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The Podcast Show 2023: Key Takeaways For Podcasters

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Self-proclaimed as the ‘biggest international event for the business of podcasting’, The Podcast Show covered a lot of ground during its two-day event in a sun-soaked London.

The Podcast Show 2023

As an event, the show aims (ambitiously) to cater to podcast creators, listeners and brands/advertisers all at once. While this makes for an interesting and diverse experience, it can also make it a bit hard to pull out what’s relevant to you as a creator.

We attended as many talks and panel discussions as possible to pull out the most important takeaways that matter to independent podcasters.

Here’s what they were…

James Cridland at The Podcast Show 2023
James Cridland, editor of Podnews, kicks things off on Wednesday morning.

How We Measure Podcast Success is Changing

There’s been a lot of discussion recently in the industry about how downloads are no longer fit for measuring podcast success. The consensus at the event seems to be that listening time and engagement are the metrics to focus on — and they’re on the up. According to some data shared by iHeart media, podcast listening time has doubled in the last five years in the US

There are a lot of companies around promising podcasters, “We can get you 10,000 downloads”, so you qualify for advertising. But will these listeners stick around? Will they recommend your podcast to others? Will they even listen at all? Because that’s what’s really valuable long-term – to you as a creator and also to advertisers. Download numbers are too easy to fudge; over time, advertisers may stop using them as an indicator. 

As Dan Misener from Bumper said, “Downloads aren’t people or time – they don’t measure what matters”. It’s the time that listeners spend with your content that’s really important, and what makes podcasts so attractive to brands. 

AI Could Help Independent Creators Make More Money

As you can probably guess, AI was a popular topic at The Podcast Show this year. Are there any industries that aren’t obsessed with AI right now?

Where podcast creators are concerned, the biggest takeaway we found was around how AI is changing advertising. Brands like Podopolo and Barometer spoke about how AI tools (theirs, of course!) are helping podcasts with smaller audiences land more and bigger advertising deals. 

As we know, brands typically won’t work with shows with fewer than 10,000 downloads per month. This means 98% of podcasts currently don’t qualify for advertising. But podcasting can achieve up to 60% conversion (according to Podopolo) rather than the 2% conversion of other mediums. This means it makes sense for brands to invest in podcasts with just 1,000 downloads per month.

Both brands spoke about how AI can help creators and advertisers work more freely with programmatic advertising by supporting contextualised targeting. Contextualised targeting involves running AI transcripts of podcast episodes and using tags to match podcasts up with the most relevant ads.

Tools like Podopol can ‘matchmake’ podcasts to pre-qualified niche audiences so that advertisers can target them with greater relevancy and ensure something close to that 60% conversion. Barometer uses AI to flag potentially unsafe or unsuitable podcast content so advertisers can feel more confident they’re working with the ‘right’ shows that align with their brand.

As advertisers in other rooms discussed how to speed up the ‘laborious’ task of audio buying, tools like this are clearly ahead of the game.

Our very own Colin Gray runs through the ten pillars of Indie Podcasting.

Video is Here to Stay (But It Won’t Replace Audio)

There were more than a few sessions and discussions leaning into the relationship between audio and video. This is a topic we’re passionate about. There’s no doubt that video has its place in podcasting, as well as its own unique strengths, but it isn’t a replacement for (or an upgrade on) audio. This case was brilliantly made during a session by Fresh Air titled How We’re Wired for Podcasts. Katherine Templar-Lewis and Robyn Landau of Kinda Studios brought their neuroscience research to the slide deck, showing us just what our brains are doing with audio versus its visual counterparts.

Listening to audio is more engaging because our brain works in harmony with the content to co-create images in our minds. This lays down stronger memories, which helps leave a lasting effect in the mind of your listener.

It’s refreshing to see such reason and research presented here because new creators are still being flooded with misleading advice telling them that they ‘must do video’ or risk being left behind. Nothing could be further from the truth. Video is an option, not an essential, so weigh up the facts, pros, and cons, make your own mind up, and do what works best for you.

Big Brands Are Catching On To Podcasting’s Magic

In a panel by Spotify on ‘the future of podcasting’, Rhys Davies from EE predicted that we would start seeing more ad spending with smaller independent podcasts.

He spoke about how bigger brands are catching on to the fact that the level of attention and engagement is massive in podcasting and completely unmatched by any other medium. It used to just be smaller businesses and startups advertising with podcasts, he claims, but now the big players are catching up. Whether you agree with this or not, these are encouraging words from a large corporate brand like EE.

Clearly, big brands are seeing data that’s helping them understand what we already know about podcasting – that it’s an incredibly powerful advertising medium, and more effective than TV and radio.

Podcasting Is About to Become More Regulated

Bryan Barletta from Sounds Profitable made one of the most critical points of the day (for us, at least). It’s one that a lot of us will find hard to swallow: Podcasting is going to become a lot more regulated over the next few years, whether we like it or not.

Ad revenue failed to reach $2 billion in 2022 because the lack of regulation makes podcasting too much of a risk for a lot of the bigger advertisers. Even Ben Shapiro has started bleeping out his own swear words because he realised they were getting in the way of him landing opportunities with advertisers/brands.

What’s clear is that AI is going to play an important role in podcast regulation. As we recently reported, tools are already helping brands disqualify podcasts that spread misinformation narratives that could be damaging for them to work with.

The floor of The Podcast Show 2023

What’s Next for The Podcast Show?

Whilst it’s good to sit in on panels and sessions, it’s the conversations that really make these in-person events so valuable. We were lucky enough to run a booth this year for our podcast maker tool Alitu, and we chatted endlessly with industry folks, podcasters, aspiring creators, and audio enthusiasts.

The Alitu booth!

For many, there was the opinion that the show’s organisers could lean into this a lot more. Networking should ultimately take priority over talks and panels, and the show could certainly do with a lot less of them. That’s no disrespect to any of the speakers; it’s just that there was an overwhelming choice of sessions to attend. If this was streamlined in 2024, with more networking opportunities taking centre stage, The Podcast Show could really go from good to great. Hopefully, this is something the organisers will consider for next year. We are looking forward to it already!

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