Why podcasting is not a bubble

DOWNLOAD ON PODCASTS logo 03 with podcastone 300wThe Download on Podcasts is a weekly feature sponsored by PodcastOne.

This column will not mention Serial. (Well, once.)

News that BuzzFeed was starting a podcast, not long after Reddit did, might be interpreted as a sign of piling onto a trend burdened by fad. Is podcasting turning into a check-box on the must-do content distribution list for websites — a brand extension opportunity?

Well, podcasting is that, as NPR has demonstrated with its early and vigorous adoption. But with podcasting, brand extension offers substantial added value to consumers.

infinite dial 2015 - podcast basic listeningDespite the bandwagon-jumpers, podcasting is not a fad, or a business bubble. Growth of audience is easy to foresee based on the listening curve charted by Edison Research. The ad-revenue side is more difficult to predict, but the podcast business is better organized, and funded, than ever before.

Industry Indicators

Growing consumer uptake of on-demand audio is one anti-bubble indicator. Industry uptake is a significant one, too.

When Deezer acquired podcast app Stitcher, Tyler Goldman, Deezer’s CEO of North America, told RAIN News, “Among our users there is an enormous demand for talk content.” Deezer has merged Stitcher’s 35,000-program catalog with the existing song catalog of 35-million tracks.

A more recent rumor that Spotify is developing an on-demand talk programming relationship with one or more providers could substantiate the idea that podcasts are sidling up to music with equal viability in the streaming audio market.

Another industry indicator of podcasting endurance is the entry of heavy-hitting radio executives into the space. Norm Pattiz, founder of Westwood One, created PodcastOne (sponsor of this column) in the same model. Pattiz has called podcasting “the savior of radio.” Last week, Steve Goldstein announced his exit from a 30-year radio career as chief content programmer for Saga Communications to start a new podcast company, Amplifi Media.

In past years, podcasting has never been so related to radio as a consumer-friendly extension and enhancement, as it is now.

Secular Indicators

Broad-scaled changes in digital lifestyles also set the stage for podcasting health and endurance:

Ease: In early days, podcasting was technical, geeky, best suited to early adopters willing to hang their Internet lives around RSS feeds. Now, it’s mainly about streaming, and closely related to online music in ease and availability.

Mobile: Part of podcasting’s new ease-of-use includes the mobile lifestyle. Podcasting predates smartphones. Now, with the smartphone market opulently built out, on-demand is on-the-go … again, just like music.

Time-shifting: The near-ubiquity of DVRs has made time-shifting an assumed aspect of television. In podcasting, time-shifting helps radio re-purpose broadcast material and deliver it to consumers at their preferred times, on their preferred devices. It’s a win-win when everybody adopts.

Low barrier to entry: Tools for creating as basic talkcast are free, and so is program hosting for bootstrap creators. There’s a danger to low barriers — namely, the global race to mediocrity. (See: the Internet.) But, as with blogging, the fat middle ground of user-generated content can float a category long enough for the best content to be developed, marketed, and monetized.

Star power: Critics say we are in a golden age of television, with more choices, better productions, and higher-level talent than ever before. Podcasting seems to be following that golden curve, too, with high-power production brands bringing over celebrity talent from other mediums. Hence Piolin in PodcastOne, Russell Brand in audioBoom, and others.


Brad Hill