Earlier this month, Spotify announced an earth-shaking move into podcasting. With its acquisition of Gimlet Media and Anchor – two major players in podcasts – the music streaming service is set to bring pods to a much wider audience.
Spotify will reportedly pay $230 million for Gimlet, the largest acquisition in the history of podcasting. This signifies Spotify’s belief in the power of podcasts – CEO Daniel Ek believes that in the future more than 20% of Spotify listening will be non-music content.
This has the potential to cause a remapping of the landscape of UK podcasts in 2019, for the better. The popularity of podcasts in the UK has been growing for years – now one fifth of British 15-24 year olds listens to podcasts every week. And Spotify’s entry into the landscape will ensure that number keeps rising.
But how will these acquisitions impact UK podcasts in 2019?
The niche goes mainstream – podcasts get big
Listeners love podcasts for being intimate and niche, offering a connection between host and listener via candid conversations and personal stories. Hook’s research into UK podcasts demonstrated that podcasting is a human-centric, lean-forward medium enabling high engagement when other media cannot.
Considering the importance of ‘nicheness’ to listeners, Spotify’s arrival in podcasting has the potential to disrupt the entire industry. Podcasts could go from being a highly individual experience to a shared talking point. Some shows have done this already: big hits are Serial, Table Manners with Jessie Ware and Gimlet’s own Homecoming, which was made into a TV show starring Julia Roberts.
But it feels like we’re now at a turning point where podcasts enter the UK media sphere in earnest. This is the moment when the niche goes mainstream and podcasts become a widespread, popular form of content.
A two-sided marketplace – Create & Share in One Place
Spotify’s two acquisitions – Gimlet and Anchor – are key brands in the podcast market. Gimlet is a leading podcast creator and Anchor is a distribution tool aiming to ‘democratise audio’.
These acquisitions emulate Spotify’s vision of a two-sided marketplace where content creation and distribution live in one place. In contrast to Apple’s ‘hands-off’ approach, it appears Spotify will be actively pushing podcasts to help broaden its offering.
The streaming giant is also exploring podcast advertising, a wholly different ball game to other audio ads. As Hook’s insights have shown, podcast ads need to mirror the medium they inhabit with intimate, personal stories in order to resonate. These ads have already been hugely successful and if applied correctly, Spotify’s algorithms could target listeners and deliver significant revenues for advertisers.
So how will this affect UK podcasts in 2019?
The future of podcasts in the UK
Spotify’s acquisitions will allow UK podcasts in 2019 to diversify beyond the current market leader, Apple. And with diversification comes more competition and better content.
Following Spotify’s recent announcement, some commentators have declared ‘the end of an era’ for podcasts, arguing that the time of open podcasting is probably over.
I have to disagree. While some audio platforms might try to move towards exclusive, top-down podcasts, they’ll soon realise going against podcasting’s key principles does them no favours. Basically, if podcasts lose their niche completely, they will lose the interest of listeners too.
It cannot be denied that Spotify’s acquisitions point towards a bright future for UK podcasts. With big media players now invested, listeners can expect a wider array of choice than ever. And creators can expect more listeners than ever, too.
All Spotify and other audio brands must do is ensure they don’t lose sight of the original purpose of podcasts: to share human-centric, personal stories that connect with listeners.
Want to hear more of our insights into podcasts? Then take a look at our blogs on What Brands Can Learn from UK Podcasts and Podcast Ads. And if you want to know more, why not get in touch for a chat! In the meantime, you can follow our updates on LinkedIn and Twitter too.