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2019 Industry Predictions: Online Audio in the New Year

Never a dull moment, a dull year, or a dull future in the online audio field! Last week we posted a timeline of 2018’s most important stories in two vital categories: Research, and Acquisitions. (Also, check out RAIN News editorial predictions HERE.)

Here, we present RAIN’s 6th annual Predictions feature, provided by industry leaders around the world. 2019 will carry forward the audio industry’s reputation for ongoing, disruptive change.

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

  • Alan Cross – Podcaster & President, Brain Dead Dog Productions
  • Alexis van de Wyer – CEO, AdsWizz
  • Andy Bowers – Chief Innovation Officer, Panoply Media
  • Bryan Moffett – COO, National Public Media
  • Christian Schalt -Chief Digital Content Officer, RTL Radio Deutschland
  • Corey Layton – Content and Marketing Director, Whooshkaa
  • Fred Jacobs – Owner, Jacobs Media
  • Hernan Lopez – Founder & CEO, Wondery
  • James Cridland – Editor, Podnews
  • Jay Green – SVP Digital Strategy and Analytics, Cadence13
  • Jed Williams – Chief Innovation Officer, Local Media Association
  • Jim Griffin – Owner, Hazen LLC
  • Jon Stephenson – CEO, Live365, Empire Streaming
  • Megan Lazovick – Vice President, Edison Research
  • Neal Schore – CEO, Triton Digital
  • Pat Higbie – CEO, XAPPmedia
  • Patty Newmark – CEO, Newmark Advertising / Co-Founder and President of PodSearch
  • Rob McCracken – Senior Director, Corporate & Business Development, Scripps
  • 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
  • Steve Pratt – Partner, Pacific Content
  • Tom McAlevey – CEO, Radical.FM Incorporated
  • Tom Yeung – VP North American Supply, AdsWizz
  • Valerie Geller – Owner, Geller Media International

PODCASTING

“U.S. advertising spend going to podcasts reaches $700-million.” –Hernan Lopez, Wondery

 

“2019 will be a pivotal year for podcast advertising. Ad formats and buying platforms will evolve in order to accommodate new sponsors, as well as to allow smaller shows to take part in the ad market. But beware: The choices we as a podcast community make in 2019 will determine whether podcast advertising remains a high-quality, high-CPM business, or embarks on a race to the bottom. I hope we can all agree which of those we want to see.” –Andy Bowers, Panoply Media

“Podcasts and on-demand audio should start creeping into mainstream search results in 2019, particularly on mobile devices and smart speakers. Audio is a very efficient way to acquire information, since you can multitask while learning. And there’s so much useful information packed away in podcasts, particularly as publishers are pushing out more short-form and timely content, and the major platforms are focusing on better indexing of audio content.” –Bryan Moffett, National Public Media

 

“Formats that appeal to wider audiences, such as reality and game shows, will become commonplace.” –Corey Layton, Whooshkaa

 

“Podcasting will continue to grow, though Apple Podcasts will take less of the overall market share. New podcast-enabled apps like Spotify and Pandora will be responsible for a growing amount of listeners (and, who knows, Google might even tell people about their own podcast app). On-demand content like podcasting will continue to increase, while live, linear radio streams will continue to decline in popularity. Analytics will continue to get better, and accordingly the medium will attract more advertisers.” –James Cridland, Podnews

“Podcasts will receive more interest from other media both in content creation and distribution as movie studios, streaming distributors, book publishers, technology firms and other industries invest in this audio format for exclusive rights/deals.” –Patty Newmark, Newmark Advertising and PodSearch

 

“2019 overall will see the continued growth of podcasting as it stands alongside, not under; streaming music, broadcast, video and display.” –Jay Green, Cadence13

 

“Direct response ads will continue to make up the majority of revenue in 2019 but this will be the final year of DR dominance as brand awareness and branded content will secure more ad dollars than ever before in podcasting. Also, 2019 could mark the last year that host-read, baked-in ads remain the preferred ad type as pre-produced, dynamically inserted ads become increasingly dominant in podcasting.” –Rob McCracken, Scripps

