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The availability of podcasts has exploded in recent years thanks to the rise of dedicated podcasting apps. Platforms like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Stitcher have made it easier than ever for listeners to find, download, and listen to their favorite podcasts all in one place. Whereas podcasts were once confined to individual websites and RSS feeds, apps have centralized the podcast listening experience.
According to Edison Research, the percentage of monthly podcast listeners who reported using a dedicated podcast app jumped from 64% in 2016 to 79% in 2019. The convenience and organization provided by apps makes the podcast listening experience seamless. Listeners can browse top shows and categories, create playlists, download episodes for offline listening, and pick up where they left off on any device.
Apps have also been instrumental in podcast discovery. Algorithmic recommendations point listeners to new shows based on their listening history and followings. Push notifications alert fans when their favorite podcast releases a new episode. Podcast apps provide exposure to niche shows that listeners may not have found just browsing the internet. The ability to measure listens, followers, shares, and reviews within apps provides key audience data to podcasters as well.
While the podcast app landscape continues to rapidly evolve, early movers like Spotify and Apple maintain dominance. According to Parrot Analytics, Spotify accounts for 36% of podcast listens while Apple trails closely at 34%. However, new entrants continue to chip away at their market share. Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, Pandora, and many others all offer their own listening platforms. It's easier than ever for new listeners to dip their toes into podcasts and seasoned fans to organize their subscriptions with just a tap.
The proliferation of smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home is opening up podcast listening to broader audiences. Smart speakers provide a frictionless way for people to ask for and listen to podcasts just using their voice. According to Edison Research, monthly podcast listening among smart speaker owners grew 160% from 2018 to 2019. These devices are introducing spoken word audio to those who previously may not have explored podcasts on their own.
Smart speakers have tapped into a more passive style of podcast listening. Requests like "Alexa, play me a funny podcast" allow the device to serve up podcasts without the need to search or subscribe. Listeners can go about their daily activities while letting a smart speaker DJ entertaining or informative content. This "lean back" listening experience has enabled podcasts to soundtrack everything from cooking to commuting for smart speaker owners.
Asking for podcasts by name, topic, or keyword also facilitates discovery. Smart speakers leverage listener data to queue up podcast recommendations personalized to someone's tastes. First-time podcast listeners can simply say "Alexa, play podcasts about hiking" to surface outdoor shows without needing to dig through apps or directories. Similarly, regular listeners can use voice commands to find new podcasts in their favorite genres.
Smart speakers have proven especially popular with older and less tech-savvy audiences. An Adobe study found that 55% of smart speaker owners are aged 45 and up. Speaking a command may present less friction than navigating podcast apps for the demographics least likely to have explored podcasts previously. Smart speakers also enable families to listen to podcasts aloud together, expanding the audience beyond just headphone listening.
The video podcasting format brings the intimate, personality-driven style of audio podcasts to a visual medium. Adding video opens up podcasts to new audiences who prefer consuming content visually or find it more engaging. According to a HubSpot report, video was the most preferred type of content for learning about a product or service. Video podcasts leverage this appetite for rich media while retaining the authenticity that draws listeners to podcasts.
One major advantage of video is its ability to grow an audience on additional platforms. Video podcasters can share their content on YouTube in addition to audio-only platforms. Youtube provides access to over 2 billion monthly active users, dwarfing even leading podcast apps. These platforms also make video easily shareable across social media. Viewers may discover a video podcast clip on Instagram or Facebook, then subscribe for more.
Video also makes podcast content more interactive through gestures, graphics, and on-screen text. Hosts can point to emphasize important topics or edit in images and footage to illustrate their stories. Video provides more sensory stimulation to keep audiences engaged compared to audio alone. Podcasters can also take live calls via video conferencing or interact with viewers' comments on YouTube.
According to Buzzsprout, over 70% of listeners prefer video for tutorials or learning new skills. Seeing a host demonstrate something on-camera can prove more engaging than just hearing verbal explanations. Video also expands the range of potential content from purely conversational to visual formats like news, sketch comedy or animation.
Live streaming is unlocking new podcasting possibilities around events that unfold in real time. Rather than releasing pre-recorded episodes after the fact, podcasters can now broadcast conferences, concerts, sports matches and more to listeners as they happen. This opens up podcasting to timely events that listeners want to experience live alongside fellow fans.
Many podcasters have found streaming a natural extension of their show formats. Comedic podcasts like Comedy Bang Bang! and improv shows like Spontaneanation have live streamed recordings of their episodes. This gives their existing fanbase a way to experience the comedy and chemistry in real time. Podcasts focused on tech events like Apple keynotes or political events like primary debates also provide live commentary viewers can tune into.
Sports podcasts in particular are utilizing live streaming to deliver play-by-play coverage. The Bill Simmons Podcast has streamed live commentary for big games like the Super Bowl and NBA Finals. Rather than polishing and editing a post-game recap, Bill Simmons and guests provide gut reactions as the action unfolds. The Manning brothers have also popularized live streaming Monday Night Football with alternative Manningcast broadcasts.
