In 2005, Forbes Magazine ran a short article with controversial headline “Cuban Says Podcasting Doomed To Be ‘Forgotten.” But just this month, almost thirteen years, iTunes – one of the largest podcast directories in the Internet – has announced that it has surpassed the 1 billion podcast subscriber mark. The platform now holds around 250,000 unique podcasts and over eight million episodes in multiple languages.
To acknowledge this important milestone in online broadcasting history, we decided to highlight the key shifts currently happening in the industry and mention what the future has install for this “futuristic and a bit dated” content format.
Where is Online Broadcasting Headed?
As a prelude, it’s worth mentioning first that there is yet no clear-cut distinction between the various forms of content being distributed online. This is partly due to the content creators themselves: while some say they are podcasters, others prefer to brand themselves as online radio show hosts or to be known as online broadcasters. The terms “audio show”, “radio show”, “video show”, and even “video series are used interchangeably.
Now, lets dive into the actual tends:
#1 Podcasting and Broadcasting Remain ‘Niche’ Formats
The fact that podcasting and live broadcasting are still relatively young content formats brings with its a number of challenges and opportunities.
On the positive side, consumption of podcasts and radio shows has been growing steadily and is likely to experience an additional surge in popularity in the coming months and years. Advertisers and mainstream ‘traditional’ media giants are beginning to note of this trend and see the value in leveraging hosts’ audiences to reach a highly targeted engaged demographic.
One additional benefit of the medium’s “niche-ness” is the following: it’s relatively easy to build a small but monetizable audience. Here’s what Chris Hardwick, creator of the popular Nerdist podcast has to say on this matter:
“Our culture is so niche-oriented now, you don’t need 3 million people to listen to your podcast,” says Hardwick. “If 10,000 people listen, which isn’t a hard number to achieve, then 10,000 people listen to your podcast. You can do something with that, you can build a community, and literally change the world, just recording into a recorder.”
Despite its favorable aspects, awareness among individuals, especially outside the US remains relatively low. The world doesn’t quite fully grasp the meaning of the term ‘podcast’ and that’s why the task and responsibility of educating listeners rests on the shoulders of both the successful and up-and-coming industry participants.
#2 New Apps and Platforms Are Raising Consumer Awareness and Competition
Since the inception of podcasting, the ‘on-demand’ vs ‘always-on’ distinction has been a principal difference between online and mainstream radio. However, a host of mobile-focused and cross-platform apps such as Stitcher, TuneIn, and Swell and merging the “always on” feature with the podcasting world, thereby improving accessibility and the ease of use that have afflicted the podcast format in the past.
And while these players are achieving major strides in raising mainstream awareness and leveraging the growth in smartphone usage, they are simultaneously raising the bar on quality.
Here’s why. These new players aggregate thousands of podcasts, ranging from the professionally produced to the truly hobbyist podcasts. For example, the move by Clear Channel to partner with Spreaker lets virtually anyone record and upload their shows and podcast to iHeart Radio, where they appear alongside content from ABC and NPR.
As more podcasts appear and as they show up side-by-side on consumer devices, low-quality podcasts will inadvertently be weeded out. This means that new hosts have to commit to putting in the necessary effort into their show or podcast if they intend on getting noticed and making a good first impression on first-time listeners. And even though platforms like Blogtalkradio have attempted to make podcasting easier, the issue of low quality is still on the agenda.
#3 Video – a Formidable Contender to Audio
As online content producers, podcasters and broadcasters should be aware of the increasing popularity of and the strengthening position of one player in particular – Youtube.
In some respects, consumption of video is surpassing that of podcasts and as smartphone screen sizes increase, the growth of video viewership will only continue to grow.
There’s no use in labelling this trend as threat, but rather as an opportunity to reach additional listeners through a new format and capture the attention of a new segment of the market, one that’s not actively searching for new podcasts.
Video and standard blog posts & articles, with their ease of discovery and distribution, can serve as complementary content formats to the audio, whose distribution challenges have affected its creators. As Daniel J. Lewis point out, “ publishers that provide audio, video, and blog grow even faster.”
The jury is still out on how podcasting and broadcasting will look like in the future. However, chances are that it will flourish. One thing’s for sure: “there are going to be big changes.”