Is it just me, or does it seem like podcasts are becoming kind of a big deal? I originally created a draft to write about podcasting in early November, after being recommended the podcast Startup by a colleague. Since then Serial, a podcast about a murder case has become the most popular podcast ever and everyone is talking about it.
Its fair to say Serial has become a big deal. According to Apple its the fastest podcast to reach 5 million downloads and streams in iTunes history. It is also the top podcast in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, and in the top 10 in Germany, South Africa and India.
Podcasting is not a new idea. Fred Wilson first wrote about podcasting on his blog in 2005, but references a podcast as early as 1997. The technology has been around for some time but mainly used by tech folks and hobbyists. For those in media, it was too small to think about.
A generation later and it is now worth thinking about. The increase in the amount of connected devices, from smartphones and tablets to connected cars means the listening audience for podcasts has significantly increased. As of IOS8 Podcasts is now a default app on all Apple products. As the quantity of listeners have increased a host of new content producers have embraced the opportunity in podcasting.
We are now beginning to see high quality, well produced shows in podcast form and listeners are engaging. It is no surprise that the two podcasts I mention above, Serial and Startup, the highest ranked podcasts on the Apple Store US, are produced by former employees from This American Life, a weekly public radio show broadcast on more than 500 stations to about 2.1 million listeners in the US.
The growth in audience also makes podcasting a viable business. In episode 10 of Startup, Alex Blumberg and his co-founder Matt Lieber are surprised to find that their estimated audience in their initial business plan is way off – they actually have 10x more listeners than they had predicted.
The real advantage of podcasts is their on demand nature. Podcasts can be easily downloaded and listened to around your schedule, as opposed to radio channels which have scheduled times. In a world where instant, flexible access is paramount this is a huge USP.
I’m excited to see how podcasting evolves from here. With better enabling technologies, more listeners and better content producers the market is going through a huge growth stage. It is very possible that what people listen to on their commute to work is about to change.