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2019 PRedictions: The year of the podcast

This blog is part of our PRedictions series, a collection of posts from PR and communications leaders offering insights, advice, and opinions on how our industry can grow in 2019. To view our full list of 2019 PRedictions, click here. Peter Mitchell, Group Managing Director, 4DC, predicts: 

We’ve seen it all year, everywhere you go people are plugged into podcasts during their morning commute, at the gym or during weekend morning errands. It seems nothing can stop the rise of the podcast and brands can no longer ignore it as a mainstream media channel.

1)      Growth in listenership

Consumers are increasingly moving towards podcast as a media channel of choice. The level of organic consumption, as a result, means it can no longer be ignored by brands. To put it into perspective, on average podcast penetration sits at around 12 per cent - the same at Channel 4. Over six million Brits now tune into podcasts every week, double the amount listening in 2013*.

We will see massive growth in audience numbers – 20 per cent year-on-year – as on-demand audio content becomes ever-more engaging and targeted. Imagine how much higher that number could with big brand investment.

2)      Technology enabling audio

While on-demand services such as Netflix and Spotify have created the insatiable need for immediate content, technology has made it possible. The same is now happening in the audio space. Smart speakers once priced in the hundreds are now much more affordable. From 2017 to 2018 the number of Brits owning a smart speaker doubled**. We expect this year to be the Christmas of the smart speaker.

3)      Brands understanding the podcast space

So often we have businesses come to us who have dipped their toe into podcasts and have been disappointed in their listener numbers. We work closely with brands to understand their business and brand objectives as part of an emersion phase. It enables businesses to define something for an audience that’s not only engaging but provides value back to the brand. Podcasts need to be engaging to generate a return on investment.  

Podcasts have, and will continue to be, driven by consumer behaviour. What brands are now starting to do is listen and act. As a result, next year will see a surge in brands successfully taking hold of the podcast opportunity.

4)      Increase in podcast promotion

Any content you make has to be promoted. It’s a fact of life that advertising drives audiences. Expect to see podcasts promoted via more traditional methods next year, including ads on billboards, magazines and radio. You’ve probably already started to see BBC Sounds promoted on its own website and social channels, via billboards and digital advertising.

5)      Monetisation of content

Consumers don’t like to pay for content, unless it’s content they really want and can’t get anywhere else. In China, the subscription-based podcast model is currently worth around US$7 billion. Audiences there pay, predominantly for self-improvement content, because it’s that good, and as a result, brands are generating revenue. We expect paywall testing to hit the UK next year. The challenge for brands will be walking the fine line between content and monetization.

* Rajar Midas Audio Survey, Autumn 2018

** YouGov Smart Speaker Report 20198