Is Apple building a team to elevate the podcasting industry?
Podcasting is already a pretty big business, but arguably hasn’t quite achieved the elevated status of newspapers, magazines, websites, radio or television – despite the medium offering all the features of any other information channel. I think that’s about to change.
A peer player in broadcasting
Apple as a media provider works with all parties in its attempt to ensure that you as a user can access almost any kind of media you choose. It offers channels for every form of media, including podcasts.
As a medium, podcasting is growing fast. As an industry it generated an estimated $479.1 million in 2018, which is predicted to exceed over a billion dollars in 2021, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
Edison Research claims over half of people in the U.S. have listened to a podcast, while around 32% listen to at least one each month. There are over 700,000 podcasts available and over 29 million episodes. There’s a also a boat full of industry stats.
That’s a lot of content. And big business wants to figure out how best to ‘monetize’ it. Spotify, Google, Pandora and others are all getting more involved in the space.
Now it’s Apple’s turn
Ever since the company first made introduced its dedicated Podcasts app in 2013 I’ve felt as if Apple had placed a marker in this space.
Like any other of its media stores, Podcasts offers up clean and searchable access to the podcasts you want. Now available on the Mac (since Catalina), this means the company now offers a shop front to provide access to these things to around a billion users on Planet Earth.
Meanwhile, Apple is also upping its game when it comes to being its own media company: Beats radio, playlist creation, TV and movie production – Apple is kicking its way into the content creation and distribution game.
With this in mind it’s inevitable the company will extend its reach into podcasting, not just to help it build its vision of being a compelling source of media and ideas in its own right, but also to provide desirable content and services to help support future product sales, particularly hearables such as the AirPod and HomePod families.
It is, after all, true to say that Apple has been all over the podcasting scene since way early on, including support for video podcasts way back in 2005.
Pushing into growth
Most podcasts appear to be ads supported, with a smattering of subscription-based channels which usually provide additional features to subscribers. There’s a lot of expectation that consumers will become more willing to pay for podcasts in the next few years.
This means there must be some opportunity to provide fee-based podcasts, or to take a handful of the better existing channels, invest and improve them and perhaps make the results available for a fee.
That’s what I think Apple may have in mind on strength of reports it intends putting some of its cash into funding original podcasts.
More recently, it hired Emily Ochsenschlager, formerly National Geographic’s director of podcasts. This is ostensibly the first of “many” hires that will take place across the next few weeks – and this suggests the company plans to find some way to begin to monetize this section of the industry, elevating perception of the importance of podcasting as it does.
(With this in mind, the fact that Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro includes a built-in microphone the company claims provides excellent performance for podcast creation may end up being quite revealing).
There is the danger that in engaging in such a plan Apple may end up making life difficult for less well-resourced podcasters in the space – though it may also raise opportunity for all players as it directs additional interest into the sector.
However, given that there is usually a lengthy gap between when we hear news of key hires and anything actually happening in the Apple space, I rather think there’s still a good opportunity for ambitious podcasters to put together new transmissions, or to improve existing shows.
Though the tried and tested truth is that when Apple enters a new space, things usually get interesting – and as big tech gets into this sector you can predict the increasingly rapid consolidation and the creation of new media companies in the industry – and (I guess) more movement from traditional media firms to create bulwarks in the story line. You can also anticipate the creation of new short-form on-demand broadcasts designed to exploit local search, AirPods and smart speakers.
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