For our latest season of the Media Voices Podcast, kindly sponsored by Poool, we’ll be publishing ten episodes exploring the biggest trends of 2022 and how they affect publishers; from subscriptions and membership to advertising, platforms, emerging technology and more. Our sixth episode looks at the world of podcasting, from how publishers are refocusing strategies on engaging superfans to the growing popularity of video podcasts.
Many publishers were enticed into podcasting by the promise of high listener numbers and the opportunity to grow their audience outside of the usual channels. While the latter proved true, the year has proved to be something of a reality check for those seeking millions of avid listeners and subsequent ad revenue riches.
That’s no bad thing. What it has led to is a realisation that podcasts are best used to serve the superfans. Monetisation and growth strategies have evolved to match these new aims, whether that be high-value sponsorship packages for small B2B podcasts, publisher podcast IP sold to TV studios, or shows used as a member-only benefit.
Another surprising trend this year has been the rise in popularity of podcast consumption via YouTube. From simple audio exports with just a logo on to full studio filming of podcasts being recorded, the platform is used by 58% of people in the US to consume podcasts. This has put pressure on publishers to look at video options for their shows, which can be a complex and potentially costly endeavour.
Although the podcast format is an old one, there is still room for change and improvement, most notably in discovery. Despite the best efforts of the big platforms like Spotify and Apple, and smaller apps like GoodPods, it is still difficult for listeners to connect with shows that they might potentially enjoy. This is an area still ripe for innovation over the next few years.
To discuss 2022’s biggest podcast trends we’re joined this week by Naomi Mellor, producer and host of multiple podcasts including Smashing The Ceiling, and founder of The Skylark Collective and the International Women’s Podcast Awards.
Here are some highlights:
The professionalisation of podcasting
Naomi: There’s two things that I’ve really noticed this year. One of them is around audience tolerance with regard to podcasting quality, because I think a lot of podcasts launched in the pandemic, and there was this huge exponential growth where we were all living in a strange lockdown environment and our tolerance for really quite chunky audio in lots of cases suddenly went through the roof because everyone had just bought a microphone, was recording at home… there were a lot of guests who had little to no technical experience. Everybody just put up with that at that stage because we couldn’t do any better in some respects.
I think there’s been a huge rise in the quality and availability of online recording platforms. But I do think that when you start to look at the top end of the market, there has been a return to in-person and that high quality recording that is really creating the best listener experience. And I think people are expecting more from their podcasts than perhaps they were definitely two years ago, and maybe even a year ago.
There’s huge growth to come. I think the last count was there was something like 2 million podcasts, but there are 800 million YouTube channels and 2 billion blogs. So when you look at it like that, we’ve got a long way to go in terms of parity of numbers with other media channels.
What people are producing, and the nature of what people are producing is, is really changing again. Particularly with publishing, those deep dive investigative, complex, narrative long forms are really proving very popular. They are not cheap or easy to make. And I think that is where the separation between the hobby podcaster in their bedroom, who is interviewing people remotely separates from the larger teams who have got a lot of resource behind them and are really doing a different type of work. And I think that the gulf between those is probably going to gradually increase over a period of time.
Room for innovation in sharing and discovery
Chris: In a lot of ways, the podcast arrived on the scene fully formed. We haven’t seen the form itself evolve a lot since the ‘three people round a table’ form that it arrived with originally. There’s nothing wrong with it – it was a mature medium in terms of its editorial form when it arrived.
But what is really interesting is that sharing podcasting has been done, as you would share, say, articles, whereas YouTube has got out ahead of the curve a little bit, and you can clip sections, you can do that on Twitch as well. And it feels like potentially, there is a need for some podcasting platforms to rethink how they allow users to share the podcast – rather than in its entirety or just a link to the show, actually a more considered way for people to discover it through recommendations.
Watching podcasts on YouTube
Naomi: If we’re talking about engaging new audiences, I often try to talk to younger people about how they listen to podcasts if they listen to podcasts at all, and I’m still amazed by how many of them don’t. But for example, I asked my hairdresser last month if she listened to podcast, she’s 21. And she said, “Oh, I only listened to one,” and then she said “Oh well I don’t really listen. I watch on YouTube because I always have to have something to watch.” And the podcast she named was Amazing Grace, who is a Tik Tok star and has had a breakout podcast.
Do we call it a podcast? Because really, it’s essentially a chat show on YouTube. Where is the line? What divides a podcast these days?
Chris: That was big conversation about, it’s no longer RSS, and therefore not a podcast. All the podcast purists were very up in arms about this!
Esther: This the same conversation we’ve had over the last decade about, you can have the same piece of content and it’s about repurposing it and putting it where the audience wants to consume it. So if somebody wants to listen to podcasts while they’re walking their dog, they can, if somebody wants to sit there and weirdly, watch it on YouTube, they can. And it’s the same content.
Realism for podcasting
Peter: This could be the year that podcasting gets a sense of realism, that reality actually has started to bite. I’m sick of talking about Joe Rogan – those listener numbers are irrelevant. I did have a Publishing Show panel with Chris Phin and Anoosh Chakelian in March and Chris talked about DC Thomson’s biggest podcast earner. It’s a niche,B2B podcast, that’s delivering them six figures in revenue. And it’s got hundreds of listeners, not 1,000s, or millions, it’s got hundreds of listeners. Because being in the right people in the right room, that’s exactly what they sell that on.
He talked about this idea of creative monetisation. So whether it’s for branded content or sponsored episodes or sponsored series, you’re actually working with the sponsors, and you’re delivering something that is very clearly giving them value. So if you look at that, from an advertising point of view, you’re giving people something that they really, really want, even though it’s a small audience.
This topic will be one of the chapters we explore in detail as part of our Media Moments 2022 report, launching on November 30th. Find out more and pre-register here to receive the report.
This season of Media Voices is sponsored by Poool, the Membership and Subscription Suite used by over 120 publishers from around the world. The team behind Poool are industry experts who have put everything they know into the product, ready to respond to your ‘how’ of launching & developing a reader revenue strategy.