And audio content is hot these days, just look at what Spotify is up to. It’s clear, if Tuesday’s Bloomberg story is true, Apple executives who see Spotify and others making big moves in the audio content space want to be sure they don’t lose their massive lead with consumers who use their service to listen to podcasts.
Apple, which has been in the podcasting space since 2005, still pulls in around 60% of all podcast listeners with Spotify a distant second at 10%. However, Spotify has been slowly chipping away at that lead, and Spotify has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars to improve their position in the podcasting space. Most recently Spotify has purchased Gimlet, Anchor and Parcast and signed exclusive content deals with the Obama’s, Jemele Hill and others.
Sound That Brands CEO Dave Beasing tells Radio Ink this all makes perfect sense. “Looking at what’s happened to TV sometimes foretells what will happen in audio. Big disruption started earlier there. OTT providers like Hulu and Amazon began by repurposing content from other sources and eventually started spending billions on original programming. Now it’s audio’s turn. Aggregators inevitably will develop their own original content. To remain competitive, they must.”
While the Bloomberg report states Apple may soon be getting into original audio content, as always, there was no comment from Apple and there was no clear strategy to what any final product from Apple might look like. The company hardly participates in the podcasting community, although it has made a few upgrades to its app and stats. Despite the cold shoulder to podcasters, every podcaster knows if they launch a podcast it has to be on the Apple podcast app.
Amplifi Media CEO Steven Goldstein says it seems Apple is pivoting from its neutral roll as a “pass through” in podcasting to a model potentially like what they recently announced on the video side with original content and a monetization strategy. “The implications are pretty large as Apple would recommend a podcast but never had any financial skin in the game. I’ve been wondering what they would do with Spotify building capacity and listener share, and while we don’t know much, we know it will be something which will likely complicate the market for a period of time.”
The jury is still out as to whether consumers will pay for podcasts to the point where it pushes companies into profitability. Several companies like Stitcher, Luminary and others have premium offerings where consumers can buy exclusive or ad-free shows. You never hear how well that side of their business is doing in a typical company press release. Consumers have been trained for over a decade that podcast audio, for the most part, should be free.