8 Podcast Predictions For 2021

Last updated on: 
March 18, 2021

We can all agree that 2020 was… wow. 

But overall, so much happened within the audio space that it makes us incredibly excited to see what 2021 has in store for podcasting. Below we have broken down eight predictions that we have for podcasts in 2021 with further insights into each prediction. 

Let’s dive in: 

1. Podcast Advertising to Increase

Our CEO, Fatima Zaidi, has stated that in the next 5 years all brands will either have a podcast or be advertising on one. Over the past few years, brands using podcasts as an advertising outlet has really boomed with companies like Chartable and Podsights emerging that focus on tracking the data around podcast advertising campaigns.

Additionally a survey done by Nielson found that 78% of US consumers stated that they are open to podcast ads since they are aware that they fund the podcast's growth. And of that survey, 62% said that hearing those ads would make them consider buying new products or services. 

It’s clear that podcast advertising is incredibly valuable for brands. According to eMarketer, US podcast ad spending will surpass 20% of digital radio ad spending in 2020 and then cross the $1 billion mark in 2021. “Growth in podcast advertising spend will be more resilient this year relative to digital radio advertising as a whole, which will see double-digit declines,” said eMarketer forecasting director at Insider Intelligence Shelleen Shum.

$1 billion -- this is an exciting number to see and gives us all an insight into where 2021 is heading in the audio ad space. But it also means that brands need to really understand how to identify podcasts that fit well with their offering, ensuring that their values and the podcast’s values align. 

Additional Reading: Check out our article breaking down how brands can effectively use podcast advertising

2. Listening Platform Competition 

The ongoing competition between the biggest players in podcast listening will continue. According to Edison Research, Spotify is the most used audio brand. Yet Apple is still in the lead for top podcasting app. Buzzsprout’s recently released global statistics from their platform show that Apple owns 32.3% of the market but with Spotify close to its tail at 25.5% of market share.

The two have been battling it out for quite some time but it’s clear that throughout 2020 Spotify has made efforts to become the go to podcast