The growth of podcasts over the last couple of years signals a fundamental shift in the content consumer. It shows the change from a predominantly active and ‘Stare at a screen all the time’ mode of consumption to a growing need for a more passive and ‘consume while you do other things’ way of consuming content. Further, it has led all major social media platforms to look at audio with renewed vigour and focus with established players like Twitter, Facebook, and even Spotify set to face off with newer platforms like Clubhouse. We’re at a defining juncture in the journey of the podcasting industry.
So, where does it go from here? I want to pick four key points for the future.
The tools to create podcasts will be democratised. Gone are the days of every podcast needing one to go to a studio and record. All you need is your phone and a few apps, and you have a podcast. And as it happened with Instagram and Tiktok, these tools will enable creators to create at scale while drastically reducing costs.
Monetisation will be defined as much by paid subscriptions as brand advertising. The growth of podcasts has come when creators are looking beyond traditional brand advertising to move towards a paid model for everything from exclusive content to merchandise and other cohort-based models of building revenue. This is alongside platforms like Twitter and Substack pushing this out into the mainstream. So while dynamic ad insertion will help monetise content at scale, actual long term value will come from paid subscriptions.
Podcasts won’t be about the creator making choices between video and audio. Instead, it’ll be the consumer choosing what options they want at the time they are consuming. The customised experience of how one can consume will evolve and give platforms to push this ‘customisable content experience’ into newer spaces.
Social audio will bridge the traditional podcasting industry and the creator/influencer economy of what has been predominantly video based content. This will (and already is) lead to a cross-pollination of talent, with YouTubers building podcasts and podcasters growing social media following to bring scale to their growth. This is leading to a more social relationship between podcasters and their audience, with constant interactions driving the content or, in many cases, becoming a part of the content itself.
So, what’s the future of podcasts? I’d go as far as to say that podcasts will define how we create and consume content in the days to come, so plug-in and let the podcast play.
(Varun Duggirala is a content creator, podcaster, entrepreneur, and personal development pundit. The Co-founder & Content Chief at The Glitch hosts a podcast called Advertising Is Dead, where he discusses the rapidly evolving world of advertising.)