There is no escaping the growing popularity of podcasts and their extraordinary ability to find otherwise niche audiences.
By 2024 it’s predicted that over a half a billion people worldwide will listen to a podcast at least once a month – over 80% more than in 2019 – with the industry valued at nearly $100 billion. Radio has come of age.
In the UK The Rest is Politics, hosted by the handsome and charming duo of Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart, has achieved nearly a million downloads per month, while The Rest is History surpasses that with 2.7 million a month.
Both programmes are produced by Goalhanger, founded by one of the greatest opportunists in (and on) the box, Gary Lineker. When he applies his opportunism and entrepreneurism to the format, signing the company to WME for example, you know there’s “gold in them there hills”.
But as this relatively young format evolves, what can podcast distributors learn from the maturer world of VOD?
How to monetise
Monetisation in VOD is a complex business and can no longer rely simply upon subscription since market saturation and the recession’s effect on spending are slower subscriber growth. By developing mixed revenue streams the best of the VOD players are enabling their customers to choose how they pay.
Podcasts are no different, and have the added ability to provide their content producers with enhanced revenue generators – and considering the alternatives will be increasingly important for both platform and producers. Sponsored content, merchandising or real world events provide monetisation opportunities which will become ever more valuable.
Advanced analytics aided by AI tools now enable increased personalisation and enhanced discoverability across VOD platforms. Netflix have up to 50 tags in the metadata of any one piece of content and through that level of detail are better able to provide learnings, recommendations and increased stickiness.
Podcast platforms provide perhaps even more niche content across a hugely diverse range of topics. Discoverability becomes even more of an issue, but having a clear strategy, ensuring developed metadata is applied, using machine learning and adding potential community building features (providing a social perspective) will ensure the listener finds what they want, and enjoys their own content explorations.
Consistency of experience
The ability for a viewer to watch content over a wide range of devices – mobile, tablet, browser, TV – and pick up content where they left off is critical in VOD. It’s no less important in podcasting as listeners demand a connected and frictionless experience across their devices, including car play and smart speakers.
Podcast platforms will need to consider smart speakers as a key engagement channel. Voice controls, which allow listeners to find and control content, should be in-built and integrations consistent, just as VOD has done across Smart TVs and mobile devices.
Consistency of experience will become even more important as podcasters embrace the opportunity to bring in rich media to increase engagement. Comedy podcast NearlyWeds currently sits at #5 in both Spotify and Apple’s UK podcast charts, drawing fans from both traditional podcast platforms as well as Youtube and TikTok. Their consistency across platforms means no matter how fans are tuning in to hear about their upcoming marriage, they’ll get the same experience as anywhere else.
Offering choice – of content, of payment, of device, of user experience – is central to success in VOD. For example, the launch of ITVX – ITV’s new streaming and VOD offering – sees the traditional broadcaster giving viewers a choice of how to watch (with a combination of live streaming, free ad-supported channels and on-demand content) and how to pay (with both a free ad-supported tier and a subscription option.)
Global – the UK’s largest commercial radio broadcaster – are bringing that choice to the audio world, combining a significant investment in podcast content including some major acquisitions with an enhanced ability to stream live and on-demand radio through its Global Player app.
Of course, with choice comes complexity and it requires significant expertise to deliver frictionless, connected experiences for users and multiple revenue streams for businesses. So the podcast sector will need to invest in its digital infrastructure to maintain its growth and ensure its music to everyone’s ears.