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Podcasting Industry Updates, Insights, and a Glimpse Into The Future of Podcasting
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In this State of Podcasting address, podcasting industry expert and legend, Travis Albritton (From Buzzsprout), shares his insights into where the industry has come from, what’s happening today, and where it’s heading in the future. In addition, Travis shares some great upcoming resources and tools to simplify the entire podcasting process!
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Alex: To start us off, is Zoom still the standard for recording podcast interviews?
Travis: It’s definitely the most common. If you are looking for something with minimal obstacles in the way of guests showing up to your podcast, Zoom is probably still the preference. At Buzzsprout, we just released a few resources on the best settings to use in Zoom to get better audio and video quality.
Alex: The last interview we did was in early 2020, and podcasting and the digital media landscape have changed a lot since then. Have you noticed a big change this year, now that we are in a post-pandemic world?
Travis: 2020 and 2021 were really huge, not just for podcasting, but for all digital media. At Buzzsprout, we saw a massive increase in signups for our service. There were times when you could not even buy a webcam on Amazon as they were completely sold out.
As you might expect, the growth has now slowed. While many people continue to work from home or remotely, we are slowly returning to the normalcy we once had.
Still, the podcasting industry continues to grow. To give you an idea of where we stand, there are currently close to 500,000 active podcasts published at least monthly. That’s significantly more than just a few years ago.
Podcasting is not going away.
More people are signing up to Buzzsprout and every other podcast provider in the world every month.
Yet podcasting is still in its infancy. So we are very excited to see how things develop over the next few years.
There are over 4 million podcasts listed on podcastindex.org. Spotify and Apple put the number at over 2 million. But fewer than 500,000 of those are active. What does that say to people podcasting today?
Buzzsprout publishes our global stats for all our shows every month. We show which apps are most popular with listeners. We also highlight what the median podcasting is doing in terms of download numbers.
This number typically ranges between 27 and 30 downloads in the first seven days.
If your podcast episodes get 30 downloads within the first week, you are in the top half of podcasters on Buzzsprout.
That means if you are willing to put in the time and effort to stick with it long enough to release new episodes every week, it’s not out of the question that you’ll become the number one podcaster in your niche within the next year or two.
Podcasting vs Other Media
Podcasting does not have as robust a mechanism for discoverability as blogs and YouTube, but the growth you experience with podcasting is much more permanent. When someone becomes a listener of yours, they stick with it for a long time and will likely listen to most of the episodes you put out.
The shows that do well with independent creators are the ones that are very specific to a group of people with specific questions, specific needs, and specific interests.
When podcasting came along, you could go the general route and say, “This is a podcast for all people.” Today, that’s not enough.
Alex: How important do you think it is that we target our shows to a specific niche in the future?
Travis: There’s nothing magical about excluding people. The value of the niche is that you can be the default answer when someone says, “I want to hear about X.”
Because word of mouth is still the primary way people find podcasts. It’s not social media or advertising.
Whether it’s being a guest on someone else’s show, doing pod swaps where you swap episodes or trailers, or someone saying, “Hey, we are having this conversation. I heard this thing on a podcast talking about this.
You should check out that podcast. “That’s how podcasts grow. Maybe in five years that will not be the case. But right now, word of mouth is still number one.
The Value of a Hyper Niche Podcast
If you can become the first standard answer for a particular topic, that will accelerate your growth. On the other hand, if you are a podcast about nothing in particular, there’s no reason to recommend others listen to you.
Alex: Are there still more people listening to podcasts? Not podcast hosts or guests, but people who just listen. Is that number still increasing like it was a few years ago?
Edison Research probably does the most thorough analysis on this topic. They are an independent group that monitors various media ecosystems, not just podcasting. They are kind of like our version of Nielsen’s ratings.
If you know how TV ratings are measured, you can see that they are going up year over year, not just in the U.S., but around the world.
Spotify’s Role In The Podcasting Space
Earlier I talked about all these big-money players like Spotify starting to invest in podcasting.
