Nieman Finds – Podcasters now have three plots of land to prospect for gold, where they used to have just one
NEWS STRONG news Boston, MA: Nieman Lab NICHOLAS QUAH reports 8.27.2019
Hot Pod is a weekly newsletter on the podcasting industry written by Nick Quah; we happily share it with Nieman Lab readers each Tuesday.
Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 223, dated August 27, 2019.
Supply side. Predicting the future is a fool’s game, but then again, I’m at least half a fool. On that note, here’s a future I’ve been mulling over: one in which Apple is no longer the overwhelming end-all of podcast distribution, and where podcast listening is broadly spread across Apple, Spotify, a rainbow of podcast apps, and maybe Pandora.
Barring catastrophe, this outcome feels very probable to me. The questions that remain, then, mostly have to do with details: what the exact market share composition will shape up to be, and the specific story of how each player will get there.
We saw a requisite scene-setting development in that latter story last week, when both Spotify and Pandora trumpeted their efforts to siphon more third-party podcasts onto their respective platforms. For Spotify, that meant pulling its “Spotify for Podcasters” dashboard out of beta and opening it up to the public. For Pandora, that meant rolling out its equivalent with the public unveiling of “Pandora for Podcasters” self-service online hub, which lets podcast publishers manually upload their shows to the platform. The fundamentals of the announcements are about the same: both companies have opened up their platforms for manual podcast inclusion (pending safety checks, natch), something that wasn’t exactly the case before.
It is, ostensibly, a no-brainer for podcast publishers to jump on both platforms (unless they’ve signed some lucrative exclusivity deal, in which case, okay.) After all, the fundamental appeal is the possibility of accessing greater pools of audiences, with the conventional thinking being: you have Apple Podcasts for the already-converted podcast audiences, but Spotify and Pandora present oodles of yet-to-be-converted folks, which both companies seem somewhat incentivized to convert themselves (at least for now). Why not ride the wave? Sure, possibility isn’t probability, and much as it is on the Apple Podcast platform, where you have to play the Apple Podcast Charts roulette and/or get the attention of the editorial team for banner promotion, you’d probably have to engage in similar dances with the Spotify and Pandora teams. But that’s fine, because you now have three plots of land to prospect for gold, where you used to have just the one.
There are additional incentives being proffered, of course. Pandora is headlining the discovery benefits of being listed within its Podcast Genome Project — i.e. truly algorithmic show-listener matching, a.k.a. a Black Box of Audience Development even more opaque than any chart system — and, tucked away in the FAQ, there’s discussion about direct on-platform monetization opportunities. “You will have the opportunity to indicate if you’re interested in being contacted about monetization during the submission process,” it reads. Which, of course, comes with terms: “Ads sold would replace any ads currently within your podcast (if you have any).” On the other hand, Spotify seems focused, at this point anyway, on building out a value narrative of providing increased listening data to podcast creators, including demographic and geographic information, which publishers can presumably use to enhance their own advertising sales efforts. (That said, all signs point to Spotify eventually layering its own advertising mechanisms onto its podcast-distribution experiences, so there may not actually be much daylight on the monetization question past the short term. The differences in messaging is still interesting, though.)
The big picture to keep in mind is whether the incentives of …