Yesterday's big podcasting news was iHeartMedia’s acquisition of Triton Digital for $230 million. Because apparently, that's what podcasting companies do these days: buy up other podcasting companies.
Triton Digital owns Omny Studio. Collectively, they provide a lot of tech for podcasting, podcast advertising, and more out of Australia. I’ve used their services and found them to be rock-solid players with serious chops in the podcasting space.
Previously, Triton was owned by E.W. Scripps. The sale to iHeart brought Scripps a healthy return, and by divesting the company of the last remnants of podcasting, Scripps can now focus on growing their television station empire and... a spelling bee? Anyhow.
So what's the larger implication beyond a change in ownership? If you’re not hosting your podcasts on Omni, or you’re not relying on market intelligence from Triton, do you care? Should you go all-in on iHeart radio now?
I’m not going to speculate on how iHeart plans on integrating their new toys. I don’t work there, and I’m much more interested in what it might mean for all of podcasting.
iHeart-Driven Crystal Ball-Gazing
A few people are speculating that this is the harbinger of future podcasting hosting land-grabs, where larger companies absorb smaller companies to make that sweet, sweet recurring revenue cash as more new podcasters flock to find a service to host their podcasts’ media files. And while I suppose that is possible, it’s the least interesting “what-if” scenario to me.
This is an “all things podcast tech” move. And a bold one. Podcast tech that goes well beyond hosting media files and serving RSS feeds. Podcast tech that changes what it means to make and listen to a podcast.
Accelerating The Shift Away From Static Podcasts
Most of us podcasters are making static content today. This episode is static. What you hear where you live is the same thing—the exact same thing—someone hears who lives on the other side of the planet. Most podcasts you hear are like that. If anything changes, it’s ad content. And even then, those are usually way too static.
At the heart (heh) of this acquisition is technology that allows iHeart to make content—for podcasts, streaming, and radio—that is truly dynamic. Dynamic content that is selected based on where the download happens, when the download happens, on what device the download happens, and a variety of other factors.
If you’ve been reading or listening to my words for a while, this won’t come as a surprise. It’s a growing trend. And as more podcasters start embracing and experimenting with dynamic content in their shows—or create shows entirely dependent on dynamic content—listeners are going to expect it. From all of us.
Of course they well! If listeners could choose to hear a highly-customized, super-relevant episode that seems as if it were designed just for them that still delivered exceptional content from the podcaster… well that’s an obvious benefit.
That’s a very different experience we’re used to seeing or hearing with other forms of media, I’ll grant you that. But perhaps podcasting is the one medium uniquely suited to make that happen?
But I’m not so naive to assume this will be easy. Lots of changes are required to make this happen. But we’re already seeing some evidence of this. Look no further than last week’s announcement of the purchase of Auxbus by Libsyn, one of the longest-running podcast hosting companies, and their new “Creation” product line as part of that. It’s a safe bet to assume that means dynamic content is going to be a part of Libsyn’s offering to creators. That’s exciting!
It’s Time To Stop Hating On iHeart, Podcasters
I know that the independent streak runs deep in many podcasters. And I know that Big Radio is an ever-present threat that some consider existential. If that’s your position and a hill you want to die on, who am I to stop you? But for the less ardent and perhaps more pragmatic, might I suggest a different approach?
Start by adding the “Listen on iHeart Radio” badge to your website. Yes, run it right alongside the badge for Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and others. I have. You’re not trying to get people to switch from their preferred app. You’re just adding some brand recognition.
With their acquisition, iHeart now owns the podcast hosting company and the adtech for a few thousand podcasts. iHeart very well may run a “house ad” campaign, offering podcasts on their platform to run ads for iHeart radio on their podcasts, exposing more and more people to the fact that yes, all podcasts can be listened to via the iHeart app. You may not be able to get any of the cash from that deal, but you can at least benefit from some of the brand recognition.
That actionable tip is something you should share with the other podcasters you interface with. Tell them it’s one more thing you learned from Podcast Pontifications that you’re happy to share with them. And who knows? Maybe they’ll eventually give the show a listen so you’re not having to carry all the weight yourself.
Let’s keep this conversation going, shall we? Tomorrow at 10:00a Los Angeles, 1:00p New York, I’m hosting an audio-only conversation with other podcasters discussing how acquisitions like this will shape podcasting’s future. I’d love for you to be a part.
If you found today’s episode helpful, please go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and... well, you know, buy me a virtual coffee to show your support.
I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.