Dug Campbell

The Current State of Podcasts

I’ve written a few times about the explosion in podcasts during the last two or three years. It feels like a huge shift in the consumption of information, at least by a significant proportion of certain communities across the globe.

I was reading this Medium post (‘State of Podcasts 2018: Takeaways from Podcast Movement 2018 on monetization, diversity and discovery’) with interest earlier in the week. It’s pretty old now (July 2018 which is light years in podcasting terms) but it’s a fascinating insight from the huge Podcast Movement conference from last year.

You only have to look at recent news, like Spotify’s acquisition of podcast companies Gimlet and Anchor a few weeks ago to see the money starting to stream into this sector. Edison Research from a year ago showed that (only) 17% of Americans were listening to a podcast each week. Now, the US is vast compared to the UK bubble that I live in but I’d be utterly astonished if that number doesn’t bounce up by the time in surveys this year.

It’s hardly surprising that discovery of episodes was seen back then as one of the biggest issues. Compared to any other form of information discovery online, podcasts can be almost invisible. It’s improving but there’s a whole load of room for improvements to be made. Clearly, the situation’s not great at the moment – but at the same time, I suspect the risks are pretty good that the situation will be far worse once audio does more readily searchable. Perhaps we’ll move into an age controlled by audio search algorithms in which podcasters actively change their content in order to rank more highly in search etc. I wouldn’t be too surprised if we see the equivalent of keyword stuffing in some way, shape or form. Which doesn’t sound like the best way forward for conversational content.

It’ll also be interesting to see what happens this year when it comes to monetisation. Would you pay to access your favourite podcast? Put up with adverts (at the start / middle / end?). It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Listen to this space…