Last week, thousands of podcasters descended on Orlando for the fifth annual Podcast Movement conference. Once again, we hosted the Broadcasters Meet Podcasters track, geared towards radio professionals. Over the course of several days, a number of themes became apparent. Here are my biggest takeaways from the conference:
1. The suits have arrived.
To be fair, most of them wore sports coats, not full suits, but the visual reminder underscored the recent developments we've seen in the podcasting space: more and more professionals are getting involved in the medium, bringing investment dollars with them. From the Westwood One booth in the center of the hallway to the ABC News ads on the digital signage boards, it was obvious that this conference has attracted far more interest from corporations than it had even just a few years ago.
2. Branded podcasts are going to be a serious stream of revenue.
While the majority of podcast revenue comes from advertising, the production of branded podcasts — that is, podcasts produced for companies to use as part of their marketing and customer service strategies — will be a growing stream in the coming years. Dave Beasing of Sound That Brands hosted our session on the topic featuring podcasters from Jack Daniel's and eBay, while representatives from numerous other brands, including NASA, attended the conference as well. I encountered a range of different types of companies that are getting into the branded podcast game, from solo entrepreneurs to ad agencies to video production houses to television broadcasters. Radio broadcasters will face competition in this space, and should embrace it sooner rather than later.
3. Fiction podcasts could be, too.
Hollywood has a close eye on podcasts. And that's not just because celebrities want to host their own. (Side note: Sim Sarna, co-host of the Anna Farris is Unqualified podcast, told me that his new company, Cloud10 Media, will debut fourteen new celebrity-hosted podcasts by this fall.) Increasingly, Hollywood is looking to podcasts as a source of material to develop into television shows and movies. In the wake of podcasts like 2 Dope Queens and Lore that have been turned into larger productions, a handful of Hollywood agents were making the rounds in Orlando. Conal Byrne, head of the iHeart Podcast Network, predicted that there's a lot more to come, and that the next big wave in podcasting could come from audio dramas.
4. Mo' downloads, mo' problems.
Hit podcasts are under increasing scrutiny. Case in point: While we were at the conference, Crime Junkies, one of the most popular podcasts at the moment, was accused of plagiarism by journalist Cathy Frye. Almost immediately, a number of episodes of the podcast were pulled from the internet. For years, many podcasters have made the decision to seek forgiveness rather than permission. But as the industry matures, it's obvious that relying on dubious legal advice from podcasting Facebook groups isn't going to cut it anymore. As podcasting grows more lucrative, expect enforcement of the rules to be less lax.
5. Popular music is coming to podcasts, but the details are still TBD.
Capping off the second day of our Broadcasters Meet Podcasters track, PodcastMusic.com announced that podcasters would be able to purchase licenses for certain popular songs for use in their podcasts beginning in 2020. The session outlined broad strokes, with many of the details still up in the air. But the gist is that the licenses will be affordable for the vast majority of hobbyist podcasters, not just those with deep pocketbooks. This will enable artists and record labels to monetize back catalogs in what should be a win-win for podcasters and music makers alike.
Thank you to all of the broadcasters and podcasters who joined us at this year's conference. Every year, it continues to grow, and it is quickly becoming a must-attend event for radio broadcasters. If you didn't make it this year, we hope you'll be able to join us in Dallas in 2020.