Author Archives: Rob Greenlee

What is the State of the Podcasting Industry in 2020? What is ahead in 2021 Q & A?

Rob Greenlee
Rob Greenlee

By Rob Greenlee, VP, Content and Partnerships, Libsyn.com, Chairperson of ThePodcastAcademy.com

(12/18/2020) Podcasting globally is growing fast in all aspects and is increasingly diversified around gender, ethnicity, and race. We are seeing innovation and talented people entering the podcasting medium in many areas now that is becoming increasingly less about speaking into a microphone to host a podcast show and increasingly around the business of podcasting.

Podcasting has been increasingly upping the quality game of content development. The listening platforms are competing for users by pushing the envelope around discovery metadata for search, production and marketing support, full transcriptions, and monetization. 

Advertising revenue is up less than expected prior to COVID, but is up still and will continue to grow and accelerate into late 2021. Reaching $1 Billion+ in ad revenue will take longer than many have hoped and filling more podcasts with spots that are valuing podcast ad inventory whether it is baked in host reads or prerecorded dynamically inserted talent reads with higher CPM’s is key.

Privacy and changes to Internet protocol IPv6 are going to continue to have an impact on digital advertising and will hold back podcast advertising as long as we rely too much on IP targeting and selling IP’s of listeners to re-target advertising. 

Global listening, content creation, monetization from all parts of the world is key to the rapid and sustained growth of the medium.

What have been the big podcasting stories over the last year?

Global growth and expansion initially started many years ago by Apple iTunes Podcasts and has seen gradual and more recent faster expansion by listening services platforms like Spotify, Deezer, Gaana, Amazon, and iVoox. The expansion to new listening platforms around the world is not done yet.

Content production companies like BBC, CBC, ABC Australia, and many other smaller audio creation companies like SoundCartel in Australia and Kelly & Kelly in Canada have shifted from radio audio to podcast audio production services.  

Who has benefited the most over the past few years in the podcasting space?

Benefits from podcasting are varied and are dependent on podcasters’ goals and achieving those.  I am not sure that I can say who specifically has benefitted the most from the growth and development of podcasting over the past few years, but can comment on how many have benefited. 

I do know that many people help their work careers, grow their personal brands, grow a business, gain direct revenue from donations, earn paid subscriptions, and build advertising revenue with a podcast in their life. 

Many think big corporate podcasting and the largest audience podcasts have benefitted the most. This assumes that podcast monetization, VC investments, and mergers and acquisitions are the most important factor in who has benefitted the most, but all these advancements and attention has helped independents and corporate podcasting which sometimes can be independent podcasters.

The line between corporate podcasting and independent podcasting is getting less clear as so many individuals build teams around their productions as well as big companies. 

What are the chances an independent podcaster can become successful in today’s podcasting world without being part of a network?

I believe this has not really changed much since the early days of podcasting.  As long as podcasting remains dominated by independent creators and the industry keeps supporting opportunities for those types of creators then it will be a 16-year-old new medium that continues to offer a level playing field. 

It is true too that larger companies and networks are getting more attention than ever before.  That increasing attention, size, and cash resources are driving increasing success for some of these companies. It is also true that the numbers of employees and money resources do not guarantee success in the podcasting space. 

Successful content can come from anywhere in the podcasting or media space and larger companies can have some advantages in the market and market forces are helping to increase the advantage to larger listening, publishing platforms, but content creation is still where the medium is a blank canvas of opportunity as the cost of quality audio production is continuing to fall.

How successful can an independent podcaster really be as part of a network?

That is a key question in today’s podcasting space is a podcast that is part of a large network really an independent podcast.  I think it is if the content is still wholly owned independently by the creator.  

Some networks have owned and operated podcasts where the talent is hired to produce the podcast, but independent podcasters affiliated with a large or smaller network own all the rights to their content, but still can potentially get support from a network.  

I consider the podcasts that the hosts still own all the rights to be independent podcasters.  I think the definition of what an independent podcast has been confusing for many to understand as some have judged some shows as not part of the indie side of podcasting when they really are independent podcasts while being part of a big corporate media or podcasting company. 

I believe quality cream rises to the top in podcasting and all a podcast needs to do is spark word of mouth sharing in its listener base and it will grow over time if trust and value exchanges are created in people’s lives. 

Has the measurement issue been solved?

We have solved the measurement issue as much as we can at this moment in time. 

The future of podcast measurement is facing some very large challenges in the near future as we struggle to obtain client-side listening data, the very limited path to listener opt-in tracking, internet protocol (IPv4 to IPv6) technology, elimination of the cookie, and growing privacy-related global legal restrictions change and develop. 

As we face all the above challenges, we must always keep in mind that podcasting has been rooted for 16 years in being mostly a non-commercial medium that is free, open, and accessible. 

Is important to continue to recognize the trust-building that is rooted in the history the medium has in protecting listeners’ privacy. This trust-building has resulted in strong ROI via host reads ads without violating listener privacy.

Has the discovery issue been solved?

The discovery issue has never existed in the way it has been commonly understood. Many complain that podcast discovery is the core issue behind why their podcasts have not grown in the audience they have as fast they would like. 

The discovery of podcasts can certainly be better, but most of that issue falls on the backs of the podcast creator and how well they have developed the topics and program, show marketing and promotion, website SEO, and their efforts to inspire the audience sharing to others.  

Best advice you could give someone thinking about podcasting today?

I mostly give the same advice today as I have years ago. The opportunity to succeed in podcasting has not really changed.  It just takes planning and goal setting, focus on relevant content, good sounding audio, an aggressive distribution, and a promotion plan that connects with listeners.

What will happen in the future in the podcasting space?
The podcasting medium will keep steadily growing in all areas in the near and long-term future. It is up to all of us to evolve podcasting in a way that preserves its roots as a trusted and level playing field for all to contribute and participate.


Rob Greenlee is the current VP, Content, and Partnerships at Liberated Syndication or Libsyn.com (LSYN). He is the current Chairperson of The Podcast AcademyAmbies Awards and was inducted into the Academy of Podcasters Hall of Fame in 2017. His career started around offline and then online marketing. Then on radio in 1999 and podcasting on Sept 15, 2004 with the first nationally syndicated radio show, “WebTalk World Radio Show”. He currently co-hosts the “New Media Show,” a weekly audio and video podcast that streams LIVE at NewMediaShow.com. Connect with Rob at robg(at)libsyn(dot)com.

He is available for podcast interviews and other media opportunities here – Calendly.com/robgreenlee/

Is a New Podcasting Industry Association Needed Again?

Rob GreenleeBy Rob Greenlee, VP, Content and Partnerships, Libsyn.com

You might be asking a simple question of Why? Yes again, we have been here before and it was called the Association of Downloadable Media (ADM).  It was a grassroots started organization formed by some of the larger players in the podcasting space back in 2008.

Now ten years later and much maturity in the market has occurred, but most new people to podcasting will not have known this history.  It is also true that it does not matter now much what happened in the past, but what we do now going forward.  I agree with that thought, but some lessons can be learned from that experience to make an organization work this time.

The ADM was mostly a failure by most measures with group in fighting and backroom closed door communications in efforts to control the efforts of the group, but some good came out of it and we did set some very basic measurement standards that has carried the overall podcasting industry till the more recent efforts by the IAB Podcast Metrics Working Group to establish v.1 and more recently IAB v.2 Podcast Metrics Standards.

The thought is to create and industry group that can collaborate to create more standards in the industry around advertising formats, best practices around dynamic ad insertion and programmatic ad buying.   The large brands and agencies need some whitepapers with examples of successful advertising campaigns.

As we see host/talent read ad spots converge more with programmatic buying platforms we will see revenue grow in the podcasting medium.

Clearly we also need to keep working on audio playing client side metrics to realize the complete picture of listening from downloaded podcast audio files.

This new unnamed podcast industry association would enable everyone to come together around growing the listening side of the podcasting industry with the potential of co-op online and offline marketing and promotion.

I have a proposed name for the new association and that might be “Professional Podcast Association” (PPA) or “Global Podcast Association” (GPA).  Please reach out and let me know if you have any other ideas about this proposal – rob at robgreenlee dotcom.

Why Podcasters and Listeners Should Care About Dynamic Ad Insertion or Also Called Audio Stitching?

Rob Greenlee(Article Updated July 7, 2019) Simply put “Dynamically Inserted Advertising” puts audio ads or audio promos in podcast episode downloads and it stays there for a certain amount of time and then it stops being inserted when it’s reached a certain number of purchased impressions via downloads and plays.

“But one must be hyper-cautious of annoying audiences with bad ads and too many ads with this technology. The tech is not so much the issue, but how it is used.”

Ideally, all ads in podcasts should be read by the podcast host or another experienced podcast host doing the read for other podcasts as as I call talent reads. This approach can work with dynamic ad insertion as well as the traditional baked in versions that are in the media file forever. Keep in mind the use of baked in ads leaves advertising cash on the table as archives can be fully monetized with dynamic ad insertion.

One needs to be careful to make sure the listener experience isn’t degraded at all from this ad delivery method. One must be mindful of where the ad break is placed inside or at the beginning of the content. One also needs to be mindful that using music fades around dynamic ads must be thought through and most of the time doing soft transition breaks is best as ads may not always in the show at playback.

Some may run dynamic ad insertion with more traditional radio ad type spots with the big brand advertisers and those may not be as well received by listeners.

But, if talent/host read ads are done correctly they would not disrupt the long-standing host read type of authentic experience listeners to podcasts have become accustomed too.

Ideally the listener would never know you are using ad insertion to deliver a host read because it sounds the same as baked in host read ads they are used to hearing.

“Given all the warnings, dynamic ad insertion is rapidly becoming the de facto way of doing ad business in the Podcasting space, but some media buyers are resisting the shift from baked in live host read ads. The ad buyers have gotten used to getting free archival impressions for the life of episodes with baked in ads”

Reality is that with dynamic ad insertion there will be a flood of inventory in the space and the CPM rates will likely go down until the IAB v.2 podcast metrics certification of podcast hosting platforms process gets wider adoption to see CPM (Ad Cost Per Thousand) in podcasting go up and I am confident they will as we are seeing signs of it already.

Forward-looking podcasters will figure out what their premium content offering will see CPM or ad revenue climb to impressive levels as advertisers see acceleration of ROI as the counting of audience numbers begins to more broadly reflect the real truth.

Podcasters will still need to diversify by combining audio with video and click-through sponsored social post ads, inspire listening audiences to word of mouth share podcast listen recommendations is a big part of the solution. Many will be able to sell subscriptions, live performance tickets and other products that add value to their listeners and generate additional revenue.

This growing form of advertising in podcasts will impact listeners and content creators in a positive or negative way depending on how it is implemented.

Keep an ear out for it and time will tell if it turns out positive or negative.

Listen to “SLS105: Podcast Discovery and Ad Insertion” on Spreaker.

Nine Evolutions of Podcasting In 2017

Rob GreenleeBy Rob Greenlee

Predicting the coming year of podcasting is a little more challenging than usual because, in my mind, the 13-year-old medium has been maturing very fast. Unfortunately, growth and innovation will be slow in coming this next year.  It is true that podcasting’s best days are ahead and we do have many developing trends that will enable the medium to grow its creators and listeners.

For a little perspective, the podcasting medium was a revolution when it began between 2004 through 2007.  Since then, podcasting has been chugging along at a slow, unrevolutionary but steady growth trajectory for many years.  It is true that podcasting awareness and listening grew a little faster over the past 2 years with the heightened media coverage of the reality and fictional storytelling podcasts.

The continuing evolution of podcasting in 2017 will be good for the industry, but those breakthroughs in media coverage and technology innovation will be lacking this next year.  I would really like to be all glowing in my predictions for podcasting in 2017, but I believe we need to be realistic and understand that the significant market improvements around this medium have mostly happened already.  What we will see is incremental improvements in these core areas next year.

I am hoping to be surprised by the emergence of a new content genre or audio experience that will drive the next big wave of awareness for podcasting.  It is very likely that this content genre could be big budget storytelling podcasts coming out of Hollywood and large corporate investments in brand marketing motivated original content productions.

I also think that independent podcasters will continue to be the dominant force in podcasting with most listeners enjoying those smaller shows across many genres.  Many are predicting the decline of the independent smaller podcasters, but that is wishful thinking by those from larger shows wanting less competition in the podcasting market.

Below are my thoughts around the important podcasting evolutions in 2017.

Listen to “SLS94: Nine Evolutions of Podcasting In 2017” on Spreaker.

9. Hosting distribution platforms will develop better tools to help monetizing smaller and larger shows easier.

The need to assist monetization of shows with smaller download numbers will be given more attention in 2017. New easy to use tools will be available to all levels of podcasts and on demand audio shows.  These tools will offer many levels of monetization opportunities from advertising with host and talent reads.  The combination of programmatic ad buying tools with powerful campaign CMS tools will appear to enable trafficking advertiser messages across hundreds of shows in one campaign.  This should bring revenue to smaller shows that are producing great content and building loyal listener followings.

I do not think most premium paid podcast shows will produce very much revenue this coming year, as has been the case for every other year. A few very large shows will find some sales revenue from this, but very few shows that convert to premium audio will generate significant revenue like has been done for many years around audio books and music.  That will continue into 2017 because the tools for doing this really need some technological innovation and should be based on open RSS with password protected episodes and open feeds.

8. Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) continued march towards podcasting download metric standards.

The IAB Podcasting working group that represents most of the largest players in podcasting today will continue to take a leadership role around creating foundational advertising best practices and measurement standards.  This group has put out a guidelines document in 2016, but in 2017 we should see more technical standards recommendations.

https://www.iab.com/guidelines/podcast-ad-metrics-guidelines/

7. In-car dash consumption of podcasts will continue to replace radio listening in the car.

Some will tell you that In-Car entertainment systems are not important to the growth and development of on demand audio and podcasting because these systems are generally disliked by consumers and are just glorified Bluetooth audio player devices. At this stage, these in-dash systems are integrating complete and software updatable solutions and are being deployed in all new cars.  This wave of change is in full deployment that will take many years to be fully realized. The impact and significance of it will grow in importance and be felt more the new year as more of these cars will be sold every day.  Internet data connections in these cars will continue to get cheaper and software upgrades will continue to improve these experiences. This evolution will truly start to replace radio for many drivers with terrific on-demand audio podcasting content.

6. Personal voice agents (Alexa/Echo, Google Home, Siri and Cortana) devices will enable more in-home listening growth.

Smart voice agents will have a larger impact on podcasting in 2017 as these devices and services get integrated into all sorts of devices, including car in-dash, kitchen appliances, and living room and bathroom devices with internet connections. The biggest impact will come from the Amazon Echo with Alexa skills that enable server side voice services to include search and play of audio podcasts by voice request.

5. Dynamic ad insertion partnered with Programmatic Advertising Buying and Trafficking tools technology will improve.

Dynamic ad insertion technology enables audio advertising and other segmented audio to be dynamically inserted by servers into mp3 audio files in pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll in a specified location in the mp3 audio file, much like a book being slid onto a bookshelf of books.  In the coming new year, we will see more use of this technology to enable all levels of shows to better monetize.  This tool will be combined with online programmatic ad buying and campaign trafficking tools to more easily distribute commercial advertising messages.

4. Some host read advertising will morph into more host-like “Talent Reads”.

Podcast advertising was built on what is called “Host Endorsed Advertising Reads” and, in the new year, it will continue to grow in importance to the increasing advertising revenue in podcasting today.  The issue is related to talent and time needed to record these host-endorsed reads. Thus, we will see a shift towards having talented voice-over artists record more host reads. We will see two tiers of host reads: ones done by the actual show host and those done by talented ad readers that produce the advertising message in the same method as the show host would record them.

3. Short-segment social media sharing and playback growth.

Podcasts today grow audiences by word of mouth. We will see more platforms support the social media sharing of short segments from audio programs on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

2. Live audio recording to podcasting grow.

One of the leading trends online has been and will continue to be enabling Live video and audio.  An example of this is the recent decision on the part of Facebook to enable Live audio streaming on its closed platform.  Some podcasting distribution platforms combine live audio streaming and recording to then be encoded into mp3 files.  Content creators and listeners like the interactivity of Live. Therefore, this will continue to grow in 2017.

1. Android takes a larger share of the podcasting listening market.

Mobile devices, including Smartphones running Android OS, will continue to progressively and more rapidly expand podcast listener audiences in 2017.