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The age of audio: Podcasts go mainstream

Podcasts are rapidly becoming as popular as videos and music, with the medium estimated to be worth $4 billion by 2024 globally. To find out more about this uprise, we take a deep dive into how the audio industry is tracking, both on and offshore.

As an audio medium for creative content, podcasts have seen some of New Zealand’s largest media companies and personalities, as well as people from all walks of life, tap into this growing market.

“Podcasting is one of the fastest-growing mediums in the world. It’s media you can consume on demand and on the go, and one that slips effortlessly into everyday routines,” says Guy Scott-Wilson, Creator Network Director of Acast, a leading podcast platform.

“We know that most people consume podcasts alone and actively remove distractions. Listeners aren’t second-screening. They are fully immersed in the content they are consuming.”

The very first podcast was released in 2004, but it is only recently that the podcast industry has really taken off, with the largest show in the world The Joe Rogan Experience reaching an average 11 million listeners per episode.

Scott-Wilson says the growth of podcasts can be attributed to the technological advances of the smartphone and smart speaker adoption, making “podcasting more accessible to mainstream audiences”.

“But fundamentally it comes down to an innate human love of storytelling. And at its core, podcasting is a storytelling medium.”

In New Zealand and the world, daily news has been the most popular category for podcasts, especially since “there’s been a lot going on in the world,” he adds.

Scott-Wilson says news in the form of a podcast is content that can be easily consumed at a time in a daily routine that best fits the listener, “making it a compelling way of consuming the news on your own terms”.

“Podcasting is a medium that lends itself to short-form documentary and fact-based journalism, so people are increasingly turning to podcasts to help make sense of what’s happening around them,” he says.

“It’s no surprise that shows like Morning Report and The Detail by RNZ, the BBC’s Global News Podcast and The Intelligence from The Economist are some of the most popular shows in New Zealand.”

Read more: A sneak peek into the growing gaming industry set to hit the billion-dollar mark.

Alongside the news category, investigative true crime podcasts remain incredibly popular with shows like The Commune by New Zealand media company Stuff, becoming some of the most popular in the country.

“As investment in newsrooms continues to decline, podcasts provide a lifeline to the critical artform of investigative journalism and allow a story to play out in real-time as the investigation develops,” he says.

Guy Scott-Wilson

Scott-Wilson also adds that there has been a rise in creators from other platforms and social media moving towards podcasting, which is able to create a “deeper level of engagement with their communities”.

This can be seen with New Zealand social media-based news platform Shit You Should Care About releasing its own podcast, The Shit Show, which provides more content in a different form for its audience.

In a business sense, many companies are using podcasts as another way to reach their audiences.

An example of this is digital investment platform start-up Kernel which produces a podcast, It’s No Secret, to educate its audience, or a new reach, on finances.

Similarly, the Girls That Invest podcast saw immense success, becoming the world’s top investing podcast for millennial and Gen Z women. This later helped co-host Simran Kaur publish her first ever book.

Podcasts are becoming a main contender in the mainstream media landscape, with streaming service Spotify offering over $200 million for the exclusive rights for The Joe Rogan Experience.

With more and more Kiwis listening to podcasts, many are “overwhelmingly choosing” content produced overseas.

Homegrown content, however, is a growing market with 27 percent of New Zealanders listening through Acast choosing locally produced content.

“As the creator economy expands organically in New Zealand, as in other English-speaking markets, we expect that number to grow,” says Scott-Wilson.

Consuming podcasts is still “a predominantly urban behaviour” with 45 percent of all Kiwi listeners coming from Auckland, 17 percent from Wellington and 14 percent from Canterbury.

The future of podcasts is still vast as the demand for them continues to grow. “Commercial demand will grow, making it an essential part of the thriving creator economy,” he adds.

As it grows, Scott-Wilson believes the New Zealand podcast industry will begin to explore and experiment with how to engage listeners including expanding into premium subscription models where listeners can pay for early access, bonus content and other benefits.

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles, The Register and Idealog. To get in touch with her, email bernadette.basagre@scg.net.nz

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