Festivals, conferences and conventions that were once limited to in-person attendees are now streaming live sessions as podcasts. South by Southwest offered live-streamed panels to remote viewers for the first time during the pandemic. Consumer Electronics Show streams keynotes and vendor events through their CES Podcast. Others are streaming lectures, fireside chats and product launches that previously required an event badge.
Some podcasters see streaming as a way to make local live shows accessible to a global audience. LA podcast network Headgum often streams their monthly live comedy showcase. Rather than performing solely for a West Coast crowd, they expand to listeners across time zones. Streaming also gives artists and musicians a way to simulcast concerts as podcasts.
Social media provides a vital channel for podcasters to spread their shows to new listeners. While podcasts live on audio platforms, creating shareable social media content gives shows exposure beyond just subscribers. According to Pacific Content, 66% of marketers consider social media the most effective channel for expanding audience reach. Crafting posts tailored to specific platforms allows podcast episodes to thrive in the crowded social feeds vying for users' attention.
The podcast Social Media Marketing made social media shareability a cornerstone of its growth strategy starting out. The hosts excerpt short, engaging clips from each episode and post them natively on platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn. These clips distill episodes down to key takeaways while also giving a flavor of the show's conversational style. The podcast also tags relevant hashtags and accounts to place the content in front of interested professional audiences. This social content acts as a gateway for listeners to then subscribe and hear full episodes.
Comedy and storytelling shows have found success sharing short, funny audio snippets as native social videos. The podcast Scriptnotes creates "Previously on..." recaps parodying TV dramas to hype upcoming episodes. By posting these recaps across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, they turn loyal listeners into a street team spreading the word. The hilarious out-of-context clips also catch unsuspecting scrollers' attention. Distributing this social-friendly audio without video requires careful editing for clarity and inclusion of supplemental captions or images.
Podcasts focused on current events or timely topics can also leverage social media for real-time discussion. Shows like Pod Save America routinely livetweet commentary from episodes in tandem with major news stories unfolding. This engages both diehard fans and Twitter users following hashtags about the event. It provides a platform for hosts' takes while directing interested followers to subscribe. However, avoiding being overly self-promotional is key to come across as an authority rather than just pushing a podcast.
Sponsorships have emerged as the dominant business model for podcasters to monetize their shows and turn their passions into careers. According to Midroll's State of the Podcast Universe report, over 60% of podcasters now rely on advertising compared to just 29% supported by listener donations. Sponsors help top podcasts generate millions in revenue, while giving advertisers unparalleled intimacy and trust with audiences.
The podcast advertising landscape has evolved from intrusive, pre-recorded spots into brands organically woven into shows. Advertisers want to partner with hosts as experts to craft contextual sponsor integrations that resonate with loyal listeners. Casper didn't just interrupt the conversational Sleep With Me podcast " host Drew Ackerman naturally segued into how he sleeps better with Casper's cooling mattresses. Podcast sponsorships feel like trusted product recommendations from a friend.
Sponsorships benefit more than just major publishers and celebrities breaking into podcasting. They provide a viable income for niche shows with small but engaged listenerships. The true crime comedy podcast Small Town Murder earns over $70k per month through just 5 mid-roll advertisements. Combined with Patreon donations, hosts James Pietragallo and Jimmie Whisman earn a full-time living by creatively integrating sponsors like MeUndies and Blue Apron into irreverent banter. Even unknown podcasters can pitch local sponsors relevant to their community and interests.
Dynamic ad insertion technology allows podcasters to program multiple sponsor spots that target listeners by region and demographics. Rather than record a separate ad for each sponsor, podcasters simply include tags for platforms like Megaphone to populate personalized ads in real time. This unlocks opportunities for smaller and more niche sponsors to reach their ideal audience without requiring custom ad reads.
For hosts and listeners alike, the relationships built through podcasting create a sense of community unlike any other medium. More than just a one-way broadcast, podcasts nurture personal connections between creators and fans as well as among listeners. Audience members become friends, exploring shared interests, supporting each other, and building a tribe around the podcast.
This community often starts with the rapport between co-hosts whose on-air chemistry provides the foundation for the entire show. Popular podcasts like My Favorite Murder, Reply All and The Read thrive on the infectious camaraderie between hosts. Listeners are drawn in by their banter and inside jokes, forming parasocial relationships with the hosts over time. Many shows further cultivate community by inviting fans to submit questions, share stories and suggest topics to cover. The true crime comedy show Small Town Murder fixes errors using audio messages recorded by listeners. This gives fans a way to participate in the show beyond just being passive ears.