“In 2019 we will see Pandora and Google Podcasts both making a push for a top 5 spot for Podcast consumption. But regardless of who the top 5 or 10 are at the end of 2019, it will be the first year Podcasters can finally say “listen to my podcast everywhere you listen to audio.” … “The biggest news in 2019 will be that the IAB V2 certifications will start rolling out, offering the industry a long overdue universal metric standard for what is a download.” –Rob Walch, Libsyn

“Podcasting as a market will continue to bifurcate. Watch for programmatic becoming a serious option for publishers and start forming a larger piece of the advertising pie and for demographic reporting and ad targeting to become the norm.With the pending IAB certifications and RAD spec, measurement won’t need to be ‘solved’ after too long but advertisers will still ask when it will be ‘fixed’ programmatic.” –Sharon Taylor, Omny Studio

 

“More content will disappear – good content is hard.” –Steve Goldstein, Amplifi Media

 

“While a few break through in mass, most podcasts that work and make a profit are hugely special interest. And powerful storytelling throughout. And fun. I’d bet on that to continue.” –Valerie Geller, Geller Media International

“Not only will traditional audio publishers like iHeart continue to make big bets in podcasting, but we will also see an increase in multi-channel, big brand media companies like Disney or NY Times making big moves as well. Unlike music streaming, podcasting is a wide open space where traditional media companies and audio publishers can differentiate, defend and create unique listener relationships.” –Tom Yeung, AdsWizz

“Metrics will continue to evolve in 2019, as publishers and platforms work out ways to deliver listening metrics without jeopardizing user privacy.” –Bryan Moffett, National Public Media

“Expanded search and SEO will also play a major role in content discovery. With technology evolving consumers will be presented with embedded listening within their normal processes. This will expand the reach of how, when and where they are presented with new content.” –Jay Green, Cadence13

Sound prompting vision on demand: While sound automatically stimulates our visual imagination, the phrase ‘seeing is believing’ has stuck around for a reason. 2019 will see more digital audio content suppliers providing more instant digital visual references, be it images or more likely in video form. Why leave it all up to a Google/Youtube search when it can be monetized closer to the sonic source that’s prompting the interest?” –Sam Crowther, A Million Ads

“Shorter content – We will see the introduction of more bite-size content which matches overall listening and viewing trends and lends itself to consumption on smart speakers.” –Steve Goldstein, Amplifi Media

“Live events featuring podcasters presenting shows for their listeners will tour around the country in larger venues, similar to live music performances, and become the ‘hot ticket’ to attend.” –Patty Newmark, Newmark Advertising and PodSearch

“2019 will be a year of experimentation and competition. Just as The Daily drove the rush to become your daily news fix, watch for multiple companies vying to become part of your morning routine or your evening routine on your Google Home, Amazon Alexa, or Apple HomePod. Just as Gimlet and Wondery have led the market in turning podcast IP into movie and TV projects, watch for multiple companies exploring new genres of podcasting (sitcoms, romantic comedies, game shows, etc) in the hope of creating multi-platform hits. Just as 2018 saw the growth of billboards as a new way to advertise podcasts and reach broader audiences, watch for TV commercials, radio commercials, and podcast trailers in movie theaters in 2019 as marketing gets bigger, bolder, and more creative. We will also see increasing experimentation with paywalls in a race to see if anyone can become the Netflix of podcasting. And just as 2018 saw a couple of high-profile companies exit the content-creation side of podcasting, watch for companies who are ‘all-in’ on podcasting to continue to grow and find increasing success, while more of those who treat podcasting as a ‘side of the plate hobby’ will make a strategic exit. –Steve Pratt, Pacific Media

VOICE CONTROL & SMART SPEAKERS

“Voice levels the playing field for all content providers and marketers, because it’s the most convenient way ever to access content and information. There will be an inflection point for voice winners and losers in 2019, because what started with smart speakers will be making a significant impact on in-car infotainment in 2019, and every audio content provider will have an opportunity to either grow their audience and monetization with voice or ignore it and follow a path to irrelevance.” –Pat Higbie, XAPPmedia

 

“As the technology advances and advertising becomes more sophisticated in 2019, we expect to see the industry move away from one-way advertising toward much more of a conversation with the consumer. Publishers have already begun experimenting with sophisticated and personalized ad experiences, offering direct voice interaction with the ad. We believe that in 2019 and beyond, voice interaction in advertising will move closer to mainstream.” –Alexis van de Wyer, AdsWizz

