Podcasting’s Crystal Ball With Daniel J. Lewis

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Daniel J. Lewis is a highly respected podcasting expert and award-winning podcaster. He’s also the host of The Audacity to Podcast and a regular on Ray Ortega’s Podcaster’s Roundtable. Here’s what Daniel has to say about the industry…

PBJ: How would you summarize podcasting in 2019?
Lewis: Podcasting was first used in 2004, so 2019 was podcasting’s 15th birthday. With all the news about podcasts, podcast-company acquisitions, and more traditional-media coverage and inclusion of podcasts, 2019 truly feels like the year podcasts became mainstream.

PBJ: What surprised you the most about 2019?
Lewis: I was most surprised by the major acquisitions, most notably by Spotify. There was Gimlet, a podcast network that was trying to be the next big thing in podcast content. And there was Anchor, the podcasting app that’s so simple — it has led to more than 100,000 single-episode, dead-on-arrival podcasts (which I call “podflashes”). Nonetheless, I think Spotify’s acquisitions were more about talent and technology.

PBJ: What disappointed you the most?
Lewis: Like many, I was disappointed that podcast consumption didn’t grow more than it did. Yes, it’s great that recent growth and awareness has taken the biggest steps since 2005, but like any podcaster, I would have liked a little more.

I’m also regularly disappointed that most of the attention by mainstream media continues to focus on mostly the same top shows by top studios. I would have rather seen more coverage toward the many more high-quality niche or independent shows.

PBJ: Most over-used phrase or term in 2019 was….
Lewis: “iTunes” — let’s please stop talking about iTunes! Not only has it stopped being the app the majority of podcast consumers actually use (it’s Apple Podcasts now), but it’s also not available on Android (at least right now). I think too many podcasters focus on iTunes and stuff associated with it, like charts, ratings and reviews (and I even sell a service that helps you with that!), and iTunes links. I would much rather see podcasters promoting their own sites or more platform-agnostic podcast apps (or at least give equal attention to alternatives).

PBJ: What three things do you expect to happen in 2020?
Lewis: Apple Podcasts will hit 1 million valid podcasts in their catalog. (They crossed over 800,000 on December 10, 2019, and more than 200,000 podcasts were launched in 2019, according to data from My Podcast Reviews.)

We’ll see more companion podcasts almost become the norm for new major series, like TV shows (streaming and broadcast), movies, and other content outlets.

We’ll see a new standard emerge in podcast, such as technology, licensing, communication guidelines, or maybe even distribution.

PBJ: There seems to be some anger toward radio getting into the space. Why is that?
Lewis: I think more great podcasts is always a good thing, regardless of who is creating them. Radio hosts have a much broader reach than most indie podcasters could ever hope to have, so I think we should look to radio personalities and companies as allies, not enemies. I understand how indie podcasters feel. We are the roots of the podcasting industry — which is counter to how other mainstream media were built — but radio is coming in with apparent arrogance, acting like podcasting is their birthright and this industry wasn’t legitimate until they arrived. But that’s not how all of them think. But while radio can certainly bring in the audience, podcasters still have the chance to dominate the areas corporations can’t afford to touch: the niches.

PBJ: Will subscription models survive the long haul?
Lewis: Someday, streaming-show-style subscription models will succeed. But I think weekly podcast consumption will have to double before we’ll really see breakout success. Right now, I think a lot of investments are being made in the wrong places.

But I think the first outlets to succeed in a big way with a premium subscription model will be the places that already have the large user base already familiar with getting helpful or entertaining content from them. And I believe that first step will be exclusive bonus content for their already-exclusive content, such as insider podcasts for Strange Things on Netflix, for The Expanse on Amazon Prime, and such. But I think the biggest hurdle to overcome will be allowing fans to get those premium podcasts easily in any podcast app. (After all, if you can’t listen in a podcast app, is it really a podcast?)

PBJ: What will advertisers think of podcasts over the next 1-3 years?
Lewis: Advertisers. Ugh.

I get it. Advertising is how many large podcasts make their money. But aside from the Super Bowl of previous years, when did consumers ever truly believe that advertising made anything better?

Nonetheless, advertisers will see podcasts as what they are: great opportunities to reach the right audiences at the right time. Thus, I think advertisers will become more and more favorable toward podcasts. I would only hope that they also continue to investigate the more valuable niches.

Check out Daniel’s website The Audacity to Podcast HERE.
More from our series with:
Steve Stewart
Evo Terra
Matty Staudt
Robin Kinnie
Steve Goldstein
Emily Prokop
Rob Greenlee
Jessica Kupferman
Traci Long DeForge