What’s Surprising Podcasting Experts Right Now?

As much as us industry folks may “know” podcasting, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected.

Recently, a story in Podnews sparked a bit of discussion amongst our team. The fact that Apple can tweak something at their end, which ends up costing another company over seven million dollars, is pretty mindblowing.

When this story broke, I was already in the process of asking some of the industry’s most in-the-know podcasting experts to tell me something that’s surprised them in podcasting in the last year.

While nobody can predict the future, surprises can sometimes help us spot growing industry trends – particularly if you talk to enough people.

So where might podcasting be heading next? Here’s what the experts told us, and what the indie podcaster community can take from these insights.

Mark Asquith

Job title: Co-Founder and Managing Director at Captivate.fm

The biggest thing that’s surprised me recently in podcasting is how many people are starting to embrace their niche. Previously, things like live events, live podcast recordings and merchandise were reserved for those ‘big media’ podcasts. But recently, I’m seeing smaller podcasts filling targeted local venues with hardcore fans.

This is really encouraging because we know that as independent podcasters, diversity monetisation is key: It’s not just about those CPM-based sponsorships. It’s about the direct sales, the relationships between sponsor partners, and about tapping into our loyal fan base. We’re starting to see much more of that.

I think this is just down to a wider awareness of podcasting as a media. People are more aware of podcasting, so they’re able to find shows that resonate with them more easily.

Listeners are also becoming more engaged with the hosts because the hosts are upping their game when it comes to engagement and quality of production. We’re all rising as an industry, and that is such a great thing to see.

What podcasters can take from this: Narrowing your niche won’t limit your listener numbers. In fact, it can do the opposite.

Alban Brooke

Job title: Head of Marketing at Buzzsprout

I was pleasantly surprised when Apple Podcasts announced they’d add podcast transcripts and support the podcast transcript tag. It was a community-lead effort and it was affirming to have the largest company in podcasting adopt the tag.”

What podcasters can take from this: Your voice isn’t just important for your show, but for the industry too. If you want to see change, speak up about it in podcasting communities.

Allegra Sinclair

Job title: Career Coach and Founder of Your Confident Self Podcast

People creating video ‘podcasts’ has been around for a long time, but years ago, nobody seemed to care. So I was surprised when, about 18 months ago, everybody and their mom suddenly started worrying about doing a video version of their podcasts.

Podcasters don’t usually just jump on trends. And if they do, it’s normally heavily based on data. So they would start using Twitter to promote their show, for example, because they saw a bunch of other people having success with it. But not paid ads, because they didn’t have the data to prove it would be a good use of their money.
So I was stunned by the speed with which people seem to get super invested in video.

Previously, what people really liked about podcasting was the audio aspect of it; the intimacy of being in someone’s ears, and that people invited you in instead of being subjected to you accidentally (like if you watch television). I’m really surprised at the number of people who seem to have jumped on the video trend, and I’m fascinated to see if six months from now, nobody cares about video anymore, because we will have moved on to something different.”

Tom Webster

Job title: Partner at Sounds Profitable

I would say the last time something surprised me in podcasting was when we took a deeper look at the “video podcast consumer” in our Sound You Can See study in December.

I think there is a prevailing wisdom that the video podcast audience is completely different to the audio audience, but the research was clear on this: video podcast “watchers” also listen to the same shows on audio – they choose based on environment and context – and thinking of them as different humans is shortsighted.”

What podcasters can take from this: You don’t need to change your podcast to suit video audiences – just making your show available (even as audio-only) on video platforms is enough.

Bidemi Adedire

Job title: Founder of APVA (Association of African Podcasters and Voice Artists)

The last real surprise for me in podcasting came with “My Period Chronicles,” a series close to my heart as a menstrual justice advocate. What surprised me was how readily funding and partnerships came together for an indie project like this. Despite not being polished to perfection, the series struck a chord, drawing corporate and community support in a way I hadn’t seen before.

This experience taught me that when you speak authentically on real issues that resonate, the world listens. You don’t need to have studio-perfect production to gather significant backing if you have a compelling narrative. It really made me grateful and more determined to keep pushing important messages out there.

What podcasters can take from this: You don’t need to be an established podcast player to apply for sponsorships and funding. It’s the content – and drive behind it – that matters.

Jeremy Enns

Job title: Founder of Podcast Marketing Academy

“I ran a report off the back of the Indiepod census last year called the Podcast Marketing Trends report. One of the many interesting things that surprised me about the report was that, of those people who said they advertised to get listeners, almost nobody had any idea what their cost per listener acquisition was. Some gave numbers that seemed really random, but most didn’t fill it in at all. People were just spending money and hoping for the best.

There was no rigor, and that kind of surprised me. Of course, podcasters aren’t necessarily advertising experts, but it was a little bit surprising that people were willing to spend money without tracking and understanding the impact it was having (if any) on their show and whether or not it was worth the cost.

What podcasters can take from this: If you’re spending money on advertising without understanding the impact it’s having on your show growth, this is a wasted opportunity.

Dave Jackson

Job title: Podcast Consultant at School of Podcasting

I’ve been using the Podcasting 2.0 feature of receiving streaming bitcoin in very small chunks. I went in to see what my total was for the year in 2023, and expected it to be $68.14 and instead it was over $400. Now I can’t retire on that, but for a feature that is still fairly, “Bleeding Edge” I was surprised.

What podcasters can take from this: Testing out new ways to generate passive income through your podcast can really pay off.

Colin Gray

Job title: CEO and Founder of Alitu and The Podcast Host

You know, there’s one big thing that springs to mind, and it came from the big Census-style survey we did early last year. It was the number of new podcasters that start out with a solo show: 44% of all podcasters.

I thought that was great to see – having the bravery to put themselves out there, and not rely on an interviewee or anyone else as a crutch. Many of them transitioned to experiment with other formats over time, too, such as interviews or roundtables, so it just shows the power of starting out simple, finding your own voice, and then experimenting with other areas over time.

What podcasters can take from this: If you’re new to podcasting, start solo so you can be flexible and test out what works for you.

What’s Surprised You About Podcasting?

Of course, we’re just as interested in hearing from independent podcasters as we are about the industry leaders.

When was the last time something surprised you podcasting? Get involved in the discussion in the Indiepod community.

Originally posted on February 28, 2024 @ 4:24 am

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