Media Beat: October 21, 2019

RAIN Summit Canada in redux

We are still digesting the meat and potatoes of what was served up at the 2nd annual podcast summit that was held at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto last Wednesday.

The MONSTER fact is that there are over 700K podcasts out there, and the top-ranked go-to source used by listeners is YouTube, outranking audio platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify by a country mile.

As for the 700K podcasts available, it’s a safe bet that 350K of those are dormant, a polite way of saying that the content creators lost steam, and the files sit ready to be binned if and when anyone is interested in culling the weeds from the currents.

Of the 350K in the balance, one can safely eliminate 300K of them because the listenership numbers amount to less than the number of Cheerios the average household chews through in a single serving.

This leaves 50K active podcasts in the race for the gold at the end of the rainbow. Of these, a few garner listenership numbers that boggle the mind, most of which are hosted by blue-chip personalities with built-in audiences.

A few are of the ‘out there’ variety, meaning interlopers that, for inexplicable reasons, attract line-ups comparable to the grand opening of a Chick-fil-A store.

And then there’s the chump for change factor.

The US has been a slow climb for podcasters to sell themselves to willing bidders.

In Canada, there is no discernible dollar figure attached to the business of podcasting, but a polite guess places it somewhere south of $1.7M, and that’s being kind and not including programmatic ads that Google spews out like gumballs from a vending machine.

TPX is doing a bustling business, and the CBC is capturing the lion’s share of the market with an inventory of titles that rank high on a countdown of what’s hot and what’s not.

And then there's the gorilla in the room: imports that largely pivots toward an assemblage of branded titles popularized by Americans, featuring Americans, pitching American content.

Then let's add the inherent problem in selling the message. It's all in the metrics or, more specifically,  the lack of metrics to measure the medium.

A bit like radio.

With a growing number of apps and browsers offering anti-tracking options that wipe cookies and mask identities, podcast metrics become as intangible as correctly identifying the audience numbers attending a Trump rally. Take out the bots and the ringers and what have you got?

It’s a question that has the best in the business shaking their heads in frustration, unless one is Google with its one-size-fits-all billable programmatic ad insertions.

Like Facebook’s metrics, its mostly smoke and mirrors with a few actual eyeballs (or, in this case, ears) paying attention.

Or maybe not.

Broadcasters are rising to the occasion with varying commitments to a medium that is galvanizing audiences, but in a fashion that is reminiscent of Napster’s success—before some sane stakeholders in the game cried foul.

Follow the buck.

That’s the time-tested adage.

But finding the buck for an industry that is growing faster than a tot in kindergarten means finding a wallet willing to feed the impetuous child of broadcasters.

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