Entertainment Takes a Deeper Dive into Podcasting

Seeking to capture the success of viral hits like Serial and S-Town, the relationship between entertainment and podcasting has continued to expand in intriguing and often surprising ways.

For instance, music-streaming service Spotify recently rolled out a multimedia format called Spotlight, which adds visual elements to the listening experience for podcasts, audiobooks and other audio content. “Spotlight gives fans a deeper insight to their favorite artists, playlists, books, publishers and more by offering contextual visual elements, such as photos, video and text, that appear as users move through each episode,” Spotify says in a blog post.

Meanwhile, superhero storyteller Marvel New Media recently teamed up with podcasting service Stitcher for Marvel’s first-ever scripted podcast, Wolverine: The Long Night, a 10-episode series that will debut in spring 2018.

“Wolverine: The Long Night brings our fans a whole new way to experience our iconic characters and the Marvel universe…. We’re excited to continue to explore the dynamic possibilities of the podcast medium,” Dan Silver, vice president and head of platforms and content at Marvel New Media, says in a news release.

A host of activities at NAB Show in Las Vegas, April 7 to 12, 2018, will dive into the state of podcasting in entertainment and other industry segments, and a number of well-known podcasters will offer their insights. Highlights include the Podcasting Studio (Grand Lobby, Las Vegas Convention Center) and the Podcasting Pavilion (South Hall Upper), designed to help both established and beginning podcasters improve their craft.

Also, on April 11, four sessions on podcasting will generate buzz at NAB Show:

  • “Ahead in 2018: This Year in Podcasting,” featuring Steven Goldstein, CEO of Amplifi Media; Brendan Monaghan, CEO of Panoply; and Rob Walch, vice president of podcaster relations at Libysn
  • “The Mechanics of a Quality Podcast,” featuring Jared Easley and Dan Franks, co-founders of Podcast Movement; and Erica Mandy, host of theNewsWorthy
  • “The Podcast Aircheck,” featuring Seth Resler, digital dot connector at Jacobs Media Strategies
  • “The Anatomy of a Podcast Hit,” featuring Rob Greenlee, head of content at Spreaker; Donald Albright, co-founder of Tenderfoot TV; Payne Lindsey, co-creator and host of Up and Vanished; and Meredith Stedman, a creative producer and podcast co-host of Tenderfoot TV

Entering the American Media Landscape

Companies like Marvel and Stitcher are striving for podcast hits as the entertainment business steps up its commitment to podcasting.

“Podcasting is an incredible, intimate medium that’s perfect for telling stories…. The arrival of Wolverine and his many fans to podcasts and Stitcher is truly a signal that this medium is a major part of the American media landscape,” says Erik Diehn, CEO of Midroll Media, the parent company of Stitcher.

Over at Spotify, the content partners for Spotlight include BuzzFeed News, Cheddar, Crooked Media, Lenny Letter, Genius, The Minefield Girl, Refinery29, Uninterrupted and Gimlet Media.

Gimlet Media is the company behind Crimetown, a podcast series from the creators of HBO’s miniseries The Jinx. Each season examines the culture of crime in a different city. And in a testament to the crossover appeal of podcasting in entertainment, the FX cable TV network is developing a series based on Crimetown, according to Variety.

While Hollywood certainly is elbowing its way into podcasting, the country’s other entertainment capital—New York City—is staking its claim in the podcasting biz.

Big Apple vs. L.A.

A report released in August 2017 by the New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment proclaimed the Big Apple’s status as the “epicenter” of podcasting. The report says the number of podcasts made by New York-based networks was up nearly 75 percent in two years, representing 1.3 billion downloads in 2016.

“New York City is at the forefront of the dynamic and rapidly expanding podcasting industry,” says Julie Menin, the city’s media and entertainment commissioner.

Not to be outdone, Los Angeles is making its case for prominence as a top-tier podcasting player.

According to Built in Los Angeles, L.A. is home to a number of startups that are helping shape the future of podcasting. They include Midroll Media, Stitcher’s parent; Crooked Media, co-founded by Jon Favreau, former speechwriter for President Barack Obama; and Parcast, creator of true crime podcasts like Serial Killers and Unsolved Murders.

While New York and L.A. may be duking it out over the “podcasting capital” title, Nieman Lab notes that other podcasting nodes in the U.S. include Boston, Chicago, Atlanta and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Casting a Wider Net

No matter where podcasters are plying their craft, it’s hard to ignore the rise of podcasting in entertainment and other genres. A 2017 survey by Edison Research and Triton Digital found that podcasting is booming, with 40 percent of Americans age 12 and over saying they’d ever listened to a podcast and 24 percent saying they’d listened to one in the past month.

With the growth in podcasting comes growth in advertising revenue for entertainment and other platforms.

U.S. podcast advertising revenue was projected to exceed $220 million in 2017, up 85 percent over the $119 million recorded in 2016, according to a first-of-its-kind study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of IAB, says the study “proves two things—the whole world is listening, and brands are taking notice. From the remarkable growth of podcast ad revenue, we’re seeing an ancient axiom being proved yet again: Great rewards go to those who surprise and delight their fellow humans.”

And if industry forecasters are a good barometer, many of those podcasting rewards and surprises will be coming from the entertainment end of the business. In 2018 podcasting predictions laid out by Pacific Content, industry insiders expect:

  • More podcasts will garner TV and movie deals
  • More podcasts will benefit from exchanges of intellectual property
  • More blockbuster scripted podcasts will be on the way
  • More limited-run podcast series will pop up

“Podcasting is still in its infancy,” Pacific Content says, “and 2018 will see a great deal of experimentation with different formats, different genres and shows designed for nontraditional podcast audiences.”  

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