2017 Predictions: Online Audio in the New Year


Happy New Year!

Never a dull moment, or a dull year, in the online audio field. Last week we posted the 74 RAIN News stories which provided a milestone map of 2016’s most important events.

2017 will carry forward the audio industry’s reputation for quick, disruptive change. RAIN News is pleased to present predictions from 30 thought-leading guest futurists:

  • Brian Benedik (VP / Global Head of Sales, Spotify)
  • Neal Schore (President & CEO, Triton Digital)
  • David Porter (Founder & CEO, 8tracks)
  • Steve Goldstein (Founder & CEO, Amplifi Media)
  • Bryan Moffett (COO, National Public Media)
  • Ruth Fitzsimons (SVP International Operations and Content Partnerships)
  • Mark Ramsey (President, Mark Ramsey Media)
  • Roger Lanctot (Associate Director, Global Automotive Practice, Strategy Analytics)
  • Norm Pattiz (Executive Chairman, PodcastOne)
  • Kerri Hoffman (CEO, PRX)
  • Jeremy Sinon (Director of Digital Strategy, Hubbard Radio)
  • Jon Maples (Product and Strategy Consultant, 8tracks)
  • Alan Cross (Consultant & Editor “A Journal of Musical Things”)
  • Sean Ross (VP, Programming & Music, Edison Research / Author of Ross on Radio Newsletter)
  • Mike Dougherty (CEO and Founder, Jelli)
  • Brendan Regan (Vice President, Content & Partnerships, audioBoom)
  • Rob Greenlee (Head of Content, Spreaker)
  • Fred Jacobs (Owner, Jacobs Media)
  • Ruth Presslaff (President, Presslaff Interactive Revenue)
  • Cathy Csukas and Gary Schonfeld (Co-CEOs and Co-Founders, AdLarge Media)
  • Valerie Geller (Broadcast consultant & author)
  • Corey Layton (Content & Marketing Director, Whooshkaa)
  • Jim Griffin (Owner, Hazen & Founder, Sweethold)
  • Pat Higbie (CEO, XAPPmedia)
  • Thomas McAlevey (CEO Radical.FM)
  • David Kert (COO, TargetSpot)
  • Matt Saraceni (Head of Content, Omny Studio)
  • Rob Walch (VP of Podcaster Relations, Libsyn)
  • Ari Shohat (Founder & CEO, Digitally Imported)
  • Elisa Escobedo (CEO, Audioemotion)
  • Gordon Borrell (CEO, Borrell Associates)

Participants were given an open field for their speculations, with “online audio” being the only topic guideline. The categories below were created by the submissions, not the other way around.

Shape of the Industry

“As devices and pipelines for audio distribution increase, its important for audio creators to agnostically place their content everywhere.” –Steve Goldstein

2017-05-no-noise-300x300“2017 will continue to see the splintering of audiences among the multitude of audio choices: Commercial free, free-free and custom-tailored to individual tastes. But the news that will trump it all will be the changes at the FCC, specifically the threat to net-neutrality. Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.” –Ruth Presslaff

“More consolidation is coming in 2017 as the larger global audio platforms get bigger via subscription and free services. Similar to search, social, and video , we will see one dominant global streaming audio player in a leadership position over the coming years. The service(s) which can nail collection, discovery, and curation of audio content through human- and algorithm-based recommendations will win in 2017 and beyond.” –Brian Benedik

“To no one’s surprise Spotify will IPO with a valuation a bit shy of $10B. Apple will release another major UI upgrade. Growth will be strong, but they will still be far from Spotify at year’s end, despite buying Tidal for $500M to $1B. Deezer, Napster, Google Play, iHeart et al. will fail to make dramatic inroads on the ‘Big Three’ (Pandora, Spotify, and Apple). Amazon will continue to play its own game in its own sandbox and do just fine there. Pandora’s rollout into several new markets will be the biggest news, as it will finally begin competing with Spotify and Apple internationally.” –Thomas McAlevey

“Bottom line: Americans are consuming more audio than ever before, and the opportunities in front of all of us in the digital audio space in 2017 are practically innumerable.” –Cathy Csukas and Gary Schonfeld

“We will no longer question if streaming services are of value, but rather, we will start to work with them all to make sure all are successful and accountable for delivering the goods. There will be no more exclusives, as we finally realize that exclusive content is bad for the listener, and, in the end, bad for the artists, the publishers, the labels and the services. We will never hear the words ‘value gap’ ever again, and the labels will negotiate with YouTube for a better deal instead of spending millions of dollars lobbying congress in a ill fated attempt to squelch the internet. –Jon Maples