“Smart Speakers have started off slowly for Podcasting but as their market penetration increases and users acclimate themselves to everything they offer we will begin to see more audio content developed strictly for this outlet. Much like when additional platforms like Google and Spotify entered in a couple of years prior. These platform based exclusives will provide not only a driver to audiences but allow brands to tailor messaging and increase their role in audio.” –Jay Green, Cadence13

“In the world of radio, it has always been about winning a pushbutton or preset in the car – the medium’s #1 listening location. But as voice becomes the primary pathway of accessing content, recall and the ability to capture the consumer’s attention will become paramount.” –Fred Jacobs, Jacobs Media

“If you were to buy a new car today and it didn’t have Bluetooth in the standard package, it would probably be a deal breaker. My prediction is that in 2019 voice command technology will start moving from the ‘nice to have’ category into the ‘must have’ category. People who are already using Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa in their daily lives today are going to start demanding voice technology everywhere else. They’ll be so accustomed to using voice command technology in their homes that they will demand it in their cars and anywhere else they go. And what does that mean for audio? Audio needs to develop a #voicefirst strategy. –Megan Lazovick, Edison Research

 

“Massive smart speaker adoption will continue to accelerate streaming audio and podcasting connectivity, supporting the massive influx of ad supported revenue.” –Neal Schore, Triton Digital

 

“Needless to say, smart speakers are the new new thing. Everyone is building a skill. There are now over 70,000. Who can find them? Who needs them? Who will use them? Overall retention is low, meaning people try a skill and fail to use it again. That could mean a lot of things, but mostly it means lots of experimentation.” –Steve Goldstein, Amplifi Media

“With Alexa now in the car (and microwave), creators will produce podcasts of a different kind. From the evolution of the board game to the future of driving tours, audio will find its way into our lives, well beyond your favourite podcast app.” –Corey Layton, Whooshkaa

AUDIO

“Audio needs to imagine what it can be in a world where almost every device can be essentially a radio that takes requests.” –Megan Lazovick, Edison Research

 

“2019 will be the year copyright holders aggressively go after contributory infringers. Grey areas will continue to become more black and white as business models, especially streaming music, will shift or be acquired.” –Jon Stephenson, Live365, Empire Streaming

“I stand by last year’s prediction about the rise of a format designed to appeal to Millennials.” –Alan Cross, Podcaster & President, Brain Dead Dog Productions

“In 2019, audio is becoming really multi platform. Tailoring audio content will gradually become a three-dimensional process, consisting of: 1. piece of content 2. place of listening 3. profile of the listener. In this triangle the content will change according to the place of listening or the profile of the listeners. This requires not only creative flexibility but also a sound data strategy.” –Christian Schalt, RTL Radio Deutschland

 

“Content producers and publishers of all flavors won’t necessarily look at audio with the same novelty or serendipity. Rather, they will increasingly view it as an an essential vehicle for content delivery and community engagement.” –Jed Williams, Local Media Association

 

“2019 will be an extraordinary year for audio. Audio in all forms — including radio, streaming audio, and podcasting — will continue to bring unparalleled reach and efficiency to publishers, advertisers, and brands around the world, further solidifying the position as an indispensable component of digital growth strategies in 2019 and beyond. In addition, we will continue to see the convergence of audio, video, and mobile as visual components to audio will further enhance the listening experience and increase audience engagement. It’s hugely exciting!” –Neal Schore, Triton Digital

“2019 will be the year that audio cements its place as a first-class citizen, with voice technology and consumer trends continuing to drive exciting growth. Smart speaker adoption will continue to grow and publishers will have success with voice-first experiences but struggle to earn smart speaker specific revenue.” –Sharon Taylor, Omny Studio

 

“Publishers will start making significant investment on data. This will be essential for them to develop and distribute content in a targeted, measurable way.” –Tom Yeung, AdsWizz

 

“Voice — Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and more to come —  is rapidly becoming the conduit to content. And that changes the way we’ll promote and market our brands. For radio people, this will feel like a giant step back to the future. Success in the old diary methodology was mostly predicated on recall. And so it is with voice – you must remember the name of the station, stream, podcast, or satellite radio channel you wish to access in order to garner a satisfying outcome. –Fred Jacobs, Jacobs Media