We can not underestimate Spotify’s impact on the global listenership of podcasts. In many countries, Spotify is the default way to listen to podcasts. In the U.S., we are very iPhone-centric, so we have a skewed version of what the rest of the world uses to listen to shows.
But 87% of the smartphones in the world run Android. Currently, Spotify and Google Podcasts top the global charts.
We will also see what YouTube does in the next 2 years to contribute to a growing global audience.
Some of the places where we see big growth are the Philippines, Central and South America, with many Spanish-language podcasts.
Even in parts of Asia and Oceania, we are seeing huge spikes in listenership as Spotify and other listening apps start to tap into those markets.
Alex: With so many acquisitions in this space, what does this mean for independent podcasters and their guests? Is this good or bad for us?
Travis: If you are a shareholder in Spotify, you want Spotify to be the YouTube of podcasting, and that’s their goal.
As an independent podcaster, you should be aware of what’s happening. Not that any of us can do anything about it. But you should ask yourself: how do I want to connect with my listeners? What are the things that are important to me? For example, I know some people do not have their podcast on Spotify for one reason or another. The same is true for other platforms.
So I hope we do not get YouTube-like dominance in podcasting because then you do not have a choice as an independent podcaster.
If you want to remove your video content from YouTube because of what YouTube has done as a platform, where can you go? Vimeo, Wistia?
There’s no other place you can really go where you also have an audience that will come with you and continue to grow.
Some podcast hosting platforms now offer programmatic advertising that is dynamically inserted into your show. You could be talking about homeschooling one minute and inserting a GEICO ad the next!
The great thing is that podcasting is still a very open ecosystem.
If someone can not find your show on one platform, they can find it on another. That’s something we should preserve as long as possible.
We can not control what big players like Spotify will do. If they eventually win the podcasting game, everyone will have a decision to make. But for now, we still have the ability to decide how we want to distribute our show and how we want to connect with our listeners.
What tools can independent podcasters use to succeed in this space? What existing tools should we use and what emerging tools should we look for?”
There’s no underestimating how far technology has come. Back in the day, the original Apple Podcasts, iTunes, was a text directory. It was a manual, hand-coded RSS feed. It was an uphill battle to find a podcast in a directory.
But that has changed.
For example, I had never heard of PodMatch until I came across it in one of the leading industry newsletters. I checked it out only to discover there are thousands of people using the service.
New software is being developed all the time. For example, we are using Riverside to record this right now. Despite all the variables that make it so difficult to record high quality audio and video over the Internet, they are doing a great job.
Then we have the Otters and the Revs of this world. While these are great, I am looking for someone who can provide an excellent and accurate transcription service for podcasts at a price point that makes sense for independent podcasters, and in languages that are not English.
We also have Canva, for which we have developed an integration to help podcasters with graphic design. People still judge your podcast by its cover art. So I am glad to see platforms like Canva creating podcast-specific templates and continuing to support the industry.
We are also seeing more and more people with expertise in other industries entering the podcasting space and creating podcast-specific applications.
Alex: To wrap it up, where do you see the podcasting industry going?
Travis: Podcasting will continue to evolve in the sense that independent podcasters will create an ecosystem that is valuable to businesses. We’ll see more business owners say, “You know what? This is a fantastic opportunity for me to be my own media company. Podcasts allow me to talk about the things that are important to our business, our customers and our prospects.”
They’ll see podcasts as a networking platform to connect with influential people who can help them grow their bottom line.
So it’s going to be interesting to see more companies get into podcasting and how it goes from something to be made fun of to an incredible way to have influence.
About Travis Albritton
Travis Albritton has launched 10 podcasts in the last 5 years and is the Senior Producer of Buzzcast, one of the most popular podcasts about podcasting in the world. Formerly the Head of Content at Buzzsprout, Travis has been coaching independent podcasters for more than 4 years and recently started the Christ-Centered Marketing podcast agency to help Christian business owners launch shows of their own.
- You can learn more about Travis Albritton and Christ-Centered Marketing at https://christcenteredmarketing.com/