🎙 OVER?

The podcast bubble is bursting. What will future podcasts have to do to break through?


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Futureboard

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Deepfate

The podcast bubble is bursting. What will future podcasts have to do to break through?

You know who (Paul Mobley / joerogan.com)

PAST THEIR PEAK?

It feels like everyone has a podcast these days. But maybe hold off on starting yours.

Something's changed.

As this newsletter has previously written, even super popular pods are struggling to sell out their ad inventory. And the companies that produce them aren’t doing so well either: just this week, Spotify announced that they were cancelling 6 true crime podcasts amid further layoffs. Making podcasts, they added, is dragging down the company’s profitability.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

The bubble’s bursting. But why?

The answer starts back in 2020: The podcast boom is in full effect. Amidst lockdowns, and the widespread embrace of working from home, everyone, their mom, and their neighbor seemed to be setting up a mic and scheduling a chat with their friends.

Time —as well as the relative ease of recording yourself— led to a supply side boom (ie., plenty of people ready to podcast).

But the pandemic boosted the demand side of this equation too: everyone was holed up at home, remember? With all sorts of time to fill, and chores to do.

Turns out, podcasts are a perfect form of entertainment for a moment like that, letting you fold laundry, bake bread, work out, or anything else, while indulging in long form journalism, how to series, mindfulness meditations, or pop culture rants.

BIG FISH 

Then, there’s the Rogan Effect.

During the boom, big media (Spotify and Amazon) started throwing huge sums at top talent. This created a handful of superstar podcasts like “The Joe Rogan Experience” or “Call Her Daddy.” These high-profile shows dominated both the charts and the headlines, attracting massive ad dollars and popular attention.

This inspired plenty of new entrants, which makes logical sense. If you think about it, the formula isn’t that hard to replicate (though a host’s charisma and chemistry with their guests is).

As it turns out, in the podcast world at least, more can be less.

Listeners became overwhelmed. Sifting through thousands upon thousands of podcasts is a chore, no doubt. And binge-listening fatigue set in.

The fact that Covid was a super unusual, artificially perfect scenario for podcasts, podcasters, and listeners became clear as the world opened up again: bread baking evenings were replaced by commutes, office drinks, gym sessions, dinner plans —and more.

SHORTER ATTENTION SPANS, LESS FOCUS

Fate v Future believes there’s more behind the softening demand for podcasts than the return to normalcy.

We believe that today’s softening podcast demand actually signals a shortening of the contemporary attention span. We also believe that modern media also needs to be less all encompassing, so it can accommodate “media multitasking.”

What’s media multitasking, you ask? If you watch Netflix with your friends or family, pay attention to how many of you are literally not just holding a phone but actively using it, during the show.

ROMAN WAS RIGHT

Regular readers know that I love this little quote, hidden deep inside a forgotten episode in Season 1 of Succession.

In trying to describe the future of all media, Roman says that all anyone wants these days is "tasty morsels from groovy hubs."

And he’s right. The proclamation seems especially prophetic, in the 4+ years since that episode aired.

Whether it's bite-sized TikToks, Instagram Stories or Reels, audiences are craving “tasty morsels” of content. At the same time, media firms are constructing ever groovier hubs to serve them up. Have you noticed how many apps have started to incorporate TikTok’s endless vertical scroll?

POD FUTURE

The platforms aggregating the greatest number of tasty morsels the most successfully are dominating the media marketplace right now.

If lesser known podcasts are to stand a chance in this superstar-led, fast moving media landscape, they need to change.

The ones that will will win will become shorter, and quote-unquote “tastier.” Think 9 minutes, not 59.

In our view, there will be just 2 paths to podcast success going forward: be superstar driven, or become way, way shorter and sweeter.

It may take you an hour of conversation to get to the sweetest 6 minutes of content, and that’s fine. But, maybe just post the 6 —not the 60, y’know?

Otherwise your hour long chat is gonna be in serious danger of becoming nothing more than background noise as we all thumb through an endless smorgasbord of tasty morsels coming through our phones.

More:

More evidence that we’re receding away from “peak podcast”: Spotify cancelled six true crime pods, amid a broader range of layoffs »»

The rise and (maybe) fall of podcasts »»

Written by Jon Kallus. Any feedback? Simply reply. Like this? Share it!

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