Podcast News

We asked industry experts about their podcast predictions for 2021

CBC Podcasts asked industry experts to weigh in on where the podcast industry is heading in 2021. Here are some of their best guesses.

Podcast insiders predict more consolidation, capital investment, collaboration and diversity

Podcast industry insiders predict more consolidation, capital investment, collaboration and diversity in 2021 (Fabiola Carletti Melendez/CBC Podcasts)

The highly anticipated new year is here, and it's safe to say we're all collectively crossing our fingers.

While much of this year is expected to look the same as last (there's been a steady increase in the amount of positive COVID-19 cases), there's a lot that is still unknown.

In the podcast world, 2020 forced creators and industry professionals to pivot. We saw an increase in remote recordings as well as more frank conversations about racial equity.

So what's next? CBC Podcasts asked industry experts to weigh in on where the podcast industry is heading in 2021. Here are some of their best guesses, organized by theme.

More consolidation: Apple vs Spotify

"2021 is going to see Spotify continue to move and shake this industry as they aggressively try to out muscle Apple. So it'll be more podcasts behind paywalls and more advertising around content."

Justine Kelly, ABC Audio Studios 

"As other platforms grow to rival Apple, and competition between those platforms heats up to acquire big shows and make them exclusive, I hope this creates more space and opportunity for independent creators and agnostic shows."

Maggie Taylor, Slate

"Consolidation is inevitable. Big companies will continue to purchase or sign smaller creators. It's tempting to think this is a bad thing for indie shows. But discoverability is still the No. 1 issue for podcast launches, and if media companies that can offer a megaphone and promotion for indie shows are able to partner with them to reach a wide audience and rise above the almost TWO MILLION shows out there, that's a good thing!"

Jordan Heath-Rawlings, Rogers Sports and Media 

"Apple will do one of two things - they'll either continue to sleep at the wheel and be overtaken by Spotify, or they'll wake up and do something to retain their dwindling lead. I hope it's the latter: the industry could do with some proper competition."

James Cridland, Podnews

More diversity 

Kim Chakanetsa, host of The Comb, one of a growing number of podcasts for young African listeners (BBC)

"I'm hoping for a more inclusive industry. I want to hear stories that I haven't heard before from people that have unique and new perspectives."

Dila Velazquez, Corus Entertainment 

"It's already an exciting time for podcasting in Africa and 2021 will see yet more global growth in the industry. At the BBC World Service, we're starting a daily news podcast – Africa Daily - for audiences in Africa, following on from the launch of The Comb."

Jon Manel, BBC World Service 

"The story no one is talking about in my opinion, is that in the last few months people of colour have come to the mastheads of some of the biggest shows in our industry. Emanuele Berry became the executive editor at This American Life, Latif Nasser became a co-host at Radiolab, Kia Miakka Natisse and Yowei Shaw took over Invisibilia, and I became a co-host at Reply All. That's a lot of promotions, and there are so many others I'm missing! All of this is great, but ultimately, how our teams and our industry supports us, will, I think, say a lot about where this industry is headed."

Emmanuel Dzotsi, Reply All

"This industry is a cheap and easy way for BIPOC to have our voices heard and I think it's going to only grow as a platform for us in that sense. I am excited for what's to come."

Kaniehtiio Horn, Coffee With My Ma

More media crossover and collaboration

"2021 will be the year where audiences begin to be exposed to what entertainment can be (and IS) in audio. All eyes are on entertainment behemoths like Disney."

Sean Howard, Fable and Folly

"I hope to see more collaborations across podcasts themselves. There are many podcasts that are in similar spaces thematically and narratively. Lets see the "podswapping" trend of promoting each other's show evolve from a 60 second ad swap to a more collaborative environment that encourages discoverability and community building."

Ryan McMahon, Makoons Media Group

"We're watching the multi-platform potential of podcasting soar. At long last, instead of musicians being afraid of podcasting, they are leveraging the medium. More and more TV and films originate from the world of podcasting, and this melding of art forms will only increase."

Glynn Washington, Snap Judgment Studios 

"I've got my eye on food shows. Something special seems to be clicking into place there. There's a huge hole in the market for levity that isn't based on fandom."

Laura Jane Standley, Droga 5

More capital investments 

Amazon closed a major deal and bought Wondery over the holidays, putting it in position to compete against giants like Apple and Spotify. Wondery's slate — including the aptly titled "This Is Actually Happening" — are now under the Amazon Music banner. (CBC)

"I think we're going to continue to see large media companies investing in podcasts. Which is exciting!  But still, at the end of the day, interview-based shows are the cheapest to make and I worry that deep-dive documentary-style programs will be harder to find funding for."

Avery Trufelman, The Cut 

"More of 2020's big trends — more celebrities hosting podcasts, more listeners, [and] more big investments in the industry."

Caroline Crampton, Hot Pod

"I'm hoping the stepping stones from 2018-2020 in terms of capital investments continue into podcasting in 2021 and beyond and those added resources allow creators to experiment and produce high quality work. We haven't had a mainstream event on par with Serial yet, so I'm anticipating the added interest and investments to help further push podcasting into the general public."

— Kevin Goldberg, Discover Pods

This article was edited for length and clarity. Written and produced by Glory Omotayo.