Podcasting, the digitally-downloadable radio format, is fast entering the mainstream across the world. Despite the format’s growth, there exist significant barriers to its jump into mass media; here’s what you need to know.

This is according to new research published in June’s edition of Admap – Audio: Prospering in the ever-present medium. Tom Webster, senior vice president at Edison Research explores the four barriers hampering the podcast universe’s growth, from discoverability to the format’s typical lack of music.

“Podcasting’s ‘Share of Ear’ has more than doubled since 2014,” Webster says. “In fact, it’s grown by 122%. But while individual platforms have shifted around a fair amount over the last five years, one ratio has seen only a slight change: the ratio of music to spoken word programming.

“In 2014, 81% of the audio Americans listened to was music, and 19% was spoken word. The rise of podcasting has undoubtedly had an impact on that ratio, and today it is closer to 77/23.” Despite this growth, music continues to dominate listening.

This is a problem for podcasts. The music industry considers podcasting licensed music to be tantamount to making mixtapes; the royalty schemes involved render music podcasts largely cost-prohibitive. However, music labels are waking up to the opportunity – and the threat – that podcasting poses for the industry.

At the higher levels of internet discoverability, one company’s sluggishness in the podcasting space has hampered overall growth. Despite the fact that Google’s Android OS enjoys the largest market share in the mobile space, Apple continues to lead the charge of podcasting.

Google’s podcast perspective is changing, however. Recently, Google announced at its 2019 I/O developer conference that Google search would begin to index podcasts based on the content and not just the title. Webster caveats this observation with the typically quick fix of information that its search’s specialism. When people Google a question, they are not usually looking for a one-hour podcast on a topic. “Still, by any analysis, more relevant podcasts are going to be placed in front of more curious eyes, and that can only be a positive for the ear.”

Other platforms have proved more resistant – namely, that most analogue of media: the AM/FM car radio, which remains king of the car. Webster writes, “behaviours in the car have changed much more slowly than listening habits in the home, or at work. Much of this is due to the fact that we don't buy new cars all that often – new car ownership turns over quite slowly compared to other forms of technology.”

Finally, Webster turns to apathy. “Millions of potential listeners in every country we have surveyed say they have heard the term "podcasting," but they just don't care.” But he argues that the reasons people give – “not for me” or “don’t provide anything unique” – are not hugely telling. Drawing on the uptake of Netflix, Webster suggests that what drew people to the streaming service wasn’t its UX prowess or long list of content, it was one show – “the one we heard about and had to watch.” Recent acquisitions and deals suggest that platforms are taking note, and are investing in podcasts that will get people talking. At one point, there will be the next Serial, which will help to grow the category.

Despite these constraints, Webster suggests, “there is a lot more growth to come.”

This issue of Admap features eight articles by thought leaders from across the globe, from companies such as HSBC, Mindshare and Ipsos Mori. WARC subscribers can access a summary deck which summarises the expert advice from contributors and key considerations on the topic.

Sourced from WARC, TechCrunch