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Podcasting's Next Frontier? Reaching 'The Next Billion Listeners.’

As the audience for podcasts continues to grow – with an estimated half-billion consumers in 2023, according to research from iHeartMedia – so should the demand for successful mostly-English podcasts to be translated into other languages for audiences in and outside of the U.S.

“In the U.S., the fastest-growing audience in the last decade has been Hispanic listeners, so we are starting to see a lot of diversity of languages [and] creators coming into the medium, and along with that, a diversity of listeners,” iHeartMedia Executive VP of Smart Audio Intelligence Hetal Patel says. “With the type of global listenership you are seeing [and] the type of languages, content that is coming into the medium is equally as diverse.”

A panel session conducted by iHeart Media Senior VP, Custom Podcasts Andy Kelly focused on how to reach the audience referred to as “the next billion listeners” by creating, and making current podcasts available, in languages other than English. “We're trying to enable growth through monetization in [other] markets,” says Rebecca Dalby, Head of Marketing for Spreaker, which handles podcast hosting, monetization and ad tech. “It's not fair if [creators are] not getting paid the same amount of money, and at the moment, they're not.”

Dalby also sees Latin America as a key growth spot for podcasts. “It's the sheer size of the Spanish-speaking audience available,” she says. “A network we work with is getting 60% of their revenue from 6% of their audience based in the U.S. [that's] all Spanish-speaking. That just shows you the power of what we can do here if more podcasts are translated.”

As to how to reach the global audience, content remains king. “Whether international or domestically, the formula shouldn't be different – we think about the impact that sound can make,” suggests Andy Lipset, CEO of short form audio content creator SpokenLayer. “We build audiences through great content. Whether it's English or any other language, that's the secret sauce.”

Available technology may be the key to making translating podcasts easier. “Spanish is the number one language in the world, [so] why not clone their voices and translate [programming] to reach the Spanish audience?” Veritone Senior VP, Global Sales and Commercial Enterprise Drew Hilles says, noting the technology's success in the ad world. “You would be surprised [at the] advertisers running completely synthetic campaigns. There is zero drop in performance on a synthetic campaign [vs.] a real one. Lipset warns that even with such technology available, content authenticity must be maintained. “The concern I have is making sure that the tone and the intent of the content come across as the real deal. People will be out as soon as they sniff that anything is not authentic.”

Advice for podcasters looking to go global? “Just start getting it out there even if it's not perfect,” Kelly says. “If you start translating your content and putting it out into these massive listenership pools, it's going to at least spark a beginning of how we start to build global audiences.” Dalby adds, “It's so important for us to keep up and keep innovating, because we have to all work together in order to make this really successful.”

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