Our Crystal Ball Series With Erica Mandy

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Erica Mandy is the host of The Newsworthy daily national news podcast. She’s one of the industry’s most successful podcasters, having launched her show after quitting a job she held for a decade as a Los Angeles TV reporter. Here’s what Erica thinks about 2019 and the year ahead.

PBJ: Are you still having fun today compared to when you started?
Erica: It’s now more fun because of the growth of The NewsWorthy and the growth of the overall podcasting industry.

PBJ: How would you summarize podcasting in 2019?
The year podcasting truly went mainstream. From major players making huge investments to more than half of Americans (12+) saying they’ve now listened to a podcast, 2019 has been a breakthrough moment. Fewer consumers are questioning what a podcast is and fewer companies are doubting whether they should get involved.

PBJ: What surprised you the most about 2019?
Erica:
The number of pitches I received from new podcast-related companies, looking for early customers, feedback and collaborations. Everyone seemingly wants a piece of the podcasting pie in 2019.

I think it’s a great thing for innovation and experimentation, and I welcome new, valuable opportunities and collaborations. That said, I worry a bit about these tools becoming distractions or causing decision fatigue among independent podcasters.

PBJ: What disappointed you the most?
Erica: I think as more well-known companies and brands get into podcasting, it’s been too easy for some of the discoverability platforms to only feature the “big” shows with “big” affiliations.

Some of the hardcore listeners of The NewsWorthy today first found out about it through a platform feature shortly after I launched. I hope all high-quality shows, regardless of size or resources, get similar and continued opportunities, especially because of the variety of listener tastes. I’ll talk more about this when we look ahead to 2020…

PBJ: Most over-used phrase or term in 2019 was….
It’s not new in 2019, but its overuse has continued: “the Netflix of podcasting” (or really, the Netflix of ____ )

PBJ: What three things do you expect to happen in 2020?
Erica: With a focus on the content side of the industry, I predict podcasting will continue to benefit from consumers’ desire to scroll less and control their smartphone distractions more.

For example, we just saw Google and Apple launch new tools for ‘digital wellbeing’ in addition to providing users continued access to screen time tracking. There’s a reason for this as ‘tech backlash’ continues. Yet, listening to podcasts feels like a much more conscious and productive choice than endless scrolling, 24/7 notifications and time-consuming clickbait. Yes, the ability to multi-task while listening has long been a selling point for podcasts, but I think consumers will appreciate this more than ever.

At the same time, with more and bigger players getting into the space, consumers will have endless choices and become even pickier about where they’ll spend their time listening. This means longer shows will need to have even higher quality content to hang on to their audiences, while shorter shows will have an easier time keeping and getting listeners (ok, I’m biased), especially with an increased focus on curated commute-focused playlists and ongoing adoption of smart speakers in both the home and car.

Speaking of curated podcast playlists, some listening platforms, such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify, will continue to invest in their own technology and original podcast content. While I think Apple particularly has done a great job highlighting a wide-variety of content for varying listener tastes, my hope for 2020 is that these platforms don’t limit their discovery tools to overly promote their own shows. It’s important for the overall industry that aggregators improve convenient discoverability –regardless of shows’ affiliations.

While big shows and companies have the advantage of vast resources and we will surely see more podcast-related announcements from the big guys, let’s not forget that smaller operations have something else extremely important: less red tape and more of a runway for risk-taking. Continued experimentation and creativity are vital to the success of both individual podcasts and the industry as a whole.

Finally, I predict a limited number of massive ‘hit’ shows. Consumer attention is more divided than ever. If the Game of Thrones of podcasting does come in 2020, it’ll surely help the industry, but just like we’re seeing in the streaming wars, gone are the ‘water cooler’ days where we’re all watching, or listening, to the same things.

PBJ: What will advertisers think of podcasts over the next 1-3 years?
Erica:
Most advertisers already know a multi-media/multi-pronged approach is necessary in today’s digital and on-demand world, but podcasting will soon be seen as a necessary and obvious part of any campaign.

I think there will be continued friction about data tracking and data privacy in the industry, but no matter how that shakes out, most advertisers will better understand the effectiveness and uniqueness of host-read ads in podcasting and want in.

Reach Erica Mandy by e-mail at erica@thenewsworthy.com
Read our profile about Erica that we wrote back in January.

More from our series with:
Steve Stewart
Evo Terra
Matty Staudt
Robin Kinnie
Steve Goldstein
Emily Prokop
Rob Greenlee
Jessica Kupferman
Traci Long DeForge
Daniel J. Lews
Mark Asquith
Mathew Passy
Jack Rhysider
Matt Cundill
Jay Soderberg
Bruce Wawrzyniak
Kelli Hurley
Troy Price