Podcasting: 2016 Trends & Opportunities

This is the sixth edition of my weekly newsletter, Augment Intelligence. Subscribe here for weekly instalments.

Podcasts are to radio what blogs are to newspapers. Anyone can record a podcast, just like anyone can write a blog. And yes, the quality varies accordingly. But as with blogs, there are now hundreds — if not thousands — of high quality podcast shows on the Web. Usually they focus on a niche topic and, in the best podcasts, the host is very passionate about that topic. Again, just like blogs.

In this edition of the newsletter I’ll not only cover the notable trends in podcasting, I’ll also point out the opportunities. Whether you’re a business person, an entrepreneur, a marketer, or you’re just curious about finding new things to listen to on your morning commute — podcasts should be on your radar in 2016.

First, a little historical context. In 2007, my tech blog ReadWriteWeb launched a podcast show called ReadWriteTalk. It was the brainchild of Sean Ammirati, the show’s host (and later RWW’s COO). ReadWriteTalk featured interviews with the thought leaders of Web 2.0; indeed Sean even managed to score one of the very first interviews with a founder of a little thing that launched that year, called Twitter [the audio file is no longer online, but you can still read the transcript]. Looking back, I’m proud of what we did with ReadWriteTalk, because in that era of the Internet there were limited apps for podcasting. The one thing podcasting did have going for it was the support of iTunes, which had added the ability to subscribe to podcasts a couple of years earlier.

The Big Trends in Podcasting

There have been three major changes in the podcasting landscape since the days of ReadWriteTalk.

Firstly, podcast consumption has become much easier. Most obviously, that’s due to the rise of smartphones since 2009. Not only that, the market for podcast apps is now mature. If anything, there are too many of them in 2016. I use one called Overcast, an iOS app that lets me discover and subscribe to podcasts. But you can choose from any number of iOS and Android apps. Regardless of what app you use, it’s easier and there are more opportunities to listen to podcasts nowadays — whether it be on your daily commute or at home (I often listen to podcasts in the kitchen, while preparing lunch or dinner). Betaworks investor John Borthwick puts this ease of use down to bluetooth being on by default on your phone. I personally still turn bluetooth on and off during the day, but I agree that bluetooth connectivity — in particular, connecting your phone to speakers in your car and throughout your home — has done much to advance the consumption of podcasts.

Secondly, the production of many podcasts is now equal in quality to radio. While not all podcasts record in fully equipped studios, there is a clear trend towards this. As a result, the leading podcast networks are indistinguishable, in quality and professionalism, from nationwide radio networks. PodcastOne is a good example. It has over 200 podcast shows, including from big names such as Shaquille O’Neal and the author Bret Easton Ellis. I’m a regular listener of Ellis’ show, which he records from the LA studio of PodcastOne.

Related, mainstream media has also made the leap into podcasts; just as it did with blogs over the time I ran ReadWriteWeb. For example, WYNC — New York’s public radio station — offers a raft of great podcast shows. My current favorite is Here’s The Thing, an interview show hosted by Alec Baldwin. In my home country, Radio New Zealand offers up podcast versions of all its shows. Indeed due to static or dwindling radio audiences, it’s become a necessity for radio networks to post their shows as on-demand podcasts.

The third major change in podcasting since 2007 is the emergence of a compelling revenue stream. These days, it’s probably easier to earn revenue from a podcast than from a blog. Advertising revenue on blogs has been been hit hard by the shift to mobile consumption. But for podcasts, the opposite has happened. Leading podcaster John Lee Dumas noted that a typical podcast advert — usually read by the host — gathers between $18–25 per 1000 CPMs (listens). So if you get 10,000 listens on a podcast episode, you could be earning $430. Obviously you’d need to ramp up your audience over time to make a business from that. The “magic number” to create a meaningful business, according to a MediaTwits podcast last year, is 50,000 listens per episode. Shows with 100,000 downloads an episode “can expect to make between $250,000 and $400,000 a year.”

Opportunities in Podcasting

Let’s look at the opportunities for (potential) listeners first, since that’s all of us. Podcasts can provide a lot of expertise and inspiration in your career, so I’d thoroughly recommend hunting out podcasts in your area of interest. For example, I’ve recently decided to become an angel investor and so I’ve added a group of podcast shows about angel investing to my playlist. I’ve already picked up many tips from podcasts such as The Full Ratchet by Nick Moran, Angel Investing by Tatyana Gray, and Angel Insights by Syndicate Room.

To test whether there are podcasts out there for non-geeks, I did a search in Outcast for podcasts about nursing, marketing, and construction. I found a bunch of results for all three. My aunt Mary might like to subscribe to The Nursing Show (“For Nurses By Nurses”). And if you’re a project manager or simply want to get ahead in the construction industry, then The Construction Leading Edge podcast looks like a fabulous resource.

For those of you who may want to create your own podcast show, it can be a very effective way to increase your personal brand and broaden your network. One of the reasons Sean started ReadWriteTalk for us back in 2007 was to meet and talk to the leading entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. That was one of my aims when I started ReadWriteWeb in 2003 too. Indeed one of the under-appreciated aspects of blogs and podcasts — which, I remind you, anyone can start from anywhere — is that they provide a platform for reaching out to movers and shakers in your industry.

As for aspiring or current entrepreneurs, there are still opportunities to improve the user experience in podcasting. One area I’d particularly like to see improved is the discovery and curation of podcast episodes. Sometimes you just want to find (and listen to) a single show from a certain podcast — for example, I often search for episodes featuring my favourite book authors. I usually end up searching iTunes, which isn’t a satisfying user experience. One website that has tried to solve this for its audience is ProductHunt, which has a curated list of podcast episodes aimed at developers and other “makers.” Something like that for other market segments would be very useful to a lot of people.

Well that’s it for another week, I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Augment Intelligence newsletter. If you did, please share it on social media and subscribe if you haven’t already. If you’d like to leave a comment, you can do that on the blog post or on my Facebook or Twitter.

Lead image: Serial podcast, Season 2