“Sometime early in 2019 the one billionth dynamic personalized digital audio impression will be served. Throughout 2019 more milestones will be reached including many creative firsts particularly across U.S. digital audio inventory. There will be more creative optimization, retargeting, interesting API integrations and increased use of advertisers own data within dynamic creative. This will ensure the second billionth impression is served well before the third quarter of the year. –Sam Crowther, A Million Ads

“Each platform requires its own unique content, curated and presented with the user in mind.” –Steve Goldstein, Amplifi Media

 

“2019 will be the year that programmatic audio adoption really accelerates in the US.” –Alexis van de Wyer, AdsWizz

 

“AI will produce its first #1 hit single.” –Tom McAlevey, Radical.FM Incorporated

 

Audio in the Car

“Changing transportation habits will increasingly inform the vehicles that people choose to purchase. More importantly, it will change the way people consume audio when they’re on the road. It’s not just that the dashboard is changing; it’s also that people are increasingly using modes of transportation where there is no dashboard or they are not in control of the dashboard.” –Seth Resler, Jacobs Media

“Amazon will introduce an integrated streaming/broadcast radio platform as part of an in-vehicle Amazon Prime solution. Google will add radio as a native application within Android Auto. Apple will add radio as a native application within Carplay.” –Roger Lanctot, Strategy Analytics

“More auto manufacturers to ditch their glitchy proprietary infotainment systems, ceding that space to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The driving public will be forever grateful.” –Alan Cross, Podcaster & President, Brain Dead Dog Productions

INDUSTRY

Legal

“2019 is about policy implementation. Yes, implementation, because 2018 gave music much of its ask: MMA (without a dissenting vote en route) and Article 13 passage (though the journey is not at an end). We will learn midway through the year (July) what is on tap for MMA, but it promises to get worse before it gets better. The squabbles have begun, accusations flying. Article 13, too, has acquired content-owning detractors and declining unity among supporting countries. I’d prefer to predict we’ll build on the unity on display for MMA and Article 13, but it is more realistic to expect them to be tested in their own set of mid-terms. An echo from prior years: Make it faster, easier, simpler to pay in hopes that when it is, more will. –Jim Griffin, Hazen LLC

Acquisitions

“AT&T will acquire Cumulus.” –Roger Lanctot, Strategy Analytics

“Sirius (Liberty Media) will buy iHeart in the first half of 2019, and merge the online assets into Pandora creating the biggest ‘laid back’ personalised streaming service ever.” –Tom McAlevey CEO, Radical.FM Incorporated

“Verizon will acquire iHeart Media.” –Roger Lanctot, Strategy Analytics

Tongue-in-cheek

“Bob Lefsetz will get laryngitis.” –Tom McAlevey CEO, Radical.FM Incorporated

“Some bone-headed auto-maker will delete AM radio touching off a massive negative social media campaign.” –Roger Lanctot, Strategy Analytics

“Some bone-headed auto-maker will delete AM radio and no one will notice.” –Roger Lanctot, Strategy Analytics

 

Brad Hill

3 Comments

  1. I agree with Tom McAlevey. About iHeart, not Lefsetz 🙂 I think that’s the direction they’re going. Merge the iHeart digital platform into Pandora and use the terrestrial more as a promotional vehicle for the on-demand talk and music.

    In response to AM going away, in the UK most of the DAB-capable portable radios I looked at don’t have AM (or MW as they way over there). AM still works well in emergencies, with being able to cover long distances with cheap, small radio receivers whose batteries last a long time.

  2. I never thought you’d publish my Lefsetz comment Brad…

    Hi Bob 🙂

    Since most of us RAIN readers probably follow Bob’s prolific diatribes (and he probably follows RAIN) it might be worth pointing out that I find him entertaining most of the time. It’s his ability to be dead wrong sometimes and never acknowledge it (like weathermen and stock analysts) combined with his ability to occasionally compose unfiltered pages about the lint in his belly-button, which prompted my ribbing. I loudly applaud his current bold political commentary.

    The above industry predictions may be my last as I am shifting from building radio stations and streaming corporations to more philanthropic endeavours; I’m currently finishing construction of an orphanage in the Philippines.

    But before I go I’ll quote one of my favorite characters in one of my favourite Westerns (Gus, dying, in ‘Lonesome Dove’)
    — By God Woodrow; it’s been one hell of a party.

    Happy New Year everybody!

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