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14 Podcast Predictions for 2021 from Industry Leaders

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Friday, Dec 18, 2020 10:54 AM EST | Pacific Content

14 Podcast Predictions for 2021 from Industry Leaders

After the stress and turmoil of 2020, the question is: what’s next?

Every year around this time, we ask some of the smartest thinkers in podcasting an important question: “What’s next?” Often, the predictions are surprisingly accurate… although NOT surprisingly, no one predicted a global pandemic at this time last year.

So where is podcasting headed in 2021? We asked industry leaders for their predictions and identified four major themes:

  1. Consolidation & industry growth
  2. New content strategies
  3. Tech innovation in content, ads & distribution
  4. Diversity

The Business: consolidation & industry growth

1. Ad revenues hit $1 Billion US (but for real this time)

Last year I predicted that podcast ad revenue in the US would reach $1bn, ahead of expectations. Shortly after, the Coronavirus replied: “Oh yeah? I don’t think so”. In 2021, it will. We surpass 120 million monthly podcast listeners. At the last Infinite Dial survey, conducted right before the pandemic, Edison Research estimated 104 million Americans 12+ listened to podcasts every month. Several data points pointed to a slowdown in listening in the three months that followed; but I am not alone in observing an acceleration in the subsequent months.
— Hernan Lopez, Founder & CEO of Wondery

You know what’s cool? One BILLION dollars. Podcast ad revenues will finally surpass the $1 billion watermark in the US by the time the IAB study arrives midyear, with no ceiling in sight.
— Dave Zohrob, co-founder and CEO, Chartable.com

A global pandemic will grip the nation and stunt advertising growth. Just kidding. No I’m not.

Despite a likely continued global slowdown, podcast advertising will exceed one billion dollars in 2021.
— Tom Webster, SVP at Edison Research, co-host of The Freenoter

2. Consolidation continues at a rapid pace; major platforms and publishers grow even more powerful

If you dubbed 2020 the year of consolidation… Strap yourself in!
— Corey Layton, Head of Commercial Audio & Podcasts, ARN/iHeartPodcast Network Australia

Podcast M&A activity continues with a frenzy reminiscent of a game of chairs where the music could stop at any moment. More podcast companies continue to launch and advertising revenue continues to be outpaced by acquisition price tags. At some point, the industry runs out of things to buy and sell … in the distance, tumbleweeds.
— Sharon Taylor, Managing Director, Triton Digital

The bigger companies will continue to buy each other and become more and more powerful.
— Elsie Escobar, co-founder & co-host of She Podcasts, producer and co-host of The Feed + Community Expert at Libsyn

While we might not see original content from Apple, we will see big moves in podcasting through acquisition. Perhaps starting with Wondery.
— Shreya SharmaInside Podcasting Newsletter

Consolidation continues. We’ve seen acquisitions on both the content and technology sides of podcasting this year; we’ll see even more next year. Expect to see new acquirers enter the ring.
— Dave Zohrob, co-founder and CEO, Chartable.com

Consolidation will accelerate as audio continues to centralize around major platforms — that said, there will be marvelous opportunities for challengers to create curated communities based around like-minded audio consumers.
— Tom Webster, SVP at Edison Research, co-host of The Freenoter

Scale matters more than ever. The ability to market — and target — at scale will continue to become more attractive than ever to advertisers. As the medium gets increasingly competitive, the networks that have marketing and targeting capabilities at scale will continue to pull ahead. And on the advertising front, as marketers use podcasting as an alternative to traditional digital advertising, the biggest podcasters can now enable marketers to target at scale.
— Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia Inc.

Pure-play podcast networks are going to have to start making major investments in advertising, brand-building, and marketing for reach. The leading broadcast radio players in the podcast space have a tremendous cross-promotion advantage, and failing to respond to that challenge will be risky in 2021
— Tom Webster, SVP at Edison Research, co-host of The Freenoter

Podcast-listening apps that don’t have either a) meaningful market share or b) meaningful original IP will fold.
— Shira Atkins, Co-founder, WMN Media

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