“Apple provides more data back to content makers, Spotify breaks through its first “Spotify signed” artist, Pandora brings a good music/content mix experience to mobile, Amazon continues to lead the charge into connected home with audio hardware and creating short-form audio pieces for inside it, Stitcher/Scripps build a paywall/hosting solution, tech-forward hosting providers consolidate as the land grab for quality content producers slows down, Tidal/8-tracks/Soundcloud/Deezer/Twitter search for a business model that makes sense, consumer experiences get better but no-one wants to download a new app, CPMs for programmatic are still really low, radio still listened to, TV still watched.” –Matt Saraceni

“The winners in media moving forward will be those who embrace open standards, strategic partnerships and flexible business models.” –Kerri Hoffman

“Streaming continues to destroy the motive for piracy, reducing and obviating the desire to have and hold files at all. Spotify is both multiplying its revenues/royalties and drawing competition that pays, too.” –Jim Griffin

“We will see further attempts by mainstream services to differentiate themselves from each other by way of curation features. And not only for the sake of differentiation but also for the sake of locking their users into their ecosystem for a longer period of time. Have fun calling them as they are released, if you can guess which will have real traction and which will simply be gimmicks for the sake of nice press releases.” –Ari Shohat

“Sirius buys Pandora. Tessera buys Spotify.” –Roger Lanctot

“Both Spotify and Pandora will be acquired in 2017, consolidating streaming music’s role as a loss leader for other businesses with higher margins.” –David Porter

“Media is facing an expansion of specifically targeted or ‘personalized’ listening and viewing, with a focus on the specific interests of each individual. While it’s exciting to have the technology now to surgically target specific content for each listener and viewer, it limits a broader view of the world. Powerful storytelling works, humor works, personality works, and that won’t change in 2017. No matter the technology or delivery system, what always works: Tell the truth, make it matter, and never be boring.” –Valerie Geller

“More consolidation in the streaming sector. Jay Z: Dude, get out while you can.” –Alan Cross


“Ad revenue could double.” –Norm Pattiz

2017-05-no-noise-300x300“A rise in podcasting by U.S. broadcasters by providing access to programming wherever and whenever consumers want it, resulting in broadcasters generating incremental revenue while growing audience.” –Neal Schore

“Geo-aware dynamic ad insertion will increase to integrate timely, targeted, host-read, advertising into evergreen formats. 2017 will also see the technology flipped, with dynamic content insertion placing fresh content alongside lasting stories.” –Corey Layton

“The explosion of spoken-word content will accelerate, from new podcasts to new content efforts aimed at devices like Alexa and Google Home. I suspect there will be a good bit of pruning done in 2017 by publishers and producers as audiences splinter between so many offerings.” –Bryan Moffett

“Smart voice agents will have a larger impact on podcasting in 2017 as these devices and services get integrated into all sorts of devices, including car in-dash, kitchen appliances, and living room and bathroom devices with internet connections. The biggest impact will come from the Amazon Echo with Alexa skills that enable server-side voice services to include search and play of audio podcasts by voice request.” –Rob Greenlee

“2017 will be the year the algorithms fall far short of their hype.” –Rob Walch

“2017 will see rapid growth for ad-supported podcasters. That will require more infrastructure from distributors and producers, which could cause consolidation, as bigger remains better for advertisers and agencies.” –Norm Pattiz

“There’s going to be another podcasting hit that goes mainstream. It’s been over 2 years since Serial brought podcasting back into the public light and we’re due to have another blockbuster show that grabs national attention.” –Brendan Regan

“More true crime podcasts will be made … there will always more true crime podcasts. –Ruth Fitzsimons

“2017 will see continued growth in audio consumption, particularly in podcasting, and with it, a heightened sense of urgency and spending on the part of advertisers. Ad technology will, and must, play an increasingly important role in the buying of digital audio, with ad serving and accountable measurement as top priorities to bring new advertisers into the space. Following the success of branded podcasts like GE’s The Message, brands will delve deeper into their own original direct-to-consumer content, looking for more creative ways to engage their customers. Companies will find more ways to distribute compelling content to the multitude of platforms — we’re already seeing that with developments like Facebook’s new live audio service. And thought-leading traditional radio outlets will continue their transformation to the on-demand audio platform by embracing what they know and do best — delivering compelling content to their listeners, as well as adopt new services and technologies to align themselves with their loyal audiences’ changing listening habits. –Cathy Csukas and Gary Schonfeld

“Podcasts will continue to bridge the connectivity gap, cached and digitally distributed for use outside live streaming environments (commuting, air/bus travel, etc.) as we witness a battle between the cloud and plunging prices for ever tinier and more capacious data drives.” –Jim Griffin

“Outside of US, most especially in UK and Australia, 2017 looks very bright for podcast advertising. As brands struggle to reach audiences who prefer closed networks (WhatsApp / Snapchat / Netflix), the mass niche appeal of podcasting and its inherent loyal engaged listeners will interest brands eager to find new influencers and reach those distinct audiences through storytelling.” –Ruth Fitzsimons

