The New York Times already wants to know if we’ve reached “peak podcast,” and sometimes, yes, it seems like everybody has a show. Oprah, Shaq, reality TV stars, random friends of yours — everyone! The industry has existed for over a decade, but this year it’s been particularly buzzy, especially after Spotify announced its plans to spend $500 million on podcast-related acquisitions. Even just this week, Bloomberg reported that Apple might start bankrolling exclusive shows for Apple Podcasts, too. Podcasts are expected to generate $1 billion in revenue by 2020, according to a study from Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC; the space is only going to continue to grow.
The industry has slowly gained traction since former Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the word “podcast” widely in 2005. But as it matures, and advertisers flood the space with more money, podcasts are starting to function more like the web. Ad tracking solutions are being created; more analytics are being released; and the ads themselves are becoming dynamic and smarter.
Like any content space that’s becoming friendlier to advertisers, people want to get in on it, which leads to articles suggesting podcasts have peaked. I mostly agree that the world probably doesn’t need many more long-winded, unedited talk shows, but the space has far from peaked. International audiences already love podcasts, but there’s likely more room for growth and for translating existing shows into other languages. Also, the podcast space could benefit from a wider, more diverse pool of hosts, and it’s encouraging to see Google, Spotify, and others seek out and support those voices. Plus, there are likely forms of audio that haven’t been introduced yet, but could be breakthroughs in the space. Podcasts certainly haven’t peaked yet, and if you thought everyone had a show already, just wait a few more years.