After having such a great year in 2014, to say that podcasting is poised for growth in 2015 almost sounds like understatement.
According to Lex Friedman, Midroll’s EVP of Sales and Development, what we’re seeing with podcasting is akin to how blogging burst into the mainstream a decade ago. “Anyone with a computer can blog,” he explains. “In theory, anyone with a computer can podcast, too.”
That means, “we will see a steadily increasing number of podcasts entering the fray, and the cream will rise to the top.”
Midroll CEO Adam Sachs agrees, predicting that “there’s going to be a rush into the podcasting space. There will be more content creators, including more high profile talent who see it as a viable medium to reach a large audience and make good money.”
Lex adds that well-known talent will be attracted to podcasting because it’s a great way to connect with fans. “There is a parallel with Twitter,” he explains. “I think a lot of podcast fans today feel this kind of connection with the host that people used to feel with celebrities on Twitter a few years ago, when they had fewer followers.”
Adam sees established and growing media properties, along the lines of Buzzfeed, adding podcasting to their strategies. Also, “MCNs will be trying to find a way to get their content translated into podcasts.”
“Some of the hype will die down, but the growth will continue,” observes Erik Diehn, VP of Business Development.
The established commercial radio players like iHeartMedia and Cumulus are waking up to podcasting, he notes, and so they’ll try to get in on it. Indeed, just on January 7 CBS Radio announced a new podcast platform called Play.It.
However, Erik says these broadcasters’ problem is that, “most terrestrial radio content is not cool by any means, and they will have a hard time demonstrating that they’re cool and getting people interested in their podcasts.” The one exception might be if there are “pockets of local hosts who translate better into the on-demand medium.”
At same time, Lex maintains,“We will continue to see shows that come out of nowhere–with hosts nobody has heard of–that suddenly rise up. When you make great content people will find it.”
Ahead: Startups, New Advertisers, Improved Metrics
All the signs indicate that podcasting is a rapidly maturing business.
“We’ll see more startups being created, along with investors wanting to get into the space,” Adam says.
Lex expects more advertisers from diverse industries to discover the power of the medium. For instance, "already we’re seeing a lot more films and television shows promoting themselves on our podcasts, along with more branding plays. I think that’s a really significant shift.
“The story that isn’t being promoted yet is that MailChimp is not the only branding-focused advertiser in podcasts. Of course, they’re a great one. But there are more and more brands realizing what MailChimp was quicker on the take in figuring out.”
With so much ad agency attention paid to podcasting right now, Erik anticipates there will be attempts at improving metrics and “making numbers more measurable by third parties.”
In terms of how people listen to podcasts, Erik only anticipates incremental changes, coming from established players like Soundcloud and Apple. However, “Spotify and Deezer are the wildcards.”
As the number one music streaming service in the world, Spotify has exposure to an enormous audience. Deezer is right behind Spotify globally–though much smaller in the US. The company made a big leap into podcasting with the acquisition of Stitcher last fall. Some code discovered in an early developer version of the next Spotify app indicates that the company has podcasting in its sights.
“What Spotify decides to do could really change things,” Erik says.
Strategic Growth for Midroll Media
“Given the expected rush into the space this year, we will concentrate on creating, aggregating, and nurturing the best content out there,” Adam says. "It’s what differentiates us, as the podcast space becomes more cluttered with new shows.
“We’ll focus on delivering the best.”
Erik says, “we’re going to continue to launch new content, though maybe not a network of thirteen shows,” like Wolfpop, which debuted with last November. There will be new owned-and-operated shows along with more podcasts joining Midroll to be represented to advertisers.
“We more than doubled our revenue in 2014, and we aim to do even better in 2015,” Lex reports. “We more than doubled our pool of advertisers and we’re already on track to do just that this year.”