2018 Predictions: Online Audio in the New Year

Never a dull moment, or a dull year, in the online audio field. Last week we posted a timeline of 2017’s most important stories on RAIN News. It’s a roadmap of the most important events in online audio.

Here, we present RAIN’s annual Predictions feature, provided by industry leaders around the world. 2018 will carry forward the audio industry’s reputation for quick, disruptive change.

“2018 will be an incredible year for audio.” –Sharon Taylor, Omny Studio

RAIN News is pleased to present predictions from the following thought leaders and guest futurists:

  • Alan Cross CEO, Major League Mixes
  • Alexis Van de Wyer CEO, AdsWizz
  • Brendan Regan Vice President, Business Development, audioBoom
  • Chris Peterson Senior Vice President, Podcasting iHeartRadio
  • Christian Schalt Owner, NEXT LEVEL AUDIO
  • Corey Layton Content and Marketing Director, Whooshkaa
  • Francesco Baschieri Founder & CEO, Spreaker
  • Fred Jacobs Owner, Jacobs Media
  • Jay Green SVP Digital Strategy and Analytics, Cadence13
  • Jed Williams Chief Innovation Officer, Local Media Association
  • Jeremy Sinon VP Digital Strategy, Hubbard Radio
  • Jim Griffin Owner, Hazen LLCKorri Kolesa Head of Sales, Midroll Media
  • Lex Friedman Chief Revenue Officer, Midroll Media
  • Matt Saraceni Innovation Community Manager, Telstra Labs
  • Mirko Lagonegro Founder & CEO, DIGITALMDE
  • Neal Schore CEO, Triton Digital
  • Paul Goldstein President – PG Audience Development
  • Rob Walch VP of Podcaster Relations, Libsyn
  • Roger Lanctot Director, Automotive Connected Mobility, Global Automotive Practice, Strategy Analytics
  • Sam Crowther Head of Creative, A Million Ads
  • Seth Resler Digital Strategist, Jacobs Media
  • Sharon Taylor CEO, Omny Studio
  • Steve Goldstein CEO, Amplifi Media
  • Thomas McAlevey CEO, Radical.FM
  • Valerie Geller Geller Media International


“2018 is the year we become less about prediction and more about creating reality.” —Jay Green, Cadence13

“There will be a continuation of podcasts making the jump to TV and movie deals. Podcasting offers a cheap experimentation for traditional media outlets which can test if an idea can build a core audience before investing more money in ideas. We’ll also see more and more fictional podcasts dominating the space.” –Brendan Regan, audioBoom

“In 2018, Digital audio and podcasting will evolve into a primary and stable portion of the digital media buyer’s plan as DSPs expand further into managing audio campaigns.” –Neal Schore, Triton Digital

“We’ll continue to see a rapid increase in podcast listenership industrywide in 2018. Major media companies recognize podcasting’s growth and will continue to devote their owned resources to drive their audiences cross-platform to consume podcast content.” –Chris Peterson, iHeartRadio

“Expect to see Spotify and Google take a bite out of the Apple.” –Corey Layton, Whooshkaa

“Podcast advertising marketplaces – powered by dynamic ad insertion – start entering the market. Possibly even with self-service models.” –Francesco Baschieri, Spreaker

“Podcasting has become a part of the conversation. Brand advertisers will take the conversation with their agencies from, ‘What do you know about podcasting?’ to ‘Here is what we need to do.’ […] The industry continues to talk about the increased insight we will see from Apple. The listen through rates will prove to be a catalyst for advertisers as podcasting is compared to display and video. However, it’s a less talked-about move that I think will spark even more growth. Apple’s acquisition of Pop Up Archive shows its commitment to broadening podcast discovery, something that has been an issue with listeners, networks and advertisers.” –Jay Green, Cadence13

“Podcast monetization will become more sophisticated. Sponsorships will remain a major format for podcasts. However, as brands demand better targeting capabilities and expand into performance-based advertising, most major publishers will increasingly combine sponsorships with dynamically-inserted ads. These dynamically-inserted ads will often be host-read but will allow for user and location-based targeting while also allowing attribution measurement. 2018 will see a demand for more sophisticated technology in the podcast space, with technologies that include volume normalization, and flexible ad insertion for both streaming and downloaded podcasts becoming the standard entry fee for ad tech companies to play in the podcast advertising space. Dynamic ad insertion will also allow publishers to better monetize their back catalogs while making them evergreen.” –Alexis Van de Wyer, AdsWizz

“The steady onslaught of branded podcasts will only increase in 2018.” –Lex Friedman, Midroll Media

“Data and technology will flip the industry on its head. Improved analytics will increase advertiser trust as formats are trialed, tightened and torched. Voice-to-text transcription will become the norm (hat tip to Apple/Pop Up Archive), with searches surfacing content based on user interests and moods. In the reverse, text-to-voice synthesised content will seamlessly splice with an increase in human created short form content, as voice activated devices take hold.” –Corey Layton, Whooshkaa

