Podcast predictions for 2017

Mamamia podcast director, Monique Bowley
By Mamamia podcast director, Monique Bowley | 25 January 2017
Monique Bowley

Mamamia's Monique Bowley goes crystal-ball gazing on what will happen in the podcasting space this year.

Show will get shorter

In 2015, iTunes told us longer was better. Their top shows were sometimes up to three hours long. But the explosion in the format means there’s more shows than ever to choose from, all competing for your very distracted ear. In 2017, time wasters be damned. With the advent of ‘speed listening’; where podcasts are consumed at 1.5 or 2 x the normal rate to get through them, podcasts that add value to your life, or take you on a journey from the minute you begin to listen will be the big winners.

Analytics will get smart

The difficulty with podcast analytics is that they were largely a mysterious labyrinth and iTunes the gatekeeper. But other savvy podcast apps and networks are popping up with incredibly granular analytics. The data on where people listen, for how long, at what point they skip through an episode, and when they drop off is brutal for content makers, but necessary for advertisers. As networks gather data on listeners – be it age, type of content, what they googled last or who they’re friends with on facebook, usage patterns will be identified. As a result of these targeted listening preferences, we will see shows recommend to consumers, and content gaps identified for programmers to fill.

TV will join the fray

We saw it this year when Foxtel created Can’t Live Without - a brand extension of their Lifestyle Channel, where they took high-profile hosts from their tops shows into a new format. Other networks will see the content and diversification opportunities within, and look at experimenting in a low-risk, low-cost format. Conversations with Karl Stefanovic might be a stretch, but we will see some big moves. If major networks are going to pay billions of dollars into sports or other programming rights over the next six years, they will want some bang for their buck and extend that content into podcasts.

 As will major publishers, sports teams, politicians and anyone with a big media strategy

The success of Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier, based on her best selling happiness books, will open the doors to book publishers who may, until now, have been fearful that authors who discuss their work freely may undermine the audience interest in the book. Rubin has seen the opposite; a “deepening” of engagement with her audience, a larger discoverability of her work, and as a result, increased sales.

We’ll see big sports teams start to include podcasts in their media offerings, with content that goes beyond just republishing interviews with major radio stations or press-conferences. Think changerooms with a microphone, recording interviews and building stories around their club’s stars.

Hillary Clinton’s podcast in the leadup to the 2016 election was an exercise in crafting your PR message. For politicians who have relied on the avenues of traditional broadcast media, we will see them reach into the the medium, too.

In all cases, the content is plentiful, the PR message is suddenly entirely in your control, and for sports teams, it’s another avenue for sponsor messaging.

Facebook's Live Audio will be the game changer

Until now there’s been no easy way to share snippets of audio files through social media, but with Facebook Live Audio on the way, it will entirely change the game for shareable podcast content. At the moment it’s being tested through a few select Facebook partners, including the BBC World Service, but once released to other publishers later in 2017 it will be a game changer.

Investigative reporting

Serial took a murder case, turned it into over 80 million listeners, and a retrial for the accused, Adnan Sayed. The Australian’s Bowraville took some of Australia’s under-reported, least known serial killings, made them front page news. It also picked up a 2016 Walkley award. The Age made Phoebe’s Fall, following the mysterious case of Melbourne woman Phoebe Handsjuk, whose fall down a garbage chute was deemed a “tragic accident”, sparking politicans to lobby for changes to coronial inquests.

Step up, Four Corners. Our ears are ready for a Sarah Ferguson special.

Better branded content

Smart advertisers that recognise the hyper-engagement of a podcast listener also know those same listeners are discerning about ads. How do you stop listeners skipping easily over your brand message? Be smarter about it. Finding creative ways to engage your audience, avoiding the hard sells and the dynamic ad insertion, and allowing podcasters to bring their audience in on the sponsor means more ears on your product. Entire shows built for advertisers such Fighting For Fair, the social justice storytelling podcast for Maurice Blackburn, or the enormous success of the Tinder / Gimlet collaboration on relationships podcast DTR (Define The Relationship) will become more frequent.

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