Online audio is thriving and it plays an increasingly important role in the audiovisual sector. This article is an extract from our 2018 Trends Report.

What is it about?

The term podcasting was first coined in 2004, but it took 10 more years for podcasts to start building big audiences. That’s when the launch of popular shows, such as Welcome to Night Vale and Serial, made the downloading of audio files to personal computers or mobile devices a sensation.

Today, the ratio of people who listen to podcasts is one in five for Canadians (Media Technology Monitor, Spring 2016) and one in four for Americans (The infinite Dial, Winter 2017). Online audio is booming as entertainment offerings have moved beyond traditional radio: there are now several digital music services such as Spotify and Apple Music along with a wide offering of audio dramas and documentaries targeted at niche audiences scattered across the globe. In Canada, sports followed by investigative and editorial are the two most preferred types of podcasts.

Their popularity attracts ad revenues. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has analyzed the US podcasting market and expects an 85% sales increase from 2016 to 2017. That’s a jump from $119 million to $220 million. Even so, many creators still struggle to bring advertisers on board. Apple has been a big factor because it handles most podcasts and, until recently, did not offer in-episode analytics. Until December 2017, creators and advertisers had to rely mainly on download totals to measure success. Deeper analytics should help all sides make better decisions

Why is it important to out industries?

The serialization aspect of podcasts makes them easily adapted for television. Some popular podcasts are transitioning already. In 2017, Amazon Studio produced the TV version of Lore, a horror podcast, and ordered two seasons of Homecoming, a political thriller based on the podcast of the same name. In 2018, ABC will air Alex, Inc., a sitcom inspired by the podcast documentary StartUp. FX has also struck a development deal with Sony Pictures Television for a series based on Welcome to Night Vale – a podcast which has also led to live shows, novels, and script books. It could work both ways, as well, so that we might anticipate podcasts created from TV shows.

Interesting facts

  • In Canada, half the audience listens to podcasts on their smartphones, according to a survey by the Media Technology Monitor.
  • 65% of listeners are willing to buy products and services advertised on podcasts, according to the IAB. Direct response ads, read by the podcast hosts, are most effective.

Go deeper

Look into the origins of podcasting and its potential use in VR and 360° experiences with Podcasting is Conquering Transmedia and Virtual Reality. Also, The New Podcast Economy analyzes business models at the core of this flourishing industry.

Worth following

More brands and organizations are creating their own audio shows. General Electric, eBay, Lenovo, Shopify, Tinder – even the UK Parliament – have launched podcasts. While they gain little, if any, advertising revenue here, podcasts are seen as a valuable way to connect with attentive audiences and promote a brand.

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