“2018 is the year of the podcast, hopefully the year it finds a new name and identity, the iPod that spawned it now relegated to eBay with the Diamond Rio. Podcasting is a label that trivializes what’s really happening: An explosion of episodic audio and video programming originating from the network’s edge. It’s a name that literally kept Apple’s competitors away until now that it’s finally become irrelevant. What will be its new brand?” –Jim Griffin, Hazen LLC

“Podcast music licensing is a decade-plus market failure. It’s past time that major music found its way to podcasting, so I’m predicting it in 2018 in hopes that what should’ve happened in 2008 happens in the next few years.” –Jim Griffin, Hazen LLC

“My prediction for 2018 is that brand dollars will increase significantly. Brands are already in the podcast space, but often with smaller test buys. As major brands see early success in the space, they’re renewing in a big way, and their competitors and similar companies are further motivated to dive into podcast advertising as well. Every case study (and direct response success) helps brands feel confident that podcast ads are getting paid attention to, and driving results. Couple that with better listener data from Apple and other players in the space, along with bigger and better shows, and brands will be eager to share their message where attentive customers are.” –Korri Kolesa, Midroll Media

“In 2018, digital audio and podcasting will become increasingly embraced by broadcasters, agencies, and advertisers worldwide as an effective medium for reaching target audiences. The widespread adoption of smart speakers will continue to play a significant role in the utilization of digital audio as a meaningful and powerful marketing vehicle. In addition, the ability to programmatically monetize all forms of premium digital audio inventory through open marketplaces and private exchanges (including music, talk, sports and podcasts) to deliver relevant and actionable messages in a highly targeted manner will also contribute profoundly to the growth of the industry.” –Neal Schore, Triton Digital

“2018 for Podcasting will be the year where Amazon Alexa and Spotify both move into the top 5 places for podcast consumption. While neither will be close to Apples Podcasts App / iTunes, Spotify will become the number one place for Android users to consume podcasts (number 2 overall) and Amazon Alexa will be a top 5 place overall for consumption helping push broader adoption of podcasting to those less technical.” –Rob Walch, Libsyn

“Google will finally make a serious move into podcasting.” –Sharon Taylor, Omny Studio

“We are in the era of on-demand audio. The trend will follow TV (OTT/on-demand is, after all, what the Disney/Fox deal is all about) content available at a time of convenience to the user. The growth in podcasting is being accelerated by the remarkable rise of smart speakers. Much of the audio selected on smart speakers follows that same on-demand arc. Indeed it is a golden age for audio, but much of it no longer comes via transmitter.” —Steve Goldstein, Amplifi Media


“With the proliferation of voice command devices, which are taking over the home and will soon also dominate the car, Voice Search Optimization will emerge as an important field. Unlike traditional SEO, Voice Search Optimization will be a much more significant factor in the success of players in the audio entertainment industry, including radio stations, podcasters, and pureplay services. Radio should not ignore search optimization this time round.” –Seth Resler, Jacobs Media

“After 3 years of industry standardisation, tech innovations and B2B partnerships I think the pendulum will swing back to the consumer in 2018. New interfaces (i.e. voice assistants), advances in AI/Big Data and Machine Learning plus the continued growth of awareness in podcasts means we’re poised for a terrific new audio on demand user experience to cut through — one that people reading this probably have imagined for the last few years. ” –Matt Saraceni, Telstra

“Radio will continue to evolve in the smart speaker space. Just being available on the devices will not be enough. What were very basic station skills that just start a stream or podcast will start to grow in functionality. Look for ways to interact with the stations, contesting, games, and more.” –Jeremy Sinon, Hubbard Radio

“Voice-activated internet will continue to take the world by storm and be the fastest growing audience driver for many publishers. The rise of the “ambient internet” ecosystems will also provide brands and publishers with exciting challenges and opportunities to make audio advertising fully interactive. It will be the opportunity for forward-looking audio players to be in the driver seat as the digital world wakes up to the fact that a material portion of our online activities become voice- and hence audio-driven.” –Alexis Van de Wyer, AdsWizz

“Amazon will consolidate its leading position and we’ll see some creative use of interactive audio in podcasting.” — Francesco Baschieri

“Companies that don’t typically play in the audio space will reap the most rewards from connected home devices.” –Sharon Taylor, Omny Studio


“2018 will see an acceleration of technology disrupting creativity.” –Sam Crowther, A Million Ads

“Major brands will connect with their audiences in new and unique ways. Brands are increasingly attracted by online audio’s reach, its ability to be very personal and the absence of fraud and “viewability” issues. Though budgets had been slow to materialize as audio had historically lacked capabilities offered by other digital formats, the recent rise of interactive audio advertising, multi-screen campaigns and stronger attribution measurement will provide new ways for brands to connect with their target audiences and will allow video/mobile budgets to continue to make their way to online audio.” –Alexis Van de Wyer, AdsWizz

