Podcast News

10 things we learned at Podcast Movement

More than 3,000 people gathered in Orlando, Florida, to get the latest intel on the podcast community.

From translated shows to love for audio fiction, here are the trends from the world's largest podcast festival

Executive producer Arif Noorani, Uncover: The Village host Justin Ling, Missing & Murdered host Connie Walker, and senior producer Tanya Springer. (Justin Ling)

Every summer, thousands gather for Podcast Movement, the world's largest podcast conference — a sort of Coachella for audio buffs and industry experts. Except instead of a festival in the desert, we're usually indoors, fully clothed and nerding out about the latest trends and lessons in the industry.

Here's what we learned from a wide array of panels this year, hosted by big networks to indie mavericks to popular platforms that support podcasts.

1. The race for Android using podcast listeners is on

Conal Byrne of iHeartRadio said that when it comes to podcast audiences, there is still lots of room to grow.

One of the biggest untapped markets is Android users. Androids far outnumber iPhones outside of North America, yet only 16 percent of podcast downloads are from Android devices.

The Android-friendly apps out there also vary vastly in quality. Companies like Spotify and Google Podcasts are aware of this and are in a race to bring podcasts to this new global audience. 

2. More people are listening on smart speakers

As a medium, podcasting is known for its intimate storytelling, partly because the experience literally takes place in our ears. But big companies like Amazon and Google are pushing smart speakers like Alexa or Google Home which leads to a more communal listening experience. Group listening now represents a small but quickly growing portion of the audience population.

3. There are many new places to stumble upon podcasts

For years, Apple Podcasts or iTunes has been the most popular place for listeners to discover new shows through charts and collections. At the conference we learned that in 2019, Spotify has become the #2 podcast app after Apple.

Zack Reneau-Wedeen of Google Podcasts said "we don't necessarily think that hundreds of millions of people will be searching for podcasts. We do think hundreds of millions of searchers might be interested in listening to podcasts."

With that in mind, Google has added podcasts with play buttons to its search results. Given Google has 63,000 searches every second, this could significantly impact how podcasts are found — and who is finding them!

Google search of Missing & Murdered podcast

4. There are ways to make it easier for people to find your podcasts

Podcasters can take advantage of Google's new focus on searchability by keeping search engine-friendly episode titles and descriptions in mind.

For example, Mathilde Piard of NPR Podcasts shared some examples of how Life Kit changed their episode titles to become more succinct and searchable. She uses Google Trends, Neil Patel's UberSuggest, and SEO Quake to judge the searchability of titles and descriptions.

5. Newbies listen differently

Based on a recent report on podcast consumers, Tom Webster at Edison Research found that "podcast veterans" and "rookies" have vastly different listening habits.

Tom defines "veterans" as folks who've been listening to podcasts for three or more years,  and "rookies" as those who have listened for less than six months. Veterans prefer to download full episodes on their smartphones, and listen to around 5 hours of content per week. Rookies are younger (12-34) and more likely to stream episodes on Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube. Rookies often don't listen to full episodes; they like to jump around and are likely to increase listening speed. They're also big fans of daily news podcasts! Three of Spotify's top 6 shows fall into this category.

6. Top CBC Podcasts could be coming to a screen near you

We shared some exciting news of our own at Podcast Movement. Five of our original shows have TV development deals!

There's a bit of something for everyone: for true crime fans, there's Someone Knows Something and Uncover: The Village; your favourite non-committal self-improvement show Personal Best; the heartfelt memoir Alone: a Love Story; and don't forget Tai Asks Why, the gem hosted by the youngest host in CBC history.

Five shows from CBC Podcasts with TV development deals. (CBC Podcasts)

7. Apple is still king

Even though there are so many platforms and apps that now curate podcast content, Tim Street from PodTrac says that Apple Podcasts still account for 62 per cent of all podcast consumption.

Case in point? The massive success of the Los Angeles Times and Wondery's documentary podcast Dirty John. When the show launched in late 2017, the show took over all the featured flowcase spots in Apple Podcasts, securing its image as a must-listen. The show spent three weeks atop Apple's charts, and attributes 70 per cent of its downloads to its Apple takeover.

8. 2020 — the year of Audio Fiction?

This year's Podcast Movement was the first to have a dedicated Audio Fiction track, and the keynote of the track was given by Lauren Shippen, maker of science fiction podcast The Bright Sessions. If those things are any indication of what's ahead, audio drama could go from a niche genre to a mainstream medium for folks who love fiction.

Lauren Shippen (The Bright Sessions)'s keynote at Podcast Movement 2019 (Dania Ramos)

Audio drama provides incredibly unique listening experiences: each episode is like a play for your mind, and your imagination is the production company. Audio drama fans know this well, and they have formed a dedicated, tight-knit fan community online.

Now is a great time for creators and programmers to win hearts with new, bold storytelling.

9. International audiences have distinctive tastes

People who only listen to English-speaking podcasts may be completely oblivious to thriving audio communities in other countries. Amit Doshi (IVM podcasts), Martina Castro (Adonde Media) and Valentina Kaledina (Castbox) shared some trends in a session called Podcasts in Emerging Markets. For instance, India loves celebrity podcasts, likely due to the influence of Bollywood, as well as political talk and current affairs podcasts, which fill a great need for audio political coverage.  In France, shows about feminism and female entrepreneurship are going up in the charts. True crime is an incredibly popular genre in Germany, but not Russia (go figure). And Latin American listeners favour long form talk shows.

(CBC Podcasts)

10. Podcasts are getting a longer life through translation

Translation is a big trend we noticed at PM19. Wondery just released translated versions of its hit show Dr. Death into seven languages (Korean, neutral Spanish, Castilian Spanish, German, French, Mandarin, and Portuguese), along with art in those languages.

Chinese platform Ximalaya is trying to do the same, by translating English language podcasts for its existing market in China.


Written by Judy Ziyi Gu.

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