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business / product

Dear Podcasting World P2| Ecosystem

. 5 min read .

InPart 1 we went through 30+ insights compiled as a result of 9 in-depth interviews with podcast listeners. We were able to examine the gap between the the current state of Podcasting and a possible future state.

A case for not reinventing the wheel…

It is important to realise that all the problems and ideas listed in Part 1 are not by any stretch of the imagination new.

Companies have already tackled most of these problems in adjacent mediums. Drawing inspiration from them is probably one of the best ways to get the wheel turning instead of reinventing it.

Let me briefly explain why…

Communications are being done through 3 mediums:
✉️ Text+Image
🎙️ Audio
📹 Video
Us humans have constructed multiple levels of abstractions on top of those 3 in order to create richer types of communication. Each of those abstractions has providers (=platforms/apps/aggregators) responsible of distributing the media:

Don’t grill me over this. The mind-map is not exhaustive, nor academic nor does it take into account all the nuances (ex. Medium Pubs), hybrid media & other abstractions. Note#1: Ads are not considered as a form of communication in this example. Note#2: Social Media Platforms (ex. Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter) are excluded. They can be considered super aggregators and distributors. Thanks to Zaman from fiverr for collating the logos for the mindmap.

We can then see from the mind-map that Podcasts are not something groundbreaking and that they are fundamentally just another type of media of type:audio that can be consumed.

The world of media as a whole is extremely mature and as a result, the places to draw inspiration in order to improve Podcasting are countless. Everywhere you look, there are parallels to be drawn in terms of distribution, discoverability, share-ability, media supply chain, monetization strategies, revenue models and so on. In fact 95% of the solutions proposed in Part 1, aiming to elevate Podcasting are a spin-off of already existing functionality we can find in applications serving other mediums like YouTube, Soundcloud and Apple Music as well as Social Media like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.

The podcasting ecosystem doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel; it just needs to stand on the shoulders of giants.

or let the giants take over…

The Power of the Big Players

In search of a bigger piece of the pie

In markets like this, players do not hesitate to jump to adjacent territories.

REACTIVE Expansion: If content can be hosted on a platform, it will find it’s way there sooner or later, one way or the other. That is why we find every kind of medium on YouTube; from -illegal- movies to music, podcasts, coding livestreams and audiobooks. YouTube can host any kind of audio or video content. Similarly, in addition to gaming, we can find radio shows, DJ shows and event live streams of people knitting on Twitch. The reason for this is very simple. Uploading content is free (atm) and every creator want’s their content to be consumed by as many people as possible so to increase that pool of readers/listeners/viewers they share their content everywhere. When the content of a specific type has reached a significant mass on a platform, the platform has not choice but to take notice and cater to that segment. The users force-shape the platform.

Semi-REACTIVE Expansion: The platform uses data to take notice of how it is being used and the kind of content that is being hosted and consumed through it. It decides to expand to serve that segment as soon as they identify a trend.

PROACTIVE Expansion: The same way UBER expanded from transportation of people to transportation of food, players in the media space are following the exact same diversification strategy. The primary goal: growth and the secondary one: risk spreading. Companies can proactively identify strategic opportunities and serve them to their customers before they even care to ask.

Crushing the competition

Big players have the advantages of an already mature product, significant available resources and expertise which they can leverage right away. The big players of the space like Spotify, YouTube, Apple & Google could smash the competition:

  • Their popularity means that a lot of people are on those platforms. That means that content posted there is probably going to be consumed in a higher volume due to the shear number of users on the platform. All those data points allow them to expand in Reactive & Semi-Reactive fashions and slowly swallow smaller more niche competition.
  • Due to the shear resources and capital behind these brands, they can aggressively move into a new vertical and unleash developers and money on it. This -potential- velocity allows them to be able to not only copy every successful feature of the competition but deploy and test new features in a rapid pace thus eventually crushing competition.
  • Tweaks in their existing product can potentially make most of the existing problems listed in Part 1 disappear.
  • They can buy competition out and either absorb them and make them part of the product offering or pull their plug.

Case Study | Spotify

This expansion into adjacent verticals is exactly what Spotify is doing in the audio micro-ecosystem. Spotify has conquered music and is now rapidly expanding to podcasts (see: Anchor, Gimlet Media and recently Parcast acquisitions).

“Apple still dominates the podcast marketplace ‘to become the world’s leading audio platform’ Spotify needs scale. And how better to scale than with a company that’s often referred to as the YouTube of podcasts — Anchor” — KC Ifeanyi for FastCompany

Spotify is undeniably uniquely positioned to dominate the podcasting market. They could leverage their expertise of utilising ML methods by adapting their already existing recommendation engines, playlist generation algorithms and audio stream analysis methods in order to solve some of the hardest problems identified. Spotify also has a ready-to-go monetisation machine they could overlay on top of podcasts.

The company wants a monopoly of our ears and as a result we will potentially see them expand:

  • verticallyinto more parts of the podcasting supply chain like production of original content), distribution (of exclusive content which they can make available to their Premium subscribers), podcast production tooling (recording, editing, enriching etc) and the music supply chain like the rumours of social features liek ‘Storylines’.
  • horizontally into more audio niches like audiobooks, recipes, educational audio courses, meditation etc.
  • geographically by tailoring their offering across the globe to the different audience personas.

The rest of the big players out there like YouTube/Alphabet won’t step back and watch. Nevertheless this competition between the big guys for monopoly for our ears is great for us consumers.. for now.. In a long enough timeframe, network effects, economies of scale and supply chain domination will lead the way to a more monopolistic than competitive landscape -as they always do-…

Until then, we shall sit back and enjoy the Games🍿

Hey Spotify,
I’d drop everything and move to Stockholm to tackle all these challenges with the team.
I recently applied for a Product Management role.
A chat would be awesome🤙


Maria P

Aeronautical Engineer turned Product Manager. Misadventures in philosophy, technology, entrepreneurship & personal growth. 🏂🏍️🍜📚🏋️‍♀️🏄‍♀️⛵️