Podcasts Are Booming and They Are Only Going to Get Louder

How Podcasts Are the New Frontier of Online Search and Why Google Is Set to Make 2019 the Year of the Podcast

Dan Lee
Dan Lee
Jan 1, 2019 · 5 min read
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2019 is the year of the podcast and if you have been thinking about starting some episodic audio then the time is ripe. Especially for niche topics and audiences that have been overlooked. Let's look at the stats and see how podcast discovery is set to be transformed and audiences double in growth in the next two years.

  • In the US, 48 million people (17%) listen to podcasts weekly — up from 15% in 2017.
  • In the UK, 6 million people (11%) tune in each week to a podcast.
  • Apple confirmed there were over 550,000 podcasts at WWDC 2018 in June.
  • Apple is the top dog with 52% of the distribution of podcasts. Spotify is second with 19% and Google is way behind at 0.9% (According to Anchor).

Enter Google Podcasts

However, the search giant has an ace up its sleeve… podcasts have recently entered search results on Android phones much like videos are currently presented to us today. Alongside this move, a new app called Google Podcasts is now offered as your locus for listening.

The market share for iOS and Android operating systems are neck and neck in UK and Android is ahead in the US. It is the same story in many other countries.

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Google’s intended aim is to double the amount of podcast consumption in the next two years.

That would create an estimated listening population of 34% and 22% for the US and UK respectively. 108 million listeners combined.

It is entirely possible that within two years Google could potentially capture a third of podcast distribution.

Google is already maximising discovery through search results effectively increasing the size of the Podcast Consumer Market. The company isn’t shy about presenting its self at the front of the queue with its new app.

Google is also thinking carefully about how podcasts can be indexed with a view to building upon its new forays in search on Andriod. Google-owned YouTube is often cited as the 2nd largest search engine but audio, fueled by Podcasts, could be the new frontier of search.

The base technology to create an AI that listens to your podcast, (or video) transcribe it and pull out the relevant keywords or phrases based on a search query already exists. Once indexed and transcribed it can also be packaged up, piped to smart speakers and translated into different languages.

For Google, there will be ‘gold in them mines’ as podcasts present new increases in revenue from sponsorship ads that are contextual to audio and video content.

Google Update: May 8

It is official. At Google I/O, CEO Sundar Pichai announced in the Keynote event they will begin to index podcasts. The search engine will soon present relevant episodes of podcasts, based on the content, not just the title of the podcast.

This radically changes podcast discovery and users will be able to listen to the podcast directly from Google’s Search results, or save an episode for later listening. See the screen shot showing relevant podcast episodes against a query for news of the first ever photo of a black hole…

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What About Spotify?

Of all the companies Spotify is actually best positioned to move into podcasting in a bigger way. Streaming music services led by Spotify continue to lose money due to the big music labels receiving much of their revenue. For Spotify, podcasting presents more options.

The streaming service will likely continue to attract users with exclusive celebrity podcasts in order to increase the time spent on their platform and their overall profit margins. More non-music listening means the big labels will take a lower percentage of their turnover.

Spotify also has a feature they haven't yet used with Podcasts. Playlists. Leveraging Spotify’s social sharing and discovery features is a must if they want to become the dominant podcast prince and increase ad revenue.

Spotify Update: Feb 6
Spotify recently acquired Gimlet and Anchor — essentially two big buckets of Podcasting content. Spotify reportedly paid around $200 million for Gimlet, meaning Anchor fetched $140 million. There is $160 million left in Spotify’s acquisition spending budget for 2019. Watch this space! Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek told investors that his company wants more than 20% of listening on Spotify dedicated to podcasts, rather than music. The way they are going to achieve this is exclusive content.

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What About Apple’s Dominance?

If Google Podcasts is an infant king, Spotify the prince with potential then Apple is the founding father. Apple has been described as the ‘benevolent backbone of the podcast ecosystem’ allowing podcasts to grow and thrive but never making any direct revenue from podcasting.

As companies create alternatives to Apple’s New and Noteworthy podcast section, podcast discovery is set to sail away from Apple. This is rather sad as podcasts were effectively born in 2005 when the company made it possible to subscribe to mp3s on the iPod.

It remains to be seen if they will fight the changing tides.

What this Means for Your Podcast

So how do you prepare for the changing winds if you run your own Podcast?

There are a few strategic things you could do which might mean that you will see more listeners coming your way in the future.

  1. Create great content that is timeless.
    Create engaging content that people want to share. Stories work well.
  2. Start thinking about the questions you want to answer.
    Begin answering the questions people are looking to find answers to.
  3. Begin to welcome a broader geographic.
    Think about how you engage an international audience.
  4. Write good titles and descriptions.
    Be aware of how your text reads in various podcast apps.
  5. Ensure your cover art is a doorway.
    Your cover art is your first impression – give visual promise!

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