Wondery will soon be part of the Amazon machine. The acquisition—rumored to be worth some $300 million—garnered a lot of attention from the media, proclaiming this as Amazon’s play to become the dominant player in podcasting.
My take, surprisingly enough, looks at this deal through a different lens.
Diff'rent Strokes for Different Podcasting Folks
Large companies are buying their way into podcasting for different reasons. When Spotify started their buying spree back in 2018, they did it for two very Spotify reasons: driving subscription revenue to Spotify Premium and to reduce the share of revenue paid to music labels and rights holders.
But they didn’t stop there. As much as Spotify’s app is a listening platform for you and me, it’s also an ad platform for advertisers. The better ads perform on Spotify compared to other campaign elements, the more ad revenue Spotify will realize, offsetting their investments in the podcasting space.
I also think it’s a safe bet to assume Spotify is looking at future opportunities they might leverage by owning a lot of intellectual property—shows themselves and the organizations that know how to create shows that attract large-scale audiences.
Amazon is a wholly different company with different aspirations in the podcasting space. Look no further than Amazon Studios for clues to their primary motivation. By grabbing up Wondery’s talented machine of creating in-demand podcasting content, Amazon adds a new arm to its content distribution platform.
Today, Amazon Studio execs have to decide if a given bit of IP is best-suited for development into a feature-length movie or as a television series. But tomorrow, they’ll have a third option for show development. One that costs a fraction of the other two yet is still capable of reaching millions of people. That funnels nicely into Amazon Prime as well, so I expect to see at least some of Amazon’s future podcasting content to be exclusively available on their app.
Podcasting’s Throne Caught In The Crossfire
Lots of big powerhouses are battling it out right now. Not just Spotify and Amazon, but also Pandora, iHeart, Google Podcasts, and a host of opportunistic smaller players; each chipping away at each other and, by all accounts, vying for the throne occupied by our distracted (some might say absentee) ruler, Apple.
While I do think Apple will be unseated, I don’t think any other company will assume the throne. Because I think the throne will be destroyed in the process we’re seeing play out right now. At some point in our very near future, there will be no single dominant player In podcasting.
That’s the way it is in television and movies. Some networks and studios are larger than others, but none reign supreme. Podcasting apps will certainly jockey for position and compete for attention, but none will truly establish a dominant position where every-day podcasters can safely ignore the rest.
Surviving In A Fractured Podcasting Landscape
Podcasting consumption will continue to fracture across apps, leaving two major implications for working podcasters like us.
1. Achieving 100% distribution is 100% on you.
Without a single dominant platform, it will be more important than ever for your shows to be available everywhere podcasts exist. No longer can you rely on a single platform due to their dominance. Nor can you rely on a single platform to distribute your show to other podcast apps and directories. You do not want to be caught unawares with allegiances shift. You have to be in control and take a much more active role in making sure your distribution is complete.
2. “Podcasting’s Discovery Problem” becomes a real problem.
This fracturing of the podcast consumption landscape will cause us to rethink our approach to discovery, from how we market our shows to how we optimize our content and just about every other aspect of discovery we only thought was hard.
Tomorrow, it'll no longer be enough to make sure your show and episodes look good on the purple platform. You won’t be able to rely on optimization tricks that only work on a single directory. And efforts to game any single system will be less relevant. Hooray for that last one.
With that, the digital presence of your shows outside of the various podcasting apps and directories becomes hugely important. That means your website can’t suck anymore. How you present your episodes can’t be half-assed anymore. And no, you can no longer do the lazy thing of just sharing an Apple Podcasts link to your latest episode on your social channels and call it a day.
The Right To Choose How To Listen To Podcasts Shall Not Be Infringed
Every time a big player swoops into podcasting and starts scooping up people and IP, a lot of pundits poo-poo the news because they’re not about to switch podcast listening platforms. They’ve seen dozens of better mousetraps built over the years, yet without any big migration away from preexisting listening apps.
Nothing I mentioned above is predicate on podcasters like you and me abandoning our listening app of choice and making the jump to Amazon Music. Nor is this vision of the future reliant on current listeners to our shows making the switch. Sure, some of us will experiment and change what we use to listen. But life in a fractured landscape doesn’t require anyone to switch. Instead, it’s switch-tolerant.
Remember; two-thirds of the population still have yet to develop the podcast listening habit. As the Amazons of the world continue to expose more people to podcast content on their apps and platforms, more people will discover the wider world of podcasting. That’s what we want. And that’s what this article is about.
It’s not about getting your audience to switch to Amazon Music as their podcast listening platform. There's no need for that. Let people listen where they want to listen. Your job, my job, all of our jobs as working podcasters, is to make sure that our shows are well set up for the fractured world we live in without a dominant player.
If you found this information helpful, please consider supporting me over at BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra.
But most important, and especially as we’re starting a brand new year, I need you to tell one other working podcaster about Podcast Pontifications. There’s a lot of FUD—fear, uncertainty, and doubt—in our podcasting space, and most of the other podcasts about podcasting are focused on the basics or are aimed at entry-level podcasters. Hey, we need shows like that, I get it. But we also need shows like this that focus on mid-level podcasters and above. I appreciate your efforts to help this show reach a new audience in the new year.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.