In a few years’ time, we’ll look back on 2021 as a landmark in podcasting’s short history. Driven by a thriving Creator Economy, more podcast listeners, as well as a more mature approach to advertising, the industry is now entering a new era. Today, podcasts are offering many people comfort, education, information, entertainment, and give many a sense of security in a time when the world has been — and is currently — facing a great deal of uncertainty.
Every year, the predictions of podcast industry growth get a little bit bigger and a little more confident. I still think they’re being too conservative, and I’ll try to explain why.
An influx of podcast creators from across the media spectrum
The Creator Economy is revolutionizing all corners of media, and podcasting is riding that wave.
We talk a lot about how important it is that podcasting remains open-source in its nature. Unlike other media — for example video or TV — podcasts are available to all listeners, everywhere, no matter the device or listening app they’re using, or the country they live in.
RSS technology — that is, the technology that enables podcasts to be distributed to virtually any listening app — makes this all possible, and means creators of all shapes and sizes are able to retain creative control and can make money from their craft on their own terms, irrespective of the listening app being used by the listener.
Not all the players within the podcasting industry agree, but this open-source ecosystem, where it’s ultimately the listener who decides which listening app they want to use, is clearly attractive to creators — especially those who are perhaps more used to being stifled by the platforms that dominate other mediums. It’s why we’re seeing an influx of social influencers expanding from TikTok and YouTube into podcasting.
Acast has for several years focused on developing the value created by open podcasting, and we’re bringing new products and services to the market to actively help champion this ecosystem. Acast+, for example, is our newly launched suite of monetization options that
enables podcast creators to offer paying subscribers exclusive benefits.
Subscription offerings like Acast+ give podcast creators new revenue streams to sustain their podcasts, alongside ads and sponsorship, one-off tips, merchandise, and live events — the latter in particular being something that will come to the fore this year as Covid restrictions continue to relax globally.
Podcasts fast approaching mass-media status
Having established a base of listeners around the world over the past few years, we’re now accelerating on our journey towards the point where half the population in major markets like the US and the UK will regularly listen to podcasts.
We have a little way to go, but I believe podcasts will reach mass-media status sooner, rather than later. That’s supported by the huge number and diversity of podcasts being published today, podcast creators flooding into the space, and the slow but steady return of the daily commute for millions of people globally.
As different mediums battle it out for consumer eyes and ears, podcasting is once again in a position of strength. It’s an active listening experience, and listeners use headphones 90% of the time. Therefore the level of attention they’re paying to the words they’re hearing, from both podcasters and advertisers, is absolutely unrivaled.
The above increasingly leads to podcast creators leaving the more traditional confines of commercial radio, for example, to start their own podcasts, attracted by the same things I’ve already mentioned: creative control, freedom, and revenue potential. And they’re bringing their audiences with them.
A maturing approach to advertising
Increased content creation and changes in consumer behavior inevitably leads to more attention from advertisers, so the industry is maturing to meet their expectations.
We’re acutely aware that Google’s decision to shut off cookies next year will impact ad targeting across most mediums. However, that’s something we all should be able to get on board with – advertisers want solutions that don’t invade consumers’ privacy, and consumers want the same thing.
Here, as in so many instances, podcasts are ahead of the curve. Podcasts are unique in the way they allow for intimate conversations between host and listener — and that makes it all the more important that we respect this environment when it comes to advertising. We have a responsibility to both our podcasters and their fans to help the brands we work with find the best, most relevant conversations to be part of.
That’s why we’re pioneering brand-safe, privacy-safe solutions that help advertisers reach the right listeners, within the most relevant conversations taking place across our network of 40,000 podcasts. It’s crucial that our advertisers are targeting conversations — not individual users.
This approach is something we call ‘Conversational Targeting’, and we’ll be launching several different features under this banner throughout 2022.
In conjunction, we’re also refining the data we’re able to provide advertisers about our podcasts and their listeners. Acast+ has the potential to reach millions of unique users, which would create the world’s largest and farthest-reaching podcast listener panel, and thus contribute greatly to improving the accuracy of podcast advertising.
A new era of podcasting
Podcasting is clearly an industry primed and ready to make its mark globally, and I believe we’re now entering a new era for the medium. 2021 was a blockbuster year for both Acast and the industry as a whole, and 2022 has the potential to be even better.
Generally speaking, the majority of companies you’re looking at are treating podcasts as just one, often small part of their overall strategy. Acast, on the other hand, is a pure-play podcast company. It’s all we do, and we’re the most experienced, most innovative, most successful company doing it.
Onwards and upwards.