“In 2017, television networks will play a vital role in helping their viewers get wise to podcasts.” –Corey Layton

“Facebook’s Live Audio has the potential to open things up for podcasts. While finding and listening to podcasts is getting easier, there is still friction in the process. Having it readily available in targeted news feeds could be a big win. Watch this one closely.” –Steve Goldstein

“Live Audio has the potential to dramatically improve consumer access to on-demand content. Part of the reason why podcast usage is still relatively low is that the technological hoops discourage consumption. But Facebook is a familiar platform where the audio would become a ‘speed bump’ in the newsfeed just as video is today. On-demand will become less about ‘seek and find’ and more about ‘accidental collisions.’ And those happy accidents will increase listener exposure to and interaction with on-demand audio.” –Mark Ramsey

“We have all read about the exploding podcast channel however we are seeing very limited marketer investment chasing this audience. In 2017, we begin to see some order take shape for marketers to dive in. Podcast content will be easier to find and listen from the cloud (vs. download), third-party measurement will allow for marketers to properly evaluate, and innovative dynamic ad insertion will allow for brands to participate in real time.” –Brian Benedik

“The significant market improvements around this medium have mostly happened already. What we will see is incremental improvements in these core areas next year.” –Rob Greenlee

Technology & Data

“Today’s secondary platforms will absolutely be tomorrow’s primary ones. In some sense they already are. Technology and the way consumers adapt to technology are a progression in one direction only.” –Mark Ramsey

2017-05-no-noise-300x300“AI is going to be big. Amazon has already sold five-million Echo/Alexa devices. Google Home is off to a strong start, and Apple is rumored to be rolling a similar device. For audio creators, this means the world is flat. It is as easy to call on a podcast as a Spotify stream and have the audio effortlessly appear. AI will migrate to the car, so people won’t have to physically interact with their mobile device, they can simply ask for ‘the latest Art of Charm podcast.’ That will remove a ton of friction in accessing podcasts and streams.” –Steve Goldstein

“We’re at the dawn of the voice era in technology, and just as in the web and mobile eras, there will be big winners and big losers. Voice will bring about profound improvements in consumer convenience and content discovery. The audio publishers which deliver those improvements on Amazon Echo and Google Home will be the winners. Forward-thinking radio stations and podcasters will seize this opportunity to bring radio back into the home with great voice experiences for their audiences that enable listeners to discover new content and engage with local talent.” –Pat Higbie

“Smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home will create more listening opportunities by reducing the friction between us and the content we want to hear, and being present in more places.” –Bryan Moffett

“I’m thinking that when we take down those Christmas trees and Hanukkah bushes for the season, there will be millions more Amazon Echo and Google Home devices sitting on coffee tables, kitchen islands, and office desks. Voice command technology is still in its infancy, but everyone’s research shows it’s on a fast-moving trajectory. For the radio industry, this could turn out to be a great thing. Radios have been systematically disappearing from the home front for years now.” –Fred Jacobs

“The collection of first person registration data is essential to compete in 2017.” –Brian Benedik

“DATA targeting will add relevance to online radio revenues, which will significantly grow.” –Elisa Escobedo

“2017 needs to be the year where radio converts listeners into registered users. The data surrounding our listeners’ identities, demographics, and listening behaviors is too important to ignore any longer. Radio companies will seek out solutions for collecting this info. Aggregators and vendors that can’t contribute towards these efforts will become less desirable.” –Jeremy Sinon

“To keep pace with the rising bar set by digital execution, major agencies on behalf of their clients will mandate the use of ad servers for their broadcast campaigns wherever possible to deliver real-time reporting and creative control to match digital capabilities.” –Mike Dougherty

“With Google and Facebook taking 5o% of every digital marketing dollar, it’s essential to provide the ad community with viable options complete with high level data and insights of scaled audiences.” –Brian Benedik

“Finally, in 2017 broadcast radio and Big Data will further prove their ability to work together for advertisers’ benefit.” –Mike Dougherty



“Amazon will introduce Amazon Auto solution with streaming, navigation and in-vehicle e-commerce.” –Roger Lanctot

In 2017, the number of cars reached with programmatic broadcast radio advertising will exceed the number of cars reached via all streaming audio apps combined. Alphabet matches Apple’s offer kicking off automotive cloud wars” –Mike Dougherty

“2017 will be the year of the dashboard. As it becomes obvious that consumers are wanting and demanding Apple Car Play and/or Android Auto in their automobiles, the radio industry will need to put on a full court press to make sure they are on those platforms.” –Jeremy Sinon

“Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto become key selling factors for anyone aged 18-40 buying a car. You see the Connected Car being pushed in TV ads. People want to bring their entertainment with them via smartphones. CarPlay is already in two hundred car models. For commercial radio, a cautionary tale; in many cars the AM/FM buttons are not easily found which means their wide moat is being challenged.” –Steve Goldstein

“Apple will create a smartphone-based telematics platform, become a virtual network operator, and offer free navigation and streaming in exchange for vehicle sensor data.” Roger Lanctot


“In-car dash consumption of podcasts will continue to replace radio listening in the car.” –Rob Greenlee


“Hopefully 2017 is the year where radio companies give up caring exactly HOW they are consumed and put more focus on being consumed at all.” –Jeremy Sinon

2017-05-no-noise-300x300“Devices like the Echo and Home can reconnect consumers with their favorite radio stations while they’re in their homes, condos, apartments, or dorms. These ‘digital butlers’ pull up streaming radio from sources like TuneIn and iHeartRadio – and that’s just for now. It’s essential that radio broadcasters gain an understanding of this technology, as well as the power and convenience of these devices.” –Fred Jacobs

“The divide between the radio industry’s ‘gets it’ and ‘doesn’t get it’ companies will become more obvious. The ‘doesn’t get it’ companies are the ones getting 95% or more of their revenues from spot radio. We’ll see who they are in 2017 because political advertising will have vanished, and because a good chunk of their local advertisers will be holding hands with another media company in the market which has trained their reps really well to talk about things like Facebook, SEO, creative promotions, event marketing, etc.. –Gordon Borrell

“Broadcasters outside of the U.S. continue to move rapidly to in-stream ad insertion, similar to U.S. broadcasters, creating the ‘business within a business’.” Neal Schore

“Broadcasters should claim playlisting; they invented it.” –Sean Ross

“2017 will be an important year for radio to make sure that it is everywhere. Gone are the days of making sure you have a live stream on your web site and calling it done. In 2017, broadcasters will need to put forth even more effort towards mobile apps, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple TV, smartwatches and the like. Anywhere there is a connected speaker, radio needs to be there.” –Jeremy Sinon

“NPR has an over-the-air audience of 54 years-old. Their rapidly growing podcast audience is 20 years younger. They are brilliantly introducing their content to a new generation of listeners on other platforms, something that should be attractive to commercial radio.” –Steve Goldstein

“Those broadcast stations not affiliated with iHeartRadio should look at how they are going to offer one-stop shopping to their listeners. As other portals expand into radio and playlisting, radio should be in the on-demand music business. And radio should finally solve its streaming issues once and for all. It would be unkind to predict that I’ll still be able to write about the frustrations of station streaming in a year, but probably not inaccurate.” –Sean Ross

“There will be a rise in streaming audiences of U.S. broadcasters, given the increased focus on improved user experiences through sophisticated technology and applications.” Neal Schore

“Radio companies that have remained stubbornly stuck on being a ‘radio station’ rather than a marketing company with a fuller slate of offerings will suddenly find themselves less relevant to a changed marketplace.” –Gordon Borrell


2017-05-no-noise-300x300“Continued CPM growth for streaming audio due to the increased use of data and targeting, plus an overall increase in demand.” –Neal Schore

“‘Promoted Tracks’ as a form of advertising will start getting more attention as an important future component for any music-focused Internet radio company’s advertising strategy.” –Ari Shohat

“Every top-10 U.S. broadcast radio and streaming audio company will be selling audio ads programmatically by end of 2017.” –Mike Dougherty

“In 2017 we’ll see a focus on the digital audio ad product offering. There is no other medium that reaches people throughout their day and across as many touch points and activities. Brands will connect to listeners with interactive ad units, engaging branded content and enhanced data, with analytics and attribution to prove value.” –David Kert

“Online audio will become a staple of the digital media buyer’s plan as DSPs evolve and adapt to manage audio campaigns.” –Neal Schore

“The first programmatic radio ‘upfront’ will be completed by a major agency in 2017. In 2017 a major media buying agency will commit to move 100% of its radio buying volume to programmatic by 2018. Spending with programmatic radio will leapfrog Programmatic TV in terms of total spend, as programmatic radio offers better value to advertisers and the economics for the buyers and sellers proves to be substantial.” –Mike Dougherty

“Programmatic will grow faster than expected.” –Elisa Escobedo

Legal & Copyright

“My predictions last year were uncharacteristically accurate: We did make market progress towards accountability and transparency, setting us up for more of the same next year, and so on, until we get it right. SoundExchange led the pack with a growing public database of ISRC codes, an effort that should be met with a cross-reference between ISRC (sound recording) and ISWC (song) codes. Public access to a globally unique identifier for sound recordings and songs is an important first step toward wringing ambiguity from reporting the use of music.” –Jim Griffin


Brad Hill

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