Somebody recently asked me the question, “Pat, do you think podcasting is in a boom . . . or a bubble? . . . One that’s perhaps about to pop?”
I’m about to answer that question in this post.
Is Podcasting the New Blogging? Kind Of!
Now, it’s not like blogging ever popped and dropped off the radar. Blogs are still hugely popular today—but I also think podcasts are having their day now. If you go to Google trends and compare the terms “blogs” and “podcasts,” you'll notice that in 2017 the two kind of crossed over.
That’s right: podcasting is on the up and up. The trend is clear, and there’s definitely still growth and opportunity in podcasting right now. As I’ve said for a while, and continue to recommend, if I was forced to choose one platform to start building my business on, it would be a podcast.
By the way, if you want to learn how to podcast, click here to download my Podcast Cheat Sheet and learn everything you need to get your podcast up and running today.
We're in a moment, like with blogs pre-2005, when podcasting is starting to become mainstream. And when things go mainstream, especially for content platforms like this, you start to see some very interesting things happening!
I’ve identified five of the most interesting things that jump out at me about the state of podcasting and the not-too-distant future of podcasting. And in no particular order, here they are.
Interesting podcasting thing #1: Podcasts are a big deal
Podcasts have very much become a part of the scene, and a lot of bigger names are jumping onboard. People and companies that maybe hadn’t previously thought about podcasting are now coming out with their own podcasts. You can find examples just by visiting the New & Noteworthy section of iTunes. Bill Nye has a podcast. Conan O’Brien. The BBC. Comedy Central. ESPN. The Wall Street Journal. These are all big names that previously weren’t into podcasting, but they're obviously putting a lot of time and effort into it now.
For us smaller creators, it prompts the question: are we about to be weeded out? Not necessarily. As long are you’re putting yourself out there with great content and intentionally building your tribe, you can create your own loyal podcast following. That way, no matter what happens outside your own little space, you’ll be able to serve your audience in an intimate way. This is one of the beautiful things podcasting can do, and it’s why I love podcasting even more than blogging. It’s more scalable in terms of the intimacy you can build with your audience.
Growth in podcasting from more popular names and bigger networks doesn’t have to affect us “smaller” folks—if anything, it can help us grow! According to studies, people are subscribed to seven podcasts on average. This means many people are subscribed to more than seven.
The more that these bigger names—the ESPNs and Bill Nyes of the world—can bring people into podcasting, the more likely a person’s going to go and listen and then perhaps find our shows and subscribe to them too. This is something that happened with Serial back in 2014. It became a huge phenomenon, one that caused lots of people to start listening to podcasts for the first time.
I think this trend is going to continue, and we’ll all be able to welcome more and more people into our own little corners of the expanding podcasting world.
Interesting podcasting thing #2: More spam is on the way
The second interesting podcasting thing is more of a prediction: We’re going to start to see a lot more spam and a lot more marketers trying to take advantage of all the attention being paid to podcasting. As the technology becomes easier and as companies like Anchor make it simple enough to create a podcast on your iPad, you’re going to see a lot more podcasts coming out—and this is going to create a lot of noise, just like it did with blogs.
But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you go about podcasting in a smart way, your people will find you and stick with you, and it won’t really matter too much what happens out there. However, I think the glut of low-quality podcasts we’re about to see are going to make it a little harder to find some podcasts, especially as spammers and marketers get a little more clever.
Luckily, podcast search technology isn’t currently very game-able. It’s really hard to trick the search engines, and although there have been some cases of podcasts that for whatever reason were able to spring up—even though they obviously didn’t deserve it because of their terrible reviews or the robotic nature of their hosts’ voices—it’s still pretty rare.
Unfortunately, though, we’re probably going to find more of that happening over time.
Spammers and deceptive marketers are only going to get more clever, and it’s our responsibility as people with integrity in the podcast space to continue creating great content, staying personable, telling great stories, and most importantly, staying consistent.
Interesting podcasting thing #3: Search is (slowly) getting better
With more and more people getting into podcasting, it’s getting harder to be found. Right now, most of our podcast consumption happens through Apple software and devices. But the search functionality in Apple’s podcasting ecosystem is frankly terrible. You can’t easily find rankings or categories, and the algorithm isn’t very helpful. Only a few select people actually get shown in the premier spots, especially in the app. Apple’s desktop app is better—it’s a great place for podcasters to do research—but it’s not so great for podcasters who want to get found.
