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What's the value of the podcasting industry?
If you have any idea at all (no shame in not), then you'd probably peg the number at around $1,000,000,000—a billion dollars. And not just because it's a nice, big number, but because that's what the IAB projects U.S.-based podcasters will see in advertising income this year. A billion dollars. Or perhaps you recognize there are 192 other countries, and you've seen global podcast ad revenue projections of a little less than $1.4 billion this year.
But those values are just revenue projections podcasting sees from advertising. That's not the economics of the entire podcasting industry. Nowhere in those figures are the money people like you and I spend on podcasting, from buying new mics or other equipment, paying our hosting providers, hiring staff or contracting with freelancers, or paying our way to attend a few podcast conferences.
Second question: Who are the big players in the podcasting industry?
You probably said Apple, Spotify...maybe Wondery. The usual suspects. But you probably didn't even bother to consider TuneIn or Soundcloud, did you? You know they exist. You might even use them, but come on...they aren't really that influential in the real and true podcasting industry, right?
We have that opinion of those companies because we're inside podcasting, caught up in all the baggage, history, and punditry that comes with the territory.
We have an incomplete picture because we're swimming in it all the time.
But for big brands and industries on the outside of podcasting looking in, they need a different and more complete perspective.
Podcasting Is Bigger To The Outside
In total, the overall value of the podcasting industry is currently calculated at a little more than $14 billion.
Not just the $1–1.3 billion from ad sales. But fourteen billion dollars of overall value and worth for the podcasting industry as a whole. And podcasting's estimated value is projected to grow to nearly $95 billion by 2028. 2028 is just six years away.
Yeah. That's healthy growth!
When big brands and industries not yet in podcasting look at the opportunity podcasting presents, they absolutely take into consideration many companies we've collectively decided to poo-poo, like TuneIn and Soundcloud. It doesn't matter what we, the outspoken podcasters, feel about those companies—if we feel anything at all. Both of those examples, and probably untold others we're ignoring, are clearly part of the overall podcasting industry. And not just a part, but actually quite large portions of the machinery that power the $14 billion podcasting industry.
Should We Buy Into This Bullshit?
Making an accounting of the total value of any market or industry is by nature imprecise. Like all industry reports or economic forecasts, it's only important that they be directionally correct, using the same/similar indicators that represent the health and viability over time.
Or they're outright fabrications. Or we feel like they are outright fabrications. A feeling we rally behind when reports like these contain statements like:
"Advertising...[is] the only revenue-generating method...[but] it has failed to gain traction as the audience refrain from listening to advertisements between ongoing content."
What? Are they not tracking the huge growth in podcast advertising? Clearly, that's a miss, right?
And we find it easy to dismiss reports that contain blood-pressure raising statements such as:
"[T]he solo podcast format [has] advantages such as ease of use and minimal investment, which mainly include a microphone and basic editing tools."
There they go again, propagating the myth that podcasting is cheap and easy. [groan]
We jaded podcasters read these reports, and we often dismiss them out of hand when we see clueless statements like that. It's no wonder we think reports like this are bullshit.
But those on the outside looking in? They don't think these reports are bullshit. They greedily eat up reports like this, gathering more data to support their eventual investment in our space, which, in turn, incentivizes more market analysis reports to be written by other analytics firms.
And so those of us inside the industry need to be reading these reports as well. Or at least the executive summary! Because we need to know what those outside looking in find so appealing about podcasting. Because as the podcasting industry appears more appealing, we'll see more interest, more money, more content, and yes, even more listeners.
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Won't Someone Think Of The Indie Podcasters?
But what about the indie podcasters, you might ask? Won't this just bring the wrong kind of attention to podcasting, making it that much harder for the indie podcaster to compete?
Let me address that by making a blanket statement: I'm not worried about the indie podcaster.
Now, that's not to say I don't care about the indie podcaster. I do. I care deeply about the independent podcaster. Hell, I am an indie podcaster. I've always been an indie podcaster. And I don't see a world where I don't continue to be an indie podcaster.
I'm not worried because I don't much buy into the "corporate podcasters are ruining podcasting and excluding indie podcasters" argument. I find it a bit specious, truth be told.
But I'm not dumb. I wholeheartedly agree that corporate-backed podcasts and/or networks have the resources that enable them to outcompete most indie podcasts. That's true
Just like it's also true that corporate-backed movies, tv shows, books, music, documentaries, news outlets, education centers, restaurants, pet supply stores, and you know every other corporate-backed entity often has the resources to outcompete their under-monied indie competitors.
Indie podcasting isn't unique in that respect.
And one ray of hope: each of us can point to plenty of "indie success stories" in all those categories. Podcasting included.
Do indies struggle? Undoubtedly. Are indies afforded the same access as corporate-backed properties? Not often, no.
But some indies make it. And some thrive. So too, will indie podcasting.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.