The number of podcast series climbs by the day with well over two million shows for listeners to sort through. Beyond just getting discovered in that deepening sea of content, the conundrum for a lot of creators has become figuring out what to do next. But several top players in the industry told the Podcast Movement conference on Thursday the search for the Holy Grail of the next “hot genre” may be a misguided mission.
Oren Rosenbaum, Partner and Head of Audio at the talent agency UTA may joke that the True Crime genre remains a “white space” but he is only half-joking. He told the Podcast Movement that he doesn’t believe any show category can be saturated – even one as ubiquitous as True Crime. “I’m amazed at how many new stories and ways to tell even similar stories there are,” said Rosenbaum. “And across virtually every category there’s more, because there are different audiences to target with your programming.”
Guy Raz, the host of the entrepreneurial podcast How I Built This, also rejects the notion that there can be market saturation in podcasting. “Where there is opportunity is in focusing on the fidelity and the quality of what you’re doing,” he told the gathering. He said that while it may often be overshadowed by the conversation about content, having a good microphone and a decent recording room are just as critical. “We know from decades of research that people will stay with something if it doesn’t sound like they are talking to you from a bathroom,” Raz said.
Yet what is being said into those microphones remains part of the equation. Tinkercast is carving out a business in what it believes is one of the underserved groups – young listeners. CEO Meredith Halpern-Ranzer said Tinkercast is developing an educational program to go into schools to use audio to help kids with their creative innovations based on first hearing a podcast. “Some of them might go home and say there are podcasts for kids and let’s listen to them while we’re in the car,” she said. Halpern-Ranzer also sees YouTube and TikTok as playing a role in pulling in younger podcast demos. “That is where kids are – you meet them where they are,” she said.
Raz, who hosts Tinkercast’s flagship Wow in the World series, said kids’ podcasts remain one of the most exciting parts of the podcast business for him. “It’s still early days. There is a lot of growth opportunities that we are not seeing elsewhere because kids aren’t yet fully engaged in podcasting,” he said.
Raz said he looks at kids’ podcasts similar to how Pixar approaches animated films, and that may not be too far off the mark, according to Rosenbaum.
“I think the next Harry Potter or Disney character will come through audio/ It is the next wave of IP,” he said. “All the groundwork is being laid right now.”
During the past several years a celebrity genre has sprung up as a flood of actors, musicians and influencers poured into podcasting. That also brought in the big Hollywood talent agencies. Rosenbaum says before audio became “cool,” podcasting was considered as something “vary ancillary” inside UTA with not a lot of enthusiasm among some talent to host a show. But as podcasts have shown people how “visual” they can be despite being an audio medium, it has opened up doors.
“As people started listening to shows, and then those shows became actual projects on television, it opened up a whole new group of creators and celebrity talent and personalities to come in with ideas versus coming in and just wanting to do a podcast,” Rosenblaum. “People are taking it really seriously.”
But as people develop new shows and take creative risks, and often times production budgets balloon into the six and seven figures, Raz thinks it is important to remember that what qualifies as a successful podcast can’t always be measured by the number of downloads.
“There’s this perception that if you don’t have tens or hundreds of thousands of listeners every week, that your show is not successful. And that is false,” Raz said. “The first thing is not to think about how to stand out and make a podcast that is going to reach a million people. It’s how am I going to make something that is going to attract a committed group of people who love what I do.”