Rob Greenlee is the Vice President of Content and Partnerships for Libsyn. He’s the co-host of The New Media Show with Todd Cochrane at Blubrry and he’s been podcasting since the industry’s very early days.
PBJ: How would you summarize podcasting in 2019?
Rob Greenlee: To summarize highlights of podcasting in 2019, it has been mostly about ethnic, race, and gender diversity being fully and proactively embraced by the podcasting industry. Women are creating 40% of all the new podcasts on the Libsyn platform over the past year, and women are at least 50% of the attendees at podcasting conferences all over the USA. We still have a long way to go on the diversity opportunity in the medium, but significant progress is being made and this will result in growing listening overall at a faster rate.
Another big change in 2019 is the fact that everyone now knows what a podcast is and it is no longer needed to explain what a podcast is in the real world these days.
The year has also seen content genres like True Crime continue to bring new listeners to the podcasting medium and the growing development of fictional podcasts has been important too, and I hope to see more of them next year. The shift that I have felt towards higher quality and more professionally produced podcasts has been growing listeners at a much more substantial rate on a global scale, and I think any new Edison podcasting research will likely show that podcasting listenership grew at a faster rate than any prior year. The year 2019 has seen per capita listening that is higher outside of the USA.
We have also seen the method of counting podcast downloads and audiences continue to be a struggle for the podcasting industry in the face of growing adoption of the IAB V2 Podcast Metrics Guidelines certification at a growing list of hosting, redirecting, and attribution companies. It does seem to be progressing, as we are up to about 10 podcast hosting companies who have been certified as IAB Compliant. Yet some are holding onto the past methods of counting downloads as a way to preserve legacy business models that can be costly to upgrade to the new IAB V2 Podcast Metrics Guidelines certification. The podcast advertising market is still charging along with more efforts focused on dynamic ad insertion, programmatic ad marketplaces, and I feel this area is prime for consolidation and expansion to larger numbers of shows, able to accept advertising at increasing CPM rates.
The global embrace and adoption of podcasting in 2019 has been amazing to see as podcasting conferences and fan event festivals are being started all over the world these days. Even here in the U.S. and Canada, podcasting conferences and festivals are starting up in every major city in most all countries and is making it impossible to attend all the events like I have in past years.
We could be seeing an interest bubbling in the space to extend RSS 2.0 namespaces with some new feature tags and even growing interest in maybe replacing RSS over time with JSON, a potential replacement feed format that is lighter and more simplified to use. We shall see how this new RSS Extension Coalition group on slack — rsspodcastcoalition.slack.com — could result in some new extension tags that could expand RSS with widespread adoption and involvement of the hosting platform companies and listening app platforms.
PBJ: What surprised you the most about 2019?
Rob Greenlee: The biggest surprise of 2019 has been just how fast women are coming into the podcasting space at all levels from company leadership, advertising sales, to podcast content creation and hosting shows. We are also seeing women getting into helping others produce and promote podcasts by starting up new companies to consult on podcasting projects.
PBJ: What three things do you expect to happen in 2020?
Rob Greenlee: 1) Apple Podcasts will lose market share of podcast listening more to upstart listening platforms like Spotify, Google and some new music streaming platforms coming into the podcasting space; 2) Global growth of podcast listening and content creation will grow faster than in the U.S.; 3) We’ll see the ability to license major and indie label music for global podcast listening, but will have duration limits and accountability is coming for those that still have and use unlicensed music in their podcasts.
PBJ: There seems to be some anger toward radio getting into the space.
#1) Do you believe that to be the case?
Rob Greenlee: Yes. I have sensed a recent change in radio’s embrace of podcasting. This change feels like a pull-back from having an interest in being part of the majority of the podcasting industry around the independent-podcast creator side, and being insensitive to the broader podcasting industry. I think radio is realizing podcasting is an opportunity and a threat to radio’s current models. Some of these larger radio networks have tried to co-opt the space as their birthright to dominate, claims of having the first podcast awards, and to make exaggerated and untrue claims about their market share in podcasting.
We are also seeing larger radio networks buying podcasting companies versus building the infrastructure themselves to create original podcast content. The radio industry just did not have the right culture, talent, and understanding internally to produce popular podcasts themselves. Coming out of radio we have seen their own podcasting experts emerge for radio conferences, and thus less crossover between that larger independent podcast side with the radio owned-and-produced podcast leaders at radio events. Because of this I think it is time to end the separation of radio in its tracks at events like Podcast Movement. These things are creating some resentment and anger toward radio in the broader podcasting space.
#2) Isn’t it a good thing that more players — no matter where they come from — are joining the podcasting craze?
Rob Greenlee: I am not looking to discourage participation by anyone in the podcasting space — all are welcome. I just think that anyone or any media company needs to make an effort to fit into the culture and best practices in the space based on its 15-year history that is not hard to learn about. The podcasting industry has never been a very supportive space for companies and individuals that are doing unethical business practices or is incorrect in claims. Authenticity and honesty are valued highly in the podcasting industry.
PBJ: Will subscription models survive the long haul?
Rob Greenlee: Paid podcast subscriptions have been growing in the podcasting space since almost the very beginning of the medium. So yes, they will survive in the long haul. We will see continued efforts to make premium subscription models work better in the future and some shows will find traction. But it will be a very small number of shows. I do think it is still a little early to see any aggregation platform gain wide adoption of an aggregation model like Luminary.
PBJ: What will advertisers think of podcasts over the next 1-3 years?
Rob Greenlee: Advertising in podcasting will continue to grow over the next few years as it is generally very effective at reaching niche interest audiences that other mediums do not reach very well; plus conversion to customers is also very high too. So, the future of advertising in podcasts will grow as we get podcast metrics more standardized, and respect listeners’ data privacy. Ad creative needs to continue to focus on entertaining ads, authenticity, and trust building.