Active social media engagement between podcasters and listeners strengthens these bonds. Last Podcast on the Left engages fans through Reddit AMAs, responding to tweets and commenting on Instagram posts. Many hosts also organize live events where fans can interact face-to-face. Whether it"s a recording, meet and greet or trivia night, these experiences allow friendships formed online to extend offline too. Listeners also use social platforms like Facebook Groups and Subreddits to connect with fellow fans of their favorite shows. These digital spaces allow listeners across the world to swap podcast recommendations, debate theories or simply hang out.
For some, podcasts provide community where they can"t find it offline. Millennial women facing mental health struggles have found solace in Anxiety Slayer podcast host Kileen Douglas" honest discussions and affirmations. The podcast has fostered a Facebook Group with over 10,000 members offering encouragement during difficult times. For minority groups and other underrepresented communities, podcasts centered on their experiences cultivate belonging when they may feel isolated in daily life. Whether it"s relatable stories or guest experts, podcasts provide the empathy and advice listeners seek.
Podcasters are finding creative ways to repackage their audio content for new mediums and reach broader audiences. While audio remains the core experience, adapting shows for non-audio platforms taps into different learning styles and environments. Converting conversations into text, video and other engaging formats unlocks podcasts" stories for non-listeners.
Transcribing podcast episodes into blog posts, books or newsletters lets creators grow their brand beyond audio. Podcast transcription platform Descript automatically generates text transcripts for each episode. Hosts can then easily edit these into written stories conveying the core ideas without needing to rehash verbatim quotes. Newsletter company Revue enables creators to pull insights from podcast episodes to craft email newsletters expanding on topics. Even compiling episodes covering similar themes into a book provides fans a new way to absorb the content.
Video also brings podcasts new life visually. The true crime comedy show Small Town Murder converts audio clips into animated recreations of stories on YouTube. Animation studio Jasmine H. provides motion graphics and characters acting out the hilarious crimes for over 300,000 subscribers. These videos reach a different audience than the audio yet retain the hosts" signature banter. The Austen Playbook podcast transforms recaps of Jane Austen novels into sketches performed in Regency-era costumes. Seeing the hosts ham it up in period garb takes their passion from ears to eyes.
On streaming and social video, podcast highlights tailored for shortform content capture attention. 60-second recaps from NPR"s Fresh Air let TikTok users sample interviews with celebrities. Comedy podcasts like Gilmore Guys clip jokes and pop culture riffs to compile into viral Instagram Reels. Voicing over episode clips or animations brings the audio into snackable social videos optimized for mobile users" feeds.
Podcasts succeeding on new mediums tailor the experience rather than just repurposing the same audio. The Birthful podcast launched Birthful TV on YouTube featuring video interviews and meditations for expecting mothers. While retaining the core education mission, the videos" personal connection benefits visually-focused pregnant women. Even reimagining podcasts as in-person events opens up new possibilities. Now in its 18th year, The Moth storytelling podcast has expanded into theatrical tours, Mainstage shows and virtual gatheringsexpanding community beyond audio.
As podcasting explodes into the mainstream, questions arise around whether this intimate, personality-driven medium can retain its authenticity at scale. Podcasting took off because of the raw, unfiltered conversations between hosts. But as shows become big business, will podcasts lose the relatability that built passionate fandoms?
Many podcasting veterans believe staying authentic to one"s creative vision is possible despite growing pains. Roman Mars, host of the design-focused show 99% Invisible, emphasizes that success requires being willing to say no. When advertisers wanted his show to partner with brands seemingly at odds with their ethics, he turned down deals despite risking revenue. Mars believes "having a strong sense of what your show is" guides those decisions.
Jessica Cordova Kramer chose to leave the network she co-founded, Lemonada Media, due to creative differences as it scaled. She wanted to retain full control over her motherhood show Hombre. Kramer now sustains it independently through listener support, prioritizing creative freedom over wider reach under corporate owners.
However, other podcasters have faced backlash after "selling out." Song Exploder host Hrishikesh Hirway was accused of compromising the show's indie spirit when it moved to streaming service Netflix. He now balances catering to both new audiences hungry for visuals and loyal audio-only fans. Similarly, true crime comedy show My Favorite Murder sparked objections when it went from intimate live shows to sold out arenas. Mega-popular Joe Rogan faced boycotts from fans for platforming controversial guests as his show grew.
Maintaining authenticity alongside success requires intentional choices. Julie Shapiro, executive artistic director of Radiotopia, believes the key is remembering why you started podcasting. By staying grounded in your original vision, you avoid chasing trends or business pressures diverting your path. Shapiro says podcasters must keep asking themselves "Why are you doing this? Who is your audience? What are you trying to give them?" Those fundamental questions anchor you when fame and fortune beckon.
Podcasting's intimacy hinges on hosts revealing authentic selves, not carefully manufactured personas. But Jenna Weiss-Berman, co-founder of Pineapple Street Studios, warns against oversharing just to seem real. "Sharing for sharing's sake without a purpose can seem inauthentic," she notes. "Make sure it serves the audience and story." Weiss-Berman believes podcasting stays authentic when hosts share consciously, not impulsively chase TMI clickbait.