It’s All About Audio

Posted 30.04.21

With major announcements last week from both Apple and Facebook it seems both podcasting and social audio are a keen focus for the world’s biggest tech players.

Podcasting 2.0

With the announcement last week from Apple that they are introducing a paid subscription model for podcasting and a long-overdue revamp of their podcasting app it seems the company is finally taking podcasting seriously, fifteen years after bringing the medium to the mainstream.

The move comes after industry reporting suggested that for the first time Spotify would be the dominant podcasting platform. Spotify has been investing heavily in podcasting, noting earlier this year that they had tripled the number of podcasts on their platform and signed a number of exclusive high-profile deals with the likes of Joe Rogan, Kim Kardashian, Michelle Obama and others.

Spotify has in fact already announced their plan to launch a podcasting subscription service but it seems Apple have got their first. This can only be good news for podcast creators, giving them more opportunities to monetise their content and new ways for fans to engage and support their favourite podcasters and shows.

With a move away from an ad-funded model, the future for brands in podcasting is to create their own unique content or create long-term lasting partnerships with creators and publishers. The challenge for brands is to overcome the inherent belief from listeners that they are in it for the promotion and instead create opportunities for meaningful and diverse conversations and stories.

The rise of social audio

This is probably not the first piece you have read in the last few months or even the last few weeks or days about social audio. The buzz around the emergence of this new style of social communication is huge. Facebook this week announced a slew of upcoming bets in audio, including an expanded partnership with Spotify, and it’s very own clubhouse clone.

Clubhouse is the current darling of the social scene but imitations are quickly catching up, with Facebook set to roll out their clone in the next 6 months, and Twitter rolling out their own version; Spaces to it’s global user base at the end of the month, following a successful beta test over the last few months.

Social audio has the potential to create the same sense of intimacy an audience has with a podcast or audiobook but with the huge added elements of social functionality and being part of a wider community.

My prediction for how this plays out is that the real winner here will actually be Twitter. Why, well they seem to have taken a play from Facebook’s well-worn track of cloning the competition and using the significant power of their existing user base and social graph to topple an upstart competitor (sounds familiar right?).

The second-mover advantage here can not be underestimated. In moving fast to create Spaces and learning from what has worked on Clubhouse Twitter can now play to two key strengths over its upstart competitor. Firstly, no platform can boast greater influence from the world’s leading journalists, celebrities, politicians, academics, and sports stars than Twitter ensuring that Spaces instantly has some of the deepest thinkers creating conversations from day 1. Secondly, it has close to 200M active users many of whom have been crying out for the platform to innovate (still waiting on that edit button), whilst it is reported Clubhouse has close to 10M users growth in the last few months has slowed and it is yet to launch its Android app opening to the platform to millions of more users.

This type of audio communication feels much more native to a platform like Twitter than say Facebook or Instagram but Facebook does have a trump card as WhatsApp presents interesting audio opportunities but that is for another post. I think Twitter will continue to innovate in this space and unlike Facebook see audio as a big part of the future of how we all communicate and share ideas rather than just another feature set.

Tom Jarvis – Founder & CEO

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