Moving the podcast market

News that Apple’s new podcast subscription service is being delayed until June because Apple needs to tweak the Apple Podcasts app is a good reminder of how important the user experience is and ensuring it delivers on expectations.

It’s also a great illustration of how a market moved.

In the early homebrew days of podcasting, it was common for many podcasts to sound like they’d been recorded in the back of a garden shed on a rainy day, or the recording was somehow transmitted from the far side of the moon with interruptions along the journey. Often the tech wasn’t too hot and required some major nerdy thinking and workarounds to get a recording done especially if it involved two or more people in two or more separate locations. Mix minus anyone? And thank goodness for Skype!

Today, though, no podcaster would consider that given the incredible progress made since the mid-noughties. That’s when people outside of the early-adopter crowd began to become aware of what was happening in this nascent section of media, and the means to create, record and publish audio content started becoming ever easier.

Apple was one of the prime builders of the podcasting landscape in those early days when it launched the iTunes podcast directory in June 2005. “Apple is taking Podcasting mainstream by building it right into iTunes,” said Steve Jobs at the time. Note how ‘podcasting’ then was spelled with a capital P, a sure sign that it was something special.

Back then, the iPod was the digital audio player of choice. The iPhone and the smartphone industry it kicked off was still two years away.

Today, podcasting is a sophisticated industry with millions of podcast episodes available covering literally any topic you can imagine. A far cry from 2005 when the iTunes podcast directory offered just 3,000 podcast episodes (it was a big number at the time).

So, the next level is now upon us – opportunities for creators (podcast publishers) to offer paid subscriptions for shows and channels, or free shows with additional episodes just for subscribers; and for consumers (the podcast audience of listeners) to pay to gain access to ad-free listening, additional exclusive content, early access, and more.

The way we consume (listen to) podcast episodes has changed, too, bringing up to date the original descriptor of podcasts as “content you can listen to anywhere, at any time.” You can still do that but in far more places than 15 years ago (thanks, ubiquitous network connectivity), and you have far more sophisticated devices and software (apps) that give you a seamless, enriched experience anywhere, at any time.

Truly mainstream, a market in motion, probably beyond even Steve Jobs’ dreams in 2005 – look at the rise of social audio with Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces, and more coming.

As a podcaster (creator) since January 2005 and a podcast listener (consumer), I look forward to developments from Apple, still the market maker and mover with the Apple Podcasts directory.

Speaking of being a podcaster, this reminds me of a huge omission on my part – forgetting to post on this blog the two most recent episodes of two podcasts I co-present. Here they are for your listening pleasure.

Of course, both are available on Apple Podcasts – search for FIR podcast and SDF podcast – and many other directories.

FIR podcast

For Immediate Release: The Hobson & Holtz Report, May 2021, with Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz:

The May installment of The Hobson & Holtz Report includes reports on: Research finds that fear is sometimes a great way to influence people’s behavior; A train company emailed employees they were getting a bonus. It turned out to be a cybersecurity test; Should brands and marketers pay attention to BitClout?; What, exactly, is the hybrid model that is likely to define the future of work?; Employee activism is taking a number of forms. The employee exodus from Basecamp is one of the latest; Prepare yourself for the changes in travel; and more.


SDF podcast

The Small Data Forum, May 2021, with Thomas Stoeckle, Neville Hobson, and Sam Knowles:

Unflinching assessments of Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer in the context of truth in politics is the central focus of The Small Data Forum podcast episode 47 with Thomas Stoeckle, Neville Hobson, and Sam Knowles plus generous inclusion of f-words courtesy of Barack Obama. Plenty of political asides and classical ad libs as well. Out now. Truly weltanschauung.


Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.