“Emerging audio platforms – and the various components and constituents of the ecosystems feeding them – will place a greater focus on discovery and adoption. It’s true, for both podcasting and smart speakers, the barriers to content creation – and thus marketplace entry – are lower than ever. Media entities of all shapes and sizes (not just radio) are beginning to figure this out and become more thoughtful about their content production. In time, the business models for both platforms will catch up, with better dynamic ad insertion, more scalable programmatic buying, and stronger analytics and attribution.” –Jed Williams, Local Media Association

“In Europe we’ll see an overall consolidation in all areas composing Digital Audio.” –Mirko Lagonegro, DIGITALMDE

“In the boardrooms of record companies, FM radio’s audience hasn’t just lost some of its promotional appeal, it’s becoming an impediment to label revenue growth. The collapse of music sales (CDs, MP3s) and rise of streaming revenue means a non-monetized FM radio listener is less valuable to labels than the conversion of that FM listener to a revenue-generating Spotify or Apple Music user. In 2018, Apple Music and Spotify, with their label partners, substantial marketing budgets and treasure trove of data on FM listeners, will seek out and target those broadcast listeners. Millions of non-monetized FM radio listeners – the late-majority who’ve yet to migrate to online radio services – will be converted to revenue-generating assets for Apple, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon, Pandora and their label partners.” –Paul Goldstein, PG Audience Development

“In 2018, CPM’s will continue to rise for streaming audio due to the increased use of data for the placement and targeting of campaigns.” –Neal Schore, Triton Digital

“Pandora will begin international expansion in 2018 despite Sirius’ apparent lack of interest. Undervalued Pandora stock will double with the news, and they’ll clear a $3B market cap by year’s end. An overvalued Spotify will complete its direct listing this year at about $25B, but following a brief flurry of activity reminiscent of Snapchat, Spotify’s market cap will drop to a more defensible $15B by year’s end.” –Thomas McAlevey, Radical.FM

“Somewhere, some radio programmer will be brave/desperate enough to break from the standard cookie-cutter formats and try something aimed squarely at millennials. His/her approach will incorporate a wide variety of genres, use streaming data as research, run shorter ads and stopsets, and hire talent that can tell stories that mean something to the audience. It will be the first new approach the 12-34 demo that the industry will have seen in years. The question is, who will be the first to try it? And what will this kind of radio sound like?” –Alan Cross, Major League Mixes

“Radio will become more like pure streamers and pure streamers become more like radio.” –Christian Schalt, NEXT LEVEL AUDIO

“The Internet of Things is taking flight. While not everyone understands the full extent to which the connection of “smart” gadgets will reach, their impact on the radio business is coming … soon. Last month, GM announced the debut of Marketplace, an app that connects drivers to participating restaurants, service station brands, and others – bypassing the dashboard advertising experience. This is just beginning.” –Fred Jacobs, Jacobs Media

“Car makers will create their own radio-based experiences – reformatting content consumption away from the straightjacket of the radio dial and toward a customized and customizable experience integrating radio, satellite radio, streaming content, podcasts, audio TV content, and ad hoc Twitter/WeChat feeds – all manageable via voice interface. Car makers will integrate their OWN ownership stations with brand and vehicle-specific content – as well as prime exclusive audio content from sponsored artists and concerts. This new experience has already been hinted at by rumors of Tesla talks with labels and is manifest in GM’s integration of podcasts in its Marketplace interface. By the end of the year – multiple OEM brands will agree on a data sharing proposition aggregating in-vehicle listening for projectable audience measurement statistics to close the current gap in Nielsen radio listening data. The power of radio advertising will be validated and certified anew with this new means of assessing attribution – i.e. advertising impact – from spot to customer response.” –Roger Lanctot, Strategy Analytics

“Many Broadcasters will start producing original Audio contents exclusively for on demand consumption, exploiting in a new way their talents or collaborating with thirty parties able to create engaging Audio contents, consequently generating new sales and marketing opportunities.” –Mirko Lagonegro, DIGITALMDE

“Broadcasters will increasingly focus on creating original audio content, adding to their on-demand offering – above and beyond existing catch-up radio offerings. Audio creators begin to realise that money is being left on the table then race to create a mass of short-form, bite-sited, ‘snackable’ content.” –Sharon Taylor, Omny Studio

“The programmatic advertising marketplace will continue to grow and deliver many of the dynamic ‘creative firsts’ now possible, ensuring efficiencies in media planning and purchasing in support of personalised creative at scale.” –Sam Crowther, A Million Ads

“It’s good to see previous predictions “have held,” but continue to expand as more and more, a larger percentage of the listening audience gravitates towards on-demand listening across all platforms. But what will never change? Serving the needs of the audience. Powerful personalities, sharing authentic human experiences, powerful storytelling (and great stories), information, inspiration, and of course humor have always and will always work, in past, present, and future.” –Valerie Geller, Geller Media International



Brad Hill