On January 26, 2016, Bridge Ratings published its latest research on - "Podcasting at a Crossroads". If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to take a quick look.
The bottom line of the study was this: Podcasts have such tremendous potential yet its download model fails to provide the platform’s potential - audience growth, ad revenue and value.
The research piece offers a solution to this: streaming rather than podcasting will provide a more comfortable process for listeners and a more reliable way for advertisers to reach their consumers.
We received a good amount of response from this study, particularly from podcasters who seem to be split on the idea of changing the model from downloads to streaming.
Rob invited me to his Spreaker Live Show and we discussed the findings of this study. if you are a podcaster, this conversation is worth your time. It is Rob's opinion that the idea of streaming podcasts vs. downloading them is very controversial; one that the industry has been dealing with for some time now.
It seems the podcast community is split on the industry's distribution future.
During the discussion Rob brought up many good reasons why the download model works and he asked what my thought was on how the industry could best transition to a streaming model.
These were my thoughts:
1. Use cases for podcasts vary. Consumers tend to like the fact that there is little data consumption, though downloading an hour long podcast can consume a lot of memory on smartphones or tablets. Podcasts are popular for travelers on airplanes which generally do not allow for streaming activity. Other uses are preferred based on the environment or lifestyle of the listener.
2. Streaming offers flexibility to podcasters, i.e. offering a combination of download and streaming of the same content is putting the programming wherever the listener is. The highly popular podcast "Serial" now in its second season, managed a million downloads last year and awareness for the platform exploded as much as it did for its very engaging content.
This year, for season two, the folks at "Serial" have also partnered with Pandora which accomplishes two or three major advances. a) The "Serial" podcast is now exposed to millions more users of Pandora and with Pandora's metrics, the "Serial" podcast offers advertisers much more granular data about the listeners thus increasing the program's value.
b) The Pandora piece now offers listeners a unique consumption behavior which we have observed through our research. Listeners could start to listen to the "Serial" podcast on their desktop PCs while at work or at home then stop when need arises and be continued via download on a mobile device. Pandora's application allows users to pick up where they left off making this behavioral shift quite easy.
This model, we believe, is the transition solution Rob and I were discussing and is the next step in moving podcasting to a more measureable mass audience.
Podcasting is at a crossroads. Because there is no overriding governing podcasting organization like the National Association of Broadcasters, any transition to a streaming model will likely occur naturally with individual podcasters taking steps that they are comfortable with.
Unfortunately, this approach will continue the slow growth of the industry.
Most podcasters may not see the benefit of streaming or offering a dual-track platform as described above. The metric improvement for advertising may not apply to their particular need.
Yet there are many podcasts that generate significant audiences and generating revenue is a natural outcome and need for them. The dual-track platform idea makes real sense to them in all likelihood.
So, there's a model usage case that has been proven by "Serial" and Pandora. The thousands of producers of podcast content will have to decide what is best for them. But as our study expresses, the potential for huge growth in 2016 and beyond is significant and whether or not advertising dollars are important to podcasters, there is no denying that the number of people listening will be greatly increased through a streaming model and that alone, perhaps, is reason enough.