13 Predictions for Podcasting in 2019

The best and brightest in the podcast industry look into their crystal balls and tell us what to expect in the year ahead

. 14 min read

1. Podcasts go mainstream (FINALLY!)

ABC advertises their daily news podcast in Times Square

I believe 2019 is a time for hockey stick habit growth and diversification of the audience and the offering.”
Courtney William Holt, Head of Global Studios, Spotify

Many of the two billion plus Android users worldwide would love listening to podcasts but have not yet been introduced to them or aren’t sure where to find them. As awareness of and access to podcasting grows, we will see especially strong growth among Android users.”
Zack Reneau-Wedeen, Founder & Product Manager, Google Podcasts

“Podcast ad revenue in the US surpasses $700m.”
Hernan Lopez, Founder & CEO, Wondery

We will see continued consolidation in the space as companies compete for scale to attract brand advertisers.”
Tom Webster, SVP, Edison Research

Content, podcast formats, and host talent will trend more towards mainstream tastes. As an industry, podcasting still does not create enough content to attract the type of audience that would sit down at 8pm and watch NBC or CBS every night.”
Stuart Last, Chief Operating Officer, Audioboom

Formats that appeal to wider audiences, such as reality and game shows, will become commonplace.”
Corey Layton, Content and Marketing Director, Whooshkaa

Pacific Content’s take

Tom Webster’s Podcast Movement keynote about podcasting’s need to find “The Show” was a watershed moment for the industry in 2018. It feels like a message that podcasting needed to hear. There are a LOT of companies focused on making podcasting mainstream and 2019 might well be the year podcasting finally grows like a hockey stick (which, as Canadians, is our favourite metaphor).

2. Competition heats up for Apple

“Consumption through Apple Podcasts will decline in comparison with total market share. We’ll see more podcast apps, not least Spotify — already a creditable #2 in the market — and hopefully Google, Pandora and others.”
James Cridland, Editor of Podnews, a daily podcasting newsletter

“I’m looking for a shakeup in podcast apps… I’ll be watching to see how Spotify evolves in this space (especially around user-generated playlists and discovery, well-loved features of their music service), as well as Pandora (with its massive recommendation engine, not unlike NPR One). I hope other podcast apps will surprise us with new features that improve or enhance the listening experience in ways we’ve not yet considered.”
Ashley Lusk, Director of Audience Development, WNYC + co-editor of The Bello Collective.

With Pandora’s entrance, Spotify’s continued growth and the ongoing investment we’re making in Stitcher, we’ll see more and more new listener growth occurring on large, audio-focused platforms. Between better curation and discovery, a more reliable listener experience and better support, these platforms will lead the charge in bringing the next 50 million weekly listeners to the medium.”
Erik Diehn, CEO of Stitcher

3. The rise of short-form podcasts on smart speakers

“Traditional podcasting tech favors longer programs because listeners don’t like fumbling around on their phones every few minutes to pick the next episode. But smart speakers, and perhaps other innovations such as Pandora’s new podcast genome project, allow for shorter content to become part of a larger listening experience (more, in fact, like old fashioned radio). Just as Twitter’s tight character limit gave rise to a new style of writing, I think smart speakers will encourage creators to experiment with shorter, more frequent episodes.”
Andy Bowers, Chief Innovation Officer, Panoply

“The market for shorter, bite-sized podcast content will grow, as will podcast consumption on smart speakers.”
Tom WebsterEdison Research

“More shorter-length sub-five-minute podcasts will be made — these work well on smart speakers, and respect listeners’ time. Expect not just news updates in this format, but others, too.”
James CridlandPodnews

Neither Google Home nor Alexa are seeing much podcast listening on the platforms. Both platforms see the potential and will launch intelligent podcast recommendations this year, which could be a new vector for podcast discovery.
Cara MeverdenScout.fm

“Companion Content: Gimlet paved the way in 2018 with Chompers. With Alexa now in the car (and microwave), creators will produce podcasts of a different kind. From the evolution of the board game to the future of driving tours, audio will find its way into our lives, well beyond your favourite podcast app.”
Corey LaytonWhooshkaa

“We’ll continue to see the atomization of audio content. We already have content to meditate to, to brush our teeth to, to sleep to, and commute to — we can even learn a new language on our coffee break. I think it’s possible there will soon be a piece of content optimized for every part of our day.”
Ashley LuskWNYC The Bello Collective.

