The Podcast Bubble Is Bursting and Apple Is Handing Out Pins

The Podcast Bubble Is Bursting and Apple Is Handing Out Pins

Remember when every single person you knew or had ever heard of had a podcast? Yes, I also find it difficult to remember last week, but let’s go with it. Back in 2018 and 2019 podcasting was everything, companies like Spotify were handing out millions of dollars to anyone who has ever had a microphone and a willingness to do ad reads for boxed mattresses, Hello Fresh and SquareSpace.

But last year the podcasting bubble looked like it was starting to burst. In 2019 Spotify acquired podcasting company Gimlet for $230million USD, in 2023 Spotify merged Gimlet with Parcast and renamed it Spotify Studios, eliminating 200 jobs. Other studios got shut down, big podcasts packed up shop, advertisers started realising that it’s difficult to convert sales from a podcast and took their ad dollars to other kinds of influencers they could pay for their opinions.

Things got bleak, basically.

Yesterday Semafor reported the latest nail in the coffin of the podcasting boom. Last year Apple changed how the company reports people listening to podcasts, and it’s ripped a hole in the key metrics podcasters show advertisers. Basically, Apple now pauses downloads of shows if the listener hasn’t engaged with it in the last two weeks (the Apple blog says “If a follower is not engaged with a show, automatic downloads may be paused”, but doesn’t specify the timeframe. Semafor claims it’s 5 episodes in two weeks).

That sounds great for listeners who signed up to a daily show and then completely forgot about it, because now their phone storage won’t be clogged with a show they’re not listening to. But, according to Semafor, it has tanked the metrics of a bunch of the larger podcasts, which is going to negatively impact their advertising deals.

While Apple is not the only podcasting platform, it is still the dominant one (the ‘pod’ was named for the iPod, after all), so this represents a major blow.

This change came last year after the release of iOS17, and podcasters have been largely quiet about how it’s impacted their download numbers, but in that linked Semafor article, drops of 40% and more have been privately reported, which is a massive blow, and worse than the podcasters I spoke to expected in the lead up to the launch. Acast has only publicly reported a drop of 10% as of last year.

The further we get away from the change being made, and as the podcast industry settles into a more sustainable model, it’s going to be interesting to see how this impacts podcasting revenue and which kinds of people are able to succeed in the industry.

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