The End of Podcasting's Direct-Relationship Model Is In Sight [S3E9]
Spotify and Pandora are coming to podcasting with more than just bags of money. They're coming with teams of data scientists and fiduciary responsibility to make money. That's going to upset the Apple cart.
For 16 years, we’ve had only the most tenuous of grasps on the actions and desires of our audience. Advertisers know our understanding is incomplete, so they make us use special coupon code unique to our show.
But at least we owned those direct relationships, right?
That model may be on its last legs, thanks to Spotify and Pandora. Until now, the “keep people listening” incentive hasn’t been a big factor in any of the podcast listening apps/services/directories. But with Spotify and Pandora, “keep people listening” is directly tied to their bottom line. They are financially incentivized to suggest different content to you depending on location, time of day, interests, even your current mood.
You could argue that we podcasters have been trying to keep people listening to our shows all along. And I’d argue that we’ve largely failed at those attempts.
Barring the occasional binge-listen (which I’ve certainly done), we just don’t get much support from the current app offerings. Yes, we can (and do) create compelling content our listeners want to keep consuming. But ultimately, it’s up to the listener to decide if we’ve succeeded in our efforts.
Every aspect of that power dynamic will be impacted once the data scientists from Spotify and Pandora dig into actual, real consumption of podcast content. Because they’ll own the entire stack from hosting, to directory, to listening app; their data scientists will have unique insight into the behavior of listeners -- actual listeners -- across a myriad of podcasts and episodes.
The power of that extensive graph should not be underestimated.
It’s an inevitability that a significant portion of podcast consumption on Spotify and Pandora will not require a conscious choice from the listener. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if choice-less listening is how most listening happens on those platforms.
Isn’t that a scary thought?
There are lot of ways this could go bad, as I’m sure many people will soon tell me about on Twitter. But what they see as bad might actually be seen as good by the choice-less listener.
But painting an inevitable future as good or bad isn’t helpful. It’s still coming. And it will be different than what we have today.