Podcasts are driving additional revenue for publishers, but is it sustainable?

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Podcasts are enabling publishers to grow their audience and diversify their revenue streams.

The key takeaways:
  •  In July, it was forecasted that 2020 podcast ad revenues could exceed $1 billion, and publishers are exploring other ways to continue growing.
  • Podcast acquisitions are becoming more common as publishers recognize the power of audience loyalty.
  • There are now over 1 million active podcast shows, up from 550,000 in 2018, raising competition.

Who’s doing it: Creating podcasts is nothing new for publishers. Recently, some of the industry leaders have expanded their efforts to grow their podcast audiences.

Getting creative: While news content is an obvious first step, publishers are using this opportunity to create innovative content:

  • NPR was one of the first to begin producing podcasts back in 2005, and the station has now grown its catalog of shows, offering news segments as well as deep-dives into niche topics.
  • The Atlantic has seen growth with their podcasts over the past couple of years, using its editorial style of storytelling in the podcast form.
  • The success of Serial has inspired publishers to produce investigative-style audio content, with ESPN recently releasing the Bloodlines podcast, and The Atlantic’s Floodlines using a similar style.
The thorny side: 

Podcasts may be a great way for publishers to grow readers but can they drive revenue in the long run?

  • CEO of Hearst UK said, “When it comes to podcasts, commercially it’s a long walk for a small drink…It’s a really important way for brands to stay relevant but the commercial model is unproven.”
  • The industry saw a 20% decline in listeners but podcast hosting company Castos is experiencing an uptick of 300% more creators, adding to the growing competition.
  • Westwood One’s Podcast Report revealed that storytelling content is the top category for female podcast listeners; a demographic that has grown by 23% over the last 3 years.
The route to success: 

Despite the skepticism, outlets are using podcasts to increase revenue and readership in ways that print cannot.

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