Spotify Goes Big On Podcasts. Friend or Foe?

I spent yesterday morning at the RAIN Podcast Business Summit in midtown (sponsored by NPR, of course!). It's generally hard to find noteworthy info at industry conferences but there was a topic that I heard mentioned a few times, in a few different ways, that made it clear to me that Spotify (conspicuously absent from the sponsor list) and its march into podcasting is on everyone's mind. It was most succinctly captured by Conal Byrne, President of the iHeartPodcast Network. To summarize, he questioned whether it might be too early for the podcasting world to be getting locked up behind closed platforms and paywalls a la the Spotify/Gimlet deal. I found it interesting that he didn't condemn the model outright, considering that iHeart is heavily committed to an ad-supported model, but he certainly threw some shade on their near-term plans, especially as it relates to the undue pressure it puts on creators to directly grow the sub base. (I'd have to assume he isn't bullish on the Luminary announcement either).

It reminded me of an opinion piece that Megaphone (the podcasting tech platform owned and operated by Panoply) published a few weeks ago. They were looking at their data around podcast consumption by state which showed that Spotify is growing the overall adoption of podcasts in the US, especially in states outside the Northeast and West Coast where Apple is a less dominant platform. The report says, "Everyone in podcasting talks about the need to introduce new listeners to the medium; our research shows Spotify is an effective tool for doing just that." Again, Panoply/Megaphone is a clear competitor to Spotify, yet they are complimentary of Spotify's reach and interest in the medium. I love the Megaphone platform and think their hard work to bring dynamic ad insertion to podcasts will be a huge step forward for the industry. And to echo Conal's comments, it should give podcast creators a greater opportunity to monetize their content on an open platform system, instead of being relegated to Spotify's technology, exclusivity and paywalling.

So is everyone playing nice here, thinking that a rising tide lifts all boats? Or is the fear of Spotify flexing their market position and taking another land grab, this time via podcasts, have the industry trying to "keep their enemies closer"? Clearly the market is anticipating the revenue opportunities in spoken word content delivery and 2019 will be a year of massive growth for the industry. Fortunately, AuDigent is poised to be a big part of the programmatic audio ad landscape no matter which platforms become dominant, as podcasts continue to develop true dynamic and RTB tech which will attract more advertiser dollars.

Curious to hear your thoughts. And if you're not familiar with why dynamic insertion and RTB have been such tech hurdles for podcasts, hit me up and I'll give you the 101 :)

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