iOS and Android app and subscription model—sign-up for free, listen to ad-absent regular content and pay a fee for premium content—Luminary had a rocky start, sparking the ire of competitors. Media reports have rumbled about “podcast wars.”6

As things bubble on the podcasting front, it’s worth noting this medium still reaches a much smaller audience than radio enjoys. For example, about 26% of Americans listen to podcasts monthly, while about 92% listen to radio every week.7 It’ll be interesting to watch how podcast content evolves over the coming years and if future “blockbuster” content draws more listeners.

If you’re new to the format or a limited listener, explore the podcasting world. I’ve found certain series extremely worthwhile. Best of all, in this busy world, podcasts come alive according to your schedule.

June 2019 research reports say there are over 750,000 podcasts and over 30 million episodes from which to choose."

 

 

 

 

NOTES:

1. Ben Hammersley, “Audible revolution. Online radio is booming thanks to iPods, cheap audio software and weblogs,” The Guardian, February 12, 2004, https://www.theguardian.com.

2. Ross Winn, “2019 Podcast Stats & Facts (New Research From June 2019),” https://www.podcastinsights.com.

3. Sergei Revzin and Vadim Revzin, “Podcast Trends In 2019 That You Should Know About,” Forbes, March 21, 2019, https://www.forbes.com.

4. Mark Sweney, “Podcasting’s Netflix moment: the global battle for domination,” The Guardian, March 30, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com.

5. Mark Sweney, “Podcasting’s Netflix moment.”

6. Ashley Carman, “Podcast wars: $100 million startup Luminary launches Tuesday without Reply All or The Daily,” The Verge, April 22, 2019, https://www.theverge.com.

7. Sergei Revzin and Vadim Revzin, “Podcast Trends In 2019 That You Should Know About.”

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Kevin McLachlan, Vice President, Portfolio Manager

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