‘Podcasting has produced for audio what Netflix and Amazon did
Podcasts are making all the right noise. A digital audio file that can be downloaded and listened to on different devices, podcasts have exploded on to the scene. And Michelle Obama, Louis Theroux and Jessie Ware and are among the many celebrities that have got in on the act.
Although not a new phenomenon – podcasts have been on the rise for five or six years – they have hit the mainstream this year because of shifts in the way we consume media, coupled with the appeal of being able to listen to what and when you want: on the commute – for those still commuting to work – around the house and while multitasking, or working out.
“Podcasting has produced for audio what Netflix and Amazon did for TV. It’s created binge listening,” says Steve Ackerman, co-head of Global Podcasts at Sony Music Entertainment.
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“The audience growth is super-aggressive in almost every demographic all the time in multiple markets around the world.”
The statistics are staggering: as of this year, there are more than two million podcasts, up from around 500,000 in 2018 (Podcast Insights), and from an advertising perspective, podcasting is predicted to be a billion-dollar industry this year and $2billion next year. And while the industry is growing at a staggering pace in the US or UK, about 20-35 percent of audiences are listening on a weekly basis – a significant proportion but a figure that underlines how much further podcasting still has to go. “There is amazing potential.”
Steve Ackerman, co-head of Global Podcasts at Sony Music Entertainment
Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that Sony Music has recently ramped up its podcast production potential with the acquisition of Somethin’ Else, the UK’s largest independent podcast and audio producer. Ackerman joined Somethin’ Else over 20 years ago and will jointly spearhead Sony Music Entertainment’s global podcast content and business development strategy. He will move from London to New York for the role.
Ackerman wanted to work in radio from a young age. He went on to become a radio presenter, a journalist for the BBC and then producer. Since joining Somethin’ Else in 2000 he has seen the landscape change massively.
Podcasting has produced for audio what Netflix and Amazon did for TV. It’s created binge listening
“Back in the day radio was a very a small market and not really a way to build a business so we expanded into TV and social media, yet still being a large radio producer.
“So when podcasting started properly happening five to six years ago, we [Somethin’ Else] were able to dive into it quite aggressively as we had a standing army of 40-odd creatives that we could point towards podcasting and we were able to use our own money to get shows going.”
He adds: “For the first time, audio has a value beyond just advertising, so the fact the podcasts can be turned into TV shows or movies, which is happening at a very fast pace now, or that you create a live show from a podcast, in a way that never really happened with radio shows, has had great value in the market. Secondly, there is a genuine market for podcasts for the first time.
“Back in the day if you had an idea in the UK the only place you could go to was the BBC but now that just isn’t the case. You can release a podcast yourself regardless of your size, or can go to companies like us or many others who will back and fund you, so there is a proper market for ideas. And finally, podcasting has made audio a global marketplace – you can create shows in London that are big hits in the US – this was never a feasible thing before.”
Part of the charm of podcasts lies in their ability to be consumed at any time of day. And while they were already on this soaring trajectory, the pandemic has accelerated it, generating a new swathe of listeners into podcasting as people spent more time at home.
“We have seen how people working from home had a big impact on listening,” notes Ackerman. “When people might not have been able to listen previously during their working day if they were in an office, they could do from home.”
He adds: “The advantage it has is that it can fill in gaps in the day that don’t compete with other media such as on a commute where you can be a listener but couldn’t watch a screen or read a book. It is a genuine lean-in medium – people want to listen and pay attention to what they’re hearing, so from an advertising perspective that’s really attractive.”
The most popular types of podcasts are interview and/or conversational podcasts, hybrid podcasts, nonfiction narrative and scripted fiction. So what does Ackerman enjoy tuning into? He is a big fan of Sony shows Rhymes with Purple, the award-winning podcast about words with Susie Dent and Gyles Brandreth, David Tennant Does A Podcast With…. the narrative series Bad Blood and recommends The Just Enough Family, which follows the meteoric rise and staggering fall of Jewish family the Steinbergs, once one of America’s richest families. Outside of Sony, he loves SmartLess with Jason Bateman.
Steve is a regular panellist on The Media Podcast. In 2013 he was made a fellow of the Radio Academy.
Pay-per-view hosting for the people
A new pay-per-view live streaming platform raised £1.3million in its recent crowdfunding campaign, as online streaming continues to surge. Lounges.tv – where creators can live-stream their content – has secured £1.4million in total to date ahead of its launch early next year.
“Online streaming is 100 per cent the future of entertainment”, says technology entrepreneur Scott Green, founder of Lounges.tv.
“There has been a massive shift to on-demand viewing. People want to watch what they want and when they want.”
The market is estimated to be worth $247 billion by 2027, with 82 percent of internet use predicted to be for streaming by 2022.
The Lounges.tv model is simple. Anyone can host a pay-per-view livesteam and is guaranteed 80 percent of the stream revenue paid within 24 hours. The start-up, due to go live early next year, has been backed by industry heavyweights including BBC iPlayer creator Ben Lavender plus broadcasting specialist Remi Abayomi and former Motown Records. general manager Mervyn Lyn.
Green, a member of Edgware Reform Synagogue, says: “The revenue models of existing streaming platforms are antiquated and deeply flawed in that only a small percentage of people can financially gain from uploading and sharing their content – despite the many millions of unheard and talented individuals worldwide.
“Lounges.tv not only provides a platform for these people to showcase their talent across many popular areas such as music, comedy, education, cooking and well-being but also ensures they are fairly rewarded, while providing a new exciting and interactive streaming platform for audiences to enjoy.”
Loungest.tv is due to launch in 2022
Thousands of creators have pre-registered, with new accounts growing daily. “Netflix and Amazon have changed the mindset of how we consume media especially for the millennials.”
The funding will be used to build the -company’s technology platform, innovate, build a lean infostructure and execute its -marketing campaign, ahead of the planned launch.
Green adds: “The board and I incredibly excited about our potential to disrupt and transform the industry but feel extremely encouraged by the early success of the crowdfunding campaign – so watch this space.”
Streaming is expected to keep growing