Pacific Content’s take

We’ve been bullish on Smart Speakers all year and our excitement is not diminishing. The key to success will be developing content designed for how, when, and where people use smart speakers — it’s not the same as podcasting. There is also a huge opportunity for brands to be leaders in smart speaker audio — who else can reach millions of people through their existing channels and give them the secret phrase to unlock an amazing audio experience?

4. Will you pay for podcasts in 2019?

“Consumers start paying for podcasts in a more meaningful way. From Luminary to Stitcher Premium, from Wondery+ to Patreon, consumers will increasingly come to accept that there’s a place for ad-supported and a place for ad-free, consumer-supported podcasts, as they have in nearly every other form of media.”
Hernan LopezWondery

We’ll see a major uptick in premium content, premium-only podcasts, premium-only production houses, etc. Someone — or many someones — will become the HBO of podcast production.”
Skye Pillsbury, writer, Inside Podcasting

“More shows will be created solely for driving subscriptions or other paid content.”
Dane CardielDirector of Partnerships, Simplecast

“A big trend of 2019 is going to be platforms attempting the Netflix model of exclusive original audio content behind a paywall. It’s already begun with Spotify, Audible, and others, with newcomers like Luminary launching this year. With so much free content and the difficulty creating a hit, I think most of these will fail. I predict that it will actually be an existing media giant like ESPN, Disney, or OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) who will successfully release exclusive original audio content.”
Cara Meverden, CEO and Co-founder, Scout.fm

Pacific Content’s take

It’s hard to imagine podcast audiences paying for multiple subscriptions a month in large numbers. Can podcasting really pull this off if close to 75% of Americans don’t even listen to free podcasts on a monthly basis? It’s hard to compete with free.

5. Hollywood adaptations abound

Dirty John the podcast turned into Dirty John the TV series in 2018.

“Podcast-to-TV adaptations lead to award-winning series. Connie Britton is nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in Dirty John, as is Julia Roberts for her role in Homecoming, itself a Golden Globe nominee. Expect to see more awards and more nominations in 2019.”
Hernan LopezWondery.

For producers, I.P. will become a more important bargaining chip than ad revenue. Whether a show becomes a book, a popular live show, a Netflix series, or a film, many creators will look beyond the short term seasonal ad revenue numbers and consider partners who can support their broader creative aspirations.
Sarah van Mosel, Chief Podcast Sales and Strategy Officer, MARKET ENGINUITY

“Wasn’t Shakespeare the one who said, ‘I.P. or not to TV, that is the question?’ As we have seen successful launches of TV and video expressions of a select number of pods, there appears to be a great focus in the community on I.P. development. There is certainly a growing frenzy towards that, but the most successful pods will remain the ones who build and optimize for the medium.”
Courtney William HoltSpotify

Pacific Content’s take

We love seeing the projects that are going from podcasts to screens but we’re equally excited about things moving in the opposite direction, too. With Anna Faris, Dax Shepard, Conan O’Brien, Amy Schumer, and Ron Burgundy all making shows, it seems like podcasts are becoming a stronger creative draw for A-list Hollywood talent.

6. News podcasts evolve

Al Roker — the undisputed master of seamlessly introducing local content.

‘Here’s what’s happening in your neck of the woods.’ News formats will increasingly evolve to integrate dynamic content insertion. With a nod to NBC’s Today Show icon Al Roker, hosts will throw to dynamic bite-sized news breaks, updated across the day and localised by region.”
Corey LaytonWhooshkaa

“Google’s work with disaggregating news output for smart speakers may leak into their podcast plans, too — giving all of us the opportunity to hear news podcasting story-by-story, rather than news podcast by news podcast.”
James CridlandPodnews

Pacific Content’s take

We’d really love to see AI and smart speakers combine to enable personalized “radio stations” that not only serve news and stories at the right time, but also present local weather, tell us when to leave for work based on current traffic conditions, and play our favourite songs from a streaming music service. We want our own personalized station and it seems like the technology and the content can finally make it possible in 2019.

