Podcasting Gets a Boost at RAIN Business Summit

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(By Richard Davies) The podcasting industry is about to get another burst of mainstream media coverage, with the release of the 2019 Edison Research “Infinite Dial” listening survey later today (2 p.m. Eastern).

In a sneak peak of the widely anticipated results, Edison President Larry Rosin, told the RAIN Podcast Business Summit in New York yesterday that more than two-thirds of Americans are now aware of the term “podcasting.” Five years ago, the number was slightly less than half.

The survey is expected to show another year of steady growth. Time spent listening to podcasts doubled between 2014 and 2018. 

“Podcasting is undersold,” Rosin said. If the industry was to get its “fair share” of total advertising spending, “it would be over $1 billion,” which would be more double current estimates of annual ad revenue.

The New York event for marketers, advertisers and podcast professionals included confident predictions about the industry’s future growth, but caution over barriers to discoverability and the lack of consistent audience measurement. 

“The business won’t mature without standardization of metrics”, said Kerri Hoffman, President and CEO of PRX and PRI public radio. Other speakers and marketers at the summit said that while accurate audience data is critical to the success of the podcast industry, the current measurement system remains deeply flawed.

The boldest statement about future growth came from Zack Reneau-Wedeen, Head of Product at Google Podcasts. The company’s goal is to help double worldwide podcast listenership, he said. “The greatest area of creativity right now is in podcasting.”

Much of the increase in podcast listening may come in developing countries such as India and Brazil, where Android has a huge footprint among consumers.

A key part of Google’s strategy is to use its dominance in search to improve discoverability. Google Podcasts is planning to roll out search results that will include specific episodes via audio search. 

While it’s easy to find video episodes and text information, said Reneau-Wedeen, “audio stories are not as accessible.” He also spoke of the need to develop more diversity in podcasting.

“We want to introduce people who’ve never listened to podcasts, and narrow the awareness and convenience gap.”

Jarl Mohn, President and CEO of National Public Radio predicted that   “in the next five years, the medium will be as big or larger than network radio.”

Another hot topic at the conference was this week’s news that a startup called Luminary has received $100 million in funding and plans to launch a subscription-based podcast service. The company aims to be the Netflix of podcasting, according to The New York Times.

But many content creators at RAIN were skeptical about putting popular podcasts behind paywalls.

“I think you can do harm to a medium when locking up content behind paywall subscriptions,” said Conal Byrne, President of iHeartPodcast Network. “The beauty of this medium is that it emerged with a very light ad load.”

Richard Davies is a former ABC News Radio Correspondent, and founder of the podcast consulting firm, DaviesContent. He can be reached by e-mail at richard@daviescontent.me. Check out other articles he’s written for PBJ HERE.