Luckily Google is stepping up. Recently, Google has made it easier to find podcasts and even play podcasts directly from search results. If you look up the Smart Passive Income Podcast on Google, you can actually play some of the latest episodes right from the search results page!
Now, how exactly will this help us get more subscribers? That’s still a little unclear at this point, but it's nice to see powerhouse data miners like Google helping us get found more easily. My prediction is that Google's going to become even more of a player in the podcast world.
Interesting podcasting thing #4: More podcasting solutions are on the way
With podcasts going mainstream, I believe we’re going to see more and more companies big and small getting involved and claiming their piece of the pie. We’ve already seen big companies like Spotify throw a lot of money at podcasting (by acquiring Gimlet Media and Anchor). I think we’re going to see a lot more acquisitions, along with new technologies coming out to serve podcasters and podcast listeners in many ways.
For one thing, because of how important podcasting will continue to be in companies’ overall marketing strategies, we’re going to see a lot more startups and initiatives from existing companies aimed at helping people market their podcasts.
Another big challenge we’re going to see companies step up to address is the fact that since podcasts are an audio-based format, they can’t be easily “scanned.” Here’s what I mean: Anchor originally launched as a social audio app, but then pivoted to become a podcast hosting and monetization platform. That pivot was a very smart decision, one that ultimately led to an acquisition by Spotify. You see, Anchor didn’t work in its original format as “the Twitter of audio” because in order to know if something was for you, you had to listen to it. But unlike video or blogs, there’s no quick and easy way to scan through audio to see if it’s something you’re interested in. You have to spend a good amount of time listening to determine if a particular podcast is for you.
So, when it comes to finding podcasts, I think we’re due for a shakeup. I would imagine that in a couple of years there might be a big move from Apple in particular to create a better system for cataloging and discovering podcasts. For example, what if YouTube makes their RSS feed public and that could turn it into a podcasting medium, since they have all the infrastructure for such a thing? Something like this from such a huge platform would be a game-changer for sure.
That’s just one example, but I think we’re going to see a lot more podcasting solutions and attempts to take podcasts and package them in different ways. That’s why you’re seeing companies like Brew.com, which helps podcasters publish and monetize their podcasts. Spotify and even Audible are also getting in on the exclusive (i.e., paid) audio game right now. It’s an interesting move, but I don’t think it’s going to work very well because podcasts have always been free to this point. As with everything, though, we’ll see!
Interesting podcasting thing #5: Podcast sponsorship is going to take off
I think we’re also going to see more money moving to the podcasters themselves through sponsorship. Companies are definitely already paying to sponsor podcasts today, but we’re still in the early days of this phenomenon.
If you think about the lifecycle of a content platform, we’re in the infant stage right now for podcasting. It’ll continue to grow over the next five to ten years, especially as it’s the only content medium that allows for passive consumption versus watching a video or reading. You’re going to see more and more people discover podcasting and bring it into their busy lives, while they’re commuting, working out, or at their desk working.
And as the medium grows, more and more money is going to go the way of creators. As podcasters build their platforms and work on growing a targeted audience, they’ll have more opportunities to attract sponsors and advertisers. And so I think we’re going to see more growth in super-niched podcasts, ones that exist for the superfans of a particular topic area.
When it comes to personal brands in particular, I think we’re going to see just about every personal brand have its own podcast—kind of like how every personal brand right now has a book. And this is going to present a lot of monetization opportunities too.
So, is podcasting in a boom or bubble?
My answer is boom! I don’t think podcasting is in a bubble—quite the opposite. I think we’re still in the early growth stages of this incredible medium.
That said, although podcasting is becoming more popular and accessible, it’s still not going to be the easiest platform to create for. Compared to something like blogging, it’s just not as easy to create a podcast as it is to put up a WordPress blog and start writing. Even basic podcasting still requires equipment, capital, and expertise.
That’s why at SPI we’re putting more effort into helping podcasters, especially through our YouTube channel, not just with podcast gear and reviews, but also how-tos, monetization tips, and help with other aspects of the podcasting process. Podcasting has become a part of our lives now as creators, and we want to help more people get involved, understand everything that’s available to them, and make it easier to get up and running with a great podcast.