7. Experimentation pushes the edges of the medium

As the larger podcast networks require that their shows fit into a neat category (True Crime, Celebrity Chat, Entrepreneurship, Parenting) in order to attract advertising dollars, I’d like to see more risks and weird takes that also succeed in bringing in audience. This past year we saw freshness (and critical acclaim, and audience) in shows like shows like Everything Is Alive. Let’s get even weirder.”
Gretta Cohn, CEO & Executive Producer — Transmitter Media

Content adjacent creators (bloggers, vloggers, influencers) experiment with podcasting only to find that audio is their new favorite content medium.”
Dane CardielSimplecast

Our user studies have shown that tons of people who don’t listen to podcasts listen to YouTube while they drive. YouTube will help this market listen in their cars without breaking the law, and podcasters will start to aggressively jump onto YouTube.
Cara MeverdenScout.fm

We heard lots of innovation this year, breaking new ground in documentary, fiction, even the venerable interview / chat show, but I think we’re still in the early innings.”
Erik DiehnStitcher

Pacific Content’s take

We agree with Gretta Cohn — it’s time for more experimentation like Everything Is Alive (one of our favourite shows of 2018). We expect breakout shows that are completely unlike anything that’s out there right now. Let’s also watch for new audio formats to come from existing TV and movie properties — game shows, soap operas, and reality shows could be coming to podcasting in larger numbers in the year ahead.

8. Specialization and niches

Anna Farris is expanding her studio in 2019. (📷 Elizabeth Daniels Photography/Courtesy of WeWork & Hollywood Reporter)

“The last few years have seen the continued rise of the boutique production house, which we at Transmitter are a part of. But the space has also started to see a model that is more familiar to Hollywood — the talent or celebrity-led studio. Hollywood Reporter recently teased news that Anna Farris will be expanding her studio (in partnership with WeWork), with a slate of new shows set for 2019. I think it’s just the start of this trend.”
Gretta CohnTransmitter Media

“We’ll see some large podcast apps closing, but the advent of more focused apps — focusing on verticals like kids, languages, news and other things. Leela Kids (containing just children’s podcasts), or Entale (containing visually-augmented podcasts) are the tip of the possibilities here.”
James CridlandPodnews

I think that audio for kids is going to be huge in 2019. Parents are hungry for alternatives to screen time, especially at home and on car rides. There is a big market for a paid, ad-free platform for podcasts for kids. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nickelodeon or Disney jumping into this market with both feet.
Cara MeverdenScout.fm

Not only will the 2020 race for the most popular independent and mainstay political podcasts heat up, but candidates will create original podcasts to earn trust and win-over voters in crowded primary races.”
Dane CardielSimplecast

I think we’ll start to see more podcasts in B2B markets and other verticals like public service. Those organizations are just starting to learn about podcasts and how they can be helpful. But we’re seeing it — even the FBI has a podcast now.”
Skye PillsburyInside Podcasting

Pacific Content’s take

Pacific Content is one of the weirdest, laser-focused examples of a niche business — the only thing we do is make original podcasts with brands. We are fully on board with companies that focus on doing one thing really well and dominating their niche. Seeing Panoply double-down on technology felt like a smart move in this vein in 2018 — let’s see who comes out with exciting new areas of expertise in 2019.

9. International expansion and evolution 🇨🇦🇬🇧🇦🇺

Podcasting will be big in Canada in 2019, eh?

“We will see the rise of podcasts from ‘anywhere other than the U.S.,’ as more English-speaking countries explore the opportunities of podcasting. Podcasts from Canada, the UK, Scandinavia, the Benelux countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand, will be more visible.”
James CridlandPodnews

The rest of the world will take giant steps to catch-up with the US podcasting industry in 2019, led by the UK, Canada and Australia. Revenues in those nations will grow at an incredible rate — expect triple digit growth in all three countries as the advertising community fully embraces the medium.”
Stuart LastAudioboom

“Blue Apron, Stamps.com and Rocket Mortgage aren’t global brands. Yet across countless podcasts, those brands continue to pay for global impressions. 2019 will see the end of global campaigns and baked-in advertising. International representation will become the norm, delivering host-read, territory-specific creative.”
Corey LaytonWhooshkaa

Pacific Content’s take

The U.S. podcasting industry is several years ahead of other international markets. It feels like the rest of the world is starting to catch up, with podcast companies surfacing all over the globe. The big question is whether smaller markets with smaller populations and smaller ad budgets can use the same business models as the American pioneers.

10. Increased diversity

“Speech is a nearly universal medium, but most popular podcasts today are still in English. I expect to see more and more popular non-English podcasts, especially in emerging podcast markets like India and Brazil.”
Zack Reneau-WedeenGoogle Podcasts

I predict we’ll see more diversity in the podcast space on every level and on both sides of the equation — marketing and creative.”
Skye PillsburyInside Podcasting

Legacy and emerging podcast companies will need to do more to prioritize inclusivity and representation of marginalized communities or risk becoming dismissed by the progressive, grassroots nature inherent to the audio community.”
Dane CardielSimplecast

Pacific Content’s take

Podcast charts don’t look like TV charts or movie box-office charts. To us, that means that there is room to represent more people with more diverse types of programming. We’ve talked a lot this year about growing the pie and the one smart way to introduce new people to podcasts is to make more shows that don’t sound like current podcasts. And with initiatives like the Google Podcasts creator program, we hope those shows will come from a more diverse group of voices.

11. AI & podcast discovery 🤖

Someone is going to figure out the discoverability thing. Obviously Pandora thinks its Genome Project will be a strong contender — but everyone is going to need to get in on this game. I predict we’ll see innovative audio search technologies enter the market and new capabilities for sharing episodes & making podcasts viral.”
Skye PillsburyInside Podcasting

“As AI systems understand podcasts at a deeper level, people will be able to discover and listen to a wider variety of podcasts, including specific episodes of interest even from shows they might not otherwise subscribe to.”
Zack Reneau-WedeenGoogle Podcasts

12. Podcast marketing matters more than ever

“Marketing, marketing, marketing. I predict that marketing spend at the top tier of the industry will increase significantly. In 2018 billboards emerged as a favorite place for networks to advertise their new shows… in 2019 promotional campaigns will be bigger, louder, and more creative than ever before.”
Stuart LastAudioboom

A lot of big names (Conan O’Brien, Amy Schumer, Will Ferrell) are getting into the business, which is going to crowd out smaller long-tail podcasters in the top charts. Podcast networks are able to use bargaining power for big ad buys and to cross-promote their shows. This means as a smaller show that’s not in a network it’s going to be harder to find new listeners and sponsors.
Cara MeverdenScout.fm

Pacific Content’s take

As Stuart Last predicts above, podcast marketing will continue to evolve and borrow techniques from movies, TV, and music. Expect bolder podcast art, more billboards and OOH, more TV commercials, and podcast trailers before movies. (2019 may still be too early for a PodBlimp over the Super Bowl…)

13. Podcasting ad-tech evolves

The industry continues to coalesce around the RAD standard and we start to see podcast clients put RAD development into their product roadmaps.”
Tom WebsterEdison Research

“We’ll start to see the acceleration of bifurcated programmatic and direct sales. With most major platforms investing in ad tech and many taking great pains to bring popular content into their ecosystems, we’ll see more platforms selling podcast audiences programmatically, while direct sales teams will focus on host-centric, customized, high-touch opportunities.”

Between the growth of long-tail hosting options, dynamic insertion, programmatic infrastructure and the sheer increasing size of the ad dollars flowing into this industry, it’s inevitable that a greater portion of the ads in shows will be pre-recorded, third-party-produced spots. We need to give new ad products the same creative attention that we give the actual podcasts, and we cannot repeat the mistakes of commercial radio and be tempted to start pushing the ad load and up and up. There’s plenty of opportunity to grow revenue and expand our roster of advertisers without damaging the listener experience.”
Erik DiehnStitcher

“Do you have nightmares about retargeted ads following you from the web to your podcast playlist? I do.”
Ashley LuskWNYC The Bello Collective

The final word

The last predictions come from you. What did the experts miss in their predictions? We’d love to hear your thoughts about the year ahead in podcasting.

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