Podcasting in the UK is very much alive and well if even half of what I heard and saw at The Podcast Show 2023 in London last week is any indicator.
Held at the Business Design Centre in Islington, this conference and exhibition event ran throughout the week with the main show itself on 24-25 May. It was heavily supported by some prominent mainstream industry names as partners – Acast, Amazon Music, AudioBoom, BBC Sounds, Dolby, Libsyn, Sky News, Sony Music, Spotify, Wondery, YMU, the list goes on – along with nearly 50 exhibitors.
Podcasting is very much a huge media business today, grown way beyond the homebrew era of its noughties origins. Indeed, I couldn’t imagine how different this was until I remembered what an event like PodcastCon UK looked like back in 2006 at podcasting’s dawn.
Or is it that the real difference 17 years on is primarily one of evolution and scale? That is a realistic view especially when you consider what the picture of podcasting looks like now according to some powerful metrics published within the past month where Adam Bowie has applied some skill in the analysis and visualisations of data from Ofcom in April.
However you think about it, The Podcast Show 2023 was a well-built event that offered a big platform for creators, producers, hardware and software makers, vendors, service providers, and many more. It was a showcase of many sorts. And it was a place for learning with sessions led by podcasters, producers, and vendors designed to share knowledge and insights about podcasts and podcasting, from the simple to the essential.
I was impressed at the breadth of topics featured in the ‘Talking Podcasts‘ sessions – ranging from creating podcasts for children, to how to structure and market your podcast subscription effectively, to immersive storytelling with the latest leading-edge audio tech, to how to take an abstract idea and transform it into a treatment for an entire audio experience, and a great deal more.
Photo gallery from the final day:
(If you’re reading this on a mobile device, or another touchscreen device, you can swipe left or right to see all the above photos.)
I went to the event on the final day, Thursday 25 May. I was there all day primarily to listen and learn. I wanted to see what was happening, join a handful of sessions to learn what was happening, and meet some people and talk about what was happening. I was wearing my overall podcasting hat so I wasn’t there on a specific representation, just as a long-time podcaster keen to see what was going on.
Gordon Glenister, a fellow member of the Marketing Podcast Network, was also there. Gordon had an exhibition stand and he was speaking. We didn’t manage to meet up (ships in the night…); he’s written up a narrative on his experience there.
The rest of this article gives you a view of some of the sessions on the final day of The Podcast Show 2023 as seen through my specific lens. It’s quite a narrow focus that reflects my own interest areas. There was a great deal else going on, especially in the areas of actual podcasting and shows being developed, even BBC Sounds and Sky News were there doing a great deal.
Panel: Execution, Targeting & Measurement – Is Podcasting ‘Growing Up’?
“Podcasting is growing as a channel but is it ‘growing up’ to offer the same types of execution, targeting and measurement that today’s digital buyers expect based on their ways of buying more mature digital channels? Join Acast, PWC and the LadBible group to discuss what marketers want in podcasting and how to target and measure campaigns.”
- Michael Bayston, VP, Adtech Solutions, Acast
- Emily Roberts, Senior Associate PWC and Co-Founder The Women in Programmatic Network
- Fern Potter, VP Business and Product Strategy, Multilocal
- Megan Davies, MD International, Acast
Without podcasting there would have been no growth in digital audio in 2022 – Michael.
What do advertisers want?
- good targeting
- a holistic approach
If you can’t measure it, it didn’t really happen – Emily
Addressability: finding the right space for your podcast – Fern
Overmeasure: just because you could doesn’t mean you should – Fern
Marketers opening up to podcasting because of cookie tracking going away – Megan
Ad tech and podcasts
Podcasting is different to radio
Marketers are interested in collaborations including sponsorships with existing successful podcasts – Megan
Panel: The Unstoppable Rise Of The Visual Podcast
“The next generation of podcast listeners will expect video as part of your offering – and the next generation of podcast talent is already delivering it. So, what’s the impact for creators and what should they be doing to level up their content? In this session, we’ll explore the rise of the visualised podcast and the lessons every podcaster can learn from visual first creators.”
- Mike Newman, VP Content & Production, Audioboom
- Jordan Theresa, Host, Voicenotes podcast
- Beth Heard, Head of Talent, Sixteenth
Video = podcast – Jordan, who hosts a… video podcast
(Audience disagreed when asked by Mike: they said video = show or video)
Fans ask for audio so they can listen when they can’t watch – Mike, ref to RAJAR survey report
Not everyone needs a podcast – Beth
Panel: The State of Audio-Only Storytelling with Dolby Atmos
“Learn from industry leaders on how they leverage connecting and engaging podcast listeners with Dolby Atmos. Audible Director of Production Chris Jones, Wondery Chief Creative Officer Marshall Lewy, and director of the award-winning series, The Sandman, Dirk Maggs will discuss how their creative teams are expanding into new genres with Dolby Atmos and why it’s important to create more immersive experiences for listeners. With Dolby Atmos, podcast creators and audio-only storytellers can now place sounds in a multi-dimensional space that creates an audio-only experience so rich and life-like it transports you into the story. Hear how you can elevate your storytelling to offer a podcast experience so true to life, the lines between the listener’s imagination and reality start to blur.”
- Tina Eckman, Director, Content Relations, Dolby
- Marshall Lewy, Chief Content Officer, Wondery
- Chris Jones, Director of Production, Audible UK
- Dirk Maggs, Director/Adapter & Co-Executive Producer, The Sandman (Audible/DC Comics)
Dirk Maggs produced the “Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” for BBC radio
Dolby Atmos raises your game in more ways than you imagine – Dirk
Immersive, you’re in the audio story – Dirk
We’re on the learning curve and the adoptive curve – Dirk
YouTube is the biggest podcast channel, bigger than Apple or Spotify – Marshall
The power of sound is as a storytelling tool – Dirk
You collude with the sound to create the images yourself – Dirk
Panel: A Podcasters Manifesto: How Pod Save The UK Can Change The World
“Crooked Media launched Pod Save America in the shadow of President Trump’s inauguration. But now that every problem in the American political system is solved, Crooked has teamed up with Reduced Listening and London’s own Nish Kumar and Coco Khan to try to do the same for the UK. A driving factor in the creation of Pod Save the UK is a desire to disrupt the way we talk about UK politics and keep listeners informed, engaged, and inspired to take action. Find out about the new podcast, the team’s view on the current political-podcast landscape and how creators can use their platforms to inspire change.”
- Nish Kumar, Host, Pod Save The UK
- Coco Khan, Host, Pod Save The UK
- Matt Deegan, Creative Director Radio & Podcasting, Folder Media
- Joby Waldman, Managing Director, Reduced Listening
- Louise Cotton, Executive Producer, Pod Save The UK
Nish: played a really good showreel
Excellent and highly amusing introduction/walk-through by Nish of the UK political and podcasting landscape
This is a sister show to Pod Save America that was founded by the Obama comms team in 2016
But Pod Save the UK is very different to the US show in content and tone
Weekly show: audio and video (on YouTube)
My label: comedy and politics, a winning combination
About other media: GB News = generally bullshit
What do you want to achieve and who is your audience?
Coco: self-described lefty, political, wannabe DJ
Reduced Listening is the producer
Tone is driven by the presenters – Louise
It’s important we have a ‘Pod Save the UK’ attitude – Louise
Presentation and Recording: Podnews Weekly Review – Live
“The last session of the day is the last word in podcasting news: a live recording of the popular weekly industry news podcast, with James Cridland and Sam Sethi. Join them, with special guests, looking at the week’s news.”
This was a very different session from the more formal and structured panel discussions I attended during the day. In essence, it was a live recording with James and Sam in conversation, with “Special guest: the audience” participating in response to James asking questions on topical issues.
I added my 0.02 to the topic about YouTube and RSS. I think it’s a hot issue – YouTube seems to want to capture exclusivity with where podcasts are hosted, as in “it’s YouTube and nowhere else” – although some in the audience expressed opinions that they didn’t really care where their podcasts are hosted as long as they got the listeners.
I think they’re wrong: big brands especially are very focused on where podcasts they are associated with are hosted and in what environment. Every podcaster should be.
The 40-minute episode was published on Friday 26 May. Listen.
And that wrapped up the day. It was good to meet up with James and Sam again. The last time I saw James was at PodcastCon UK in 2006 in London. Time certainly has flown!
As for how alive and well UK podcasting is, as I referenced at the start of this article, my only caution is that the risk of podcasting evolving into a mainstream medium is precisely that: the risk of becoming just another mainstream medium. Even just another marketing channel.
I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts this year already, mostly by UK podcasters and many new. While most demonstrate the passion and talents of the hosts and presenters, share some great stories, and are a delight to listen to, some are just what I describe as ‘tabloid radio’ with nothing authentic or memorable about them at all. Others are too slickly produced for my taste, lacking genuine warmth and passion: I can visualise in my mind as I listen that the host is turning the script pages, tapping page-down on a keyboard or scrolling a tablet. Even if they’re actually not.
I’m reminded of Beth Heard’s comment in the second session I attended in the morning that “Not everyone needs a podcast.” She’s right. I’d add, “Not everyone should be doing a podcast”.
Some final thoughts about my day’s experience:
- It would be great if the organisers were to share the recordings of each session. Maybe they plan to do this although I see no reference anywhere on the event website.
- Intriguing to see live transcripts on TV screens in nearly all the sessions I attended. AI driven, I imagine, as you can tell it was automated by the auto-corrections happening and sometimes not. Nice to see a live sign-language interpreter in one session I was at, too.
- There was a show app for iOS and Android but, frankly, I wasn’t impressed with it at all. I had the Android version but no matter what I did, it wouldn’t log me in. Before the event I uninstalled it, reinstalled it, reset the password at least three times, no success. The organiser team tried to help via Twitter but in the end, asked me to contact the app developer. Well, there wasn’t time for that.
- What was good was the registration bar code that I could install on my phone within my Google Wallet. All I had to do was show it at the registration desk at the Business Design Centre. It worked perfectly when I arrived to get my badge: they scanned the code on my phone and out popped a badge from the printer with no faff or fuss, all in less than 60 seconds. Nicely done!
- The last word is a shoutout to Libsyn for having the most relevant badges/stickers of any I saw there!