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Friday, February 23, 2024

The 4 podcast tales that can form 2024

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That is Sizzling PodThe Verge’s publication about podcasting and the audio business. Enroll here for extra.

Whats up! Apologies for the late ship, I’ve been buried in Sizzling Pod Summit prep. I promise it is going to be price it! We’re placing collectively an amazing lineup for 2024. We’re nonetheless engaged on our invitation checklist — in case you’re all in favour of attending, let us know here.

That is concerning the time yakky media people like myself come out with predictions for subsequent yr. Nick Quah revealed takes from folks throughout the business in the present day for Vulture. Yesterday, The Podglomerate’s Joni Deutsch had a chunk for Nieman Lab together with her personal predictions. I extremely suggest trying out each!

At present, I don’t have predictions a lot as tales on which I’m holding an in depth watch. Let’s get into it.

Expertise offers up for renewal

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Lots of these big-money, multiyear offers introduced in 2020 and 2021 are developing for renewal in 2024. Firms spent tens of tens of millions of {dollars} (or, in Joe Rogan’s case, lots of of tens of millions of {dollars}) to grab up prime podcasting expertise. Now, they should determine: was it price it, and can it’s price it to play that sport once more?

As media firms change into extra austere of their spending, it’s straightforward to imagine that we received’t see these minimal assure offers once more. However superstar chat exhibits, for higher or worse, have endured. Rogan continues to be untouchable, SmartLess is greater than ever, and Apple simply named Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ podcast Present of the 12 months. One agent instructed me that regardless of the doom and gloom of the business, their shoppers have had a progress yr. These hosts have audiences, and audio firms are going to should pay as much as maintain them. 

That isn’t to say everybody will get a renewal or {that a} renewal will imply the identical sort of deal as earlier than. Preparations through which the minimal assure is smaller however the income potential is increased (like with Trevor Noah’s Spotify deal) may change into extra widespread. 

And never everybody could get a renewal, in any case! It’s exhausting to see how Spotify wouldn’t battle for Rogan or SiriusXM wouldn’t pay to maintain Ashley Flowers. However possibly that’s much less of a precedence for, say, Dax Shepard. Armchair Knowledgeable ranked ninth on Apple Podcasts in 2020 and was snatched up by Spotify in 2021. Since then, it has misplaced its buzz, and Spotify determined to distribute it throughout platforms earlier this yr (which the corporate has not achieved with its two largest stars, Rogan and Alex Cooper). At present, Armchair Knowledgeable ranks thirtieth on Spotify and 118th on Apple. That’s nothing to smell at, however I might be stunned if he received one other $50 million deal.

Regulatory modifications in Europe

Some long-simmering tech regulation in Europe goes to return to a head subsequent yr. This has been championed initially by Spotify, which has railed against Apple’s control over in-app funds for subscriptions and audiobooks. But when issues shake out the best way the EU intends, it may make for a extra aggressive audio business total. 

In 2022, the European Union adopted the Digital Markets Act as legislation, which prevents “gatekeeper” firms (Apple, Alphabet, Meta, Amazon, ByteDance, and Microsoft) from using practices that derail smaller tech firms. There’s a lot concerned, however one of many key tenets is banning these firms from self-preferencing their very own services in locations similar to search (Google) or marketplaces (the App Retailer). These firms have till March to be in compliance with the brand new legislation.

This might probably be nice for Spotify’s backside line. It may additionally make it simpler for audio startups to compete within the open market. The tangible results within the US subsequent yr can be minimal, if they’re something in any respect. But when the subsequent nice audio firm can emerge on this new panorama, the podcast business could have one thing to achieve in the long term.

Extra AI (duh)

This yr, I seen a definite shift within the business’s angle towards AI. Once I left for maternity depart in April, folks (together with me!!) appeared to be actually nervous about what improvements in AI know-how would imply for podcasting, particularly as examples largely got here within the type of totally AI-generated podcasts like The Joe Rogan AI Experience. Once I received again in September, it appeared like folks had reached the stage of AI acceptance. 

I don’t suppose which means we’ll see too many important podcasts which can be completely AI. As an alternative, I feel it means we’ll see AI seep into podcasting in delicate methods. Voice cloning know-how, like that by ElevenLabs, is getting higher and has been utilized by studios like Dear Media for Plausible: The Coco Berthmann Story and Vox Media Podcast Community for Land of the Giants’ season on Tesla. Spotify’s new device that routinely interprets podcasts into different languages might be a game-changer for scaling exhibits. And there are most likely one million different methods it may be used that I’m not occupied with as a result of that’s merely not how my mind works.

If my vibe earlier this yr was that the robots will destroy all media jobs (nonetheless a risk!!), I’m extra hopeful that there are methods AI could be deployed that don’t essentially alter the core of a podcast.

A yr for reinvention

I do know you might be already conscious of this, however a lot of people were laid off this year. It has been devastating to observe proficient producers, engineers, and advert professionals be reduce adrift due to firms that received into podcasting with no stable technique. Sadly, a few of them received’t have the ability to wait round for these jobs to return again and can transfer on to different sectors. However some will stay and make issues that push the business ahead.

I need to be clear, this isn’t a alternative for good jobs that permit folks to stay their lives whereas making good work (and, , have medical health insurance). However out from below the thumb of company overlords who demand yet one more true crime present or haphazardly throw in programmatic advertisements or impose (after which change) metrics, folks in podcasting will innovate. Perhaps which means funky present ideas that may by no means get authorised by a SiriusXM or Spotify. Or that might imply alternate enterprise fashions and possession constructions. Or possibly we’ll even get that long-anticipated repair for podcast discovery.

This time final yr, issues (rightfully) appeared bleak. And folks have loads of proper to really feel betrayed by the businesses that threw cash at podcasting simply to drop it a couple of years later. However I’m hopeful that 2024 will deliver good issues in podcasting, although most likely not from the folks or locations you anticipate.

Something you might be occupied with going into the brand new yr? Be at liberty to achieve out at ariel.shapiro@theverge.com.

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