Podcasting’s Crystal Ball With Steve Stewart

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In our continuing series about the future of podcasting, today we’re checking in with Steve Stewart. Steve is a Podcast Producer, the Director of The FinCon Podcast Network and the most respected podcast editor on the planet. Here’s what Steve has to say about they year behind us, as well as a look into his 2020 Crystal Ball.

PBJ: How would you summarize podcasting in 2019?
Steve Stewart: It seems like 2019 was the year for Anchor. Not only did more people jump on the “I can record right here, right now” bandwagon and launch podcasts, but they were acquired by Spotify!

I also heard a lot of discussion about adding timestamps and transcriptions to blog posts. I think the jury is still out on how much value they actually add to a podcast, and I’m torn between recommending my clients start using them or not.

PBJ: What surprised you the most about 2019?
Steve Stewart: The Spotify acquisition of both Gimlet Media and Anchor. When we look at what Spotify is doing, Gimlet makes sense. But what I’m most curious about is what their plans are for Anchor. Will it always be free? Will Spotify show preferential treatment to shows hosted on Anchor because of ad insertion? What kind of crazy stuff can/will they do with it?

Spotify has many people who are much smarter than I. Let’s see what happens in 2020.

PBJ: What disappointed you the most?
Steve Stewart: Google Play Music is still around. Why? Google Podcasts is already “installed” on Android phones and doesn’t have as many problems. Having two options with similar names only confuses Android users. I’d love to see GPM go away and Google focus on helping people discover/find podcasts using Google Podcasts and Google search.

PBJ: What three things do you expect to happen in 2020?
Steve Stewart: 1. Google Play Music will be discontinued; 2. A larger percentage of shows will begin using chapter markers and time stamps; 3. There will be a resurgence in podcasting and reflection on the “Golden Age of Podcasting” in the same year (as there has been for many years).

PBJ: There seems to be some anger toward radio getting into the space. 1) Do you believe that to be the case? 2) If yes, why is that? Isn’t it a good thing that more players — no matter where they come from — are joining the podcasting craze?
Steve Stewart: 1. Yes, I believe there seems to be anger towards radio getting into the podcasting space. 2. Podcasters like to feel as if they have lived the Cinderella story. We grew our shows from zero listeners to hundreds or thousands without the help of a big tower and team of marketers. Personally, I don’t have much of a problem with people from radio getting into podcasting. They have a better likelihood of bringing new listeners to the medium. The only problem I have with “radio” getting into podcasting is when a radio show repurposes their broadcast as a podcast episode. It’s as if the podcast was an after-thought — which in most cases it is. But if a radio DJ wants to start a podcast that isn’t broadcast on WYME too, then I say “welcome aboard.”

PBJ: Will subscription models survive the long haul?
Steve Stewart: Sure. Why wouldn’t they?

Ferrari, Bugatti, and Aston Martin sell only a small fraction of the total number of vehicles in the world, yet they are profitable. Pagani will only make 40 Huayra Roadster BCs. If there’s an audience for $3.5M hypercars then there’s an audience who will pay for subscription services.

My guess is less than 0.1% of podcast consumption will be via a subscription service. There are too many great shows that are completely free, so why pay?

PBJ: What will advertisers think of podcasts over the next 1-3 years?
Steve Stewart: I believe more advertisers will see the value of being featured in podcasts. I also think they will begin to see the problems with how podcast advertising is being handled and demand more quality controls be put into place. For one, ad insertion needs to make sense. There is no excuse for an ad to be inserted mid-sentence! Also, live reads by the podcast host need to be performed better. Too many podcasters do the ad like it’s some kind of chore. This company is paying you to do your podcast — SOUND LIKE YOU ARE HAPPY ABOUT IT!

But I think sponsors will get more ROI for less money. Maybe this is a problem of semantics, but I see an “advertiser” as a company who focuses on getting the most amount of “impressions” in a listener’s ear. There is no real relationship between the advertiser and the podcast host. However, I see a “sponsor” as being someone who focuses on getting on the right type of shows. In other words, matching their service with a podcast that caters to the same type of listener that would be interested in their product/service.

A few of my clients are adding an additional “Thank you to our sponsor, X” in the outro of their show. That’s a nice touch and makes it sound like they care about the sponsor. It also can serve as an additional reminder to the listener to visit the special link set up with the sponsor.

That was a longer answer than you were looking for, but I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts.

Steve Stewart is arguably the most respected podcast editor in the industry today. His Podcast Editor’s Club Facebook page has over 4,700 members. Steve can be reached at steve@stevestewart.me

Tomorrow our expert is Steve Goldstein

More from our series with:
Evo Terra
Matty Staudt
Robin Kinnie