2019 podcast predictions

What will happen in the podcasting industry this year? Here are our 2019 podcast predictions.

Smart speakers will not be big for podcasters

Many in the industry are heralding the popularity of smart speakers as a possible boon for podcasting.

I disagree.

Yes,  Amazon's Alexa and Google Home are becoming more popular. Usage is growing by 47.9%. But people aren't using them to listen to podcasts!

According to NPR's research, most people use it to listen to music and ask about the weather.

Chart: how many people use smart speakers to listen to podcasts?

Currently, only 1% of listening on smart speakers is for podcasts. I don't see that growing meaningfully in 2019.

Folks listen to podcasts in their earbuds, while they're doing other activities, or in their car, while they're commuting.

Poll: when you do you listen to podcasts?

Yes, it's possible that 2019 will see an increase in audio content tailor-made for smart speakers (as my friends at Pacific Content have pointed out), but even then, I'd be surprised if "podcast style" entertainment goes beyond 10% of usage.

Spotify will grab 35% market share

In 2018, the percentage of podcast listens that went through Spotify increased dramatically, from 10% to 25%. I was initially skeptical of this big increase, but anecdotally, my Twitter followers affirmed that, yes, many of them were listening to podcasts on Spotify:

Totally anecdotal, but like others have mentioned, I know people that use ONLY Spotify for podcasts... mostly folks how are outside of the tech space.

— Bryan Zavestoski (@zavzen) November 20, 2018

Spotify is especially popular for folks using an Android phone:

It's Spotify for podcasts for me. Easy to track between my home iMac, my Android phone, and my work Windows computer.

— Rachael Furn (@rachaelfurn) November 19, 2018

I see this trend continuing. I wouldn't be surprised if Spotify grabs 35% of the podcast listening audience by year's end.

2018 was the year of dynamic ad insertion; 2019 is the year of dynamic content

This past year, we saw an increase in ads being dynamically inserted in podcasts. This tech gave publishers the ability to swap ads into podcasts, based on geography, time, and other targeting factors. These ads can be removed, or replaced, dynamically at any time.

In 2019 we're going to see more publishers using this technique for the content itself. This will allow podcasters to serve niches content for specific geographic areas ("Hey Houston, we're coming to your town!") or have some segments expire (when the content is only relevant for a certain period).

Dynamic content is something Transistor is focusing on in 2019.

Is this the year Apple monetizes podcasts?

In January 2019, Apple issued a warning that it would miss its earnings targets for Q1. The cause? They're selling fewer iPhones these days.

Apple will look to services to help increase revenue in 2019, as Gruber explains here:

Apple’s Services revenue is growing quickly (as Apple is very happy to tell you — count how many times Tim Cook mentioned it in yesterday’s letter to shareholders), and it seems like their margins on services are higher than on hardware.

The press expects Apple to introduce a streaming media competitor to Netflix. They'll be investing heavily in original content, especially on TV.

Previously, Apple produced television shows like Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps and tried distributing them through their Apple Music streaming platform. Their TV offerings definitely felt out of place there.

This will change in 2019. I expect Apple will break out at least three streaming apps in 2019:

  • TV and movie streaming (source)
  • News and magazines (source)
  • Apple Music (already released)

These will be separate apps on iOS, Apple TV, and (I hope) on the desktop. (I predict iTunes as we know it will go away)

Also: it seems likely that Apple will introduce a "mega streaming" package that includes all their offerings.

This is where things get interesting.

Apple already owns most of the podcast market. They have the most popular podcast player. If they're getting into premium streaming content in TV, movies, music, and news could they also be working on a premium podcasting service?

I think so.

If Apple is going to invest in original video content, why wouldn't they look to audio, where they already have a major advantage?

For example, they're reviving Stephen Spielberg's "Amazing Stories" television series, which would also work as a premium podcast.

More podcast livestreaming

Using tools like Ecamm Live and Restream.io, it's easier than ever to produce a high-quality video stream, and re-broadcast it to multiple platforms at once (YouTube, Twitch, Periscope, Facebook Live).

More podcasters will be using these tools in 2019 to make their shows more interactive. Viewers can comment in real-time, and the host can respond on-air.

I think we'll also see more audio-specific livestreaming services, like Twitch, emerge this year.

Listen to more predictions

Jon Buda and I discussed dozens of expectations for 2019. Listen to the full episode here:

What did we miss? Let us know on Twitter!

Published on January 9th, 2019

Transistor is podcast hosting and analytics.

© 2019 Transistor Inc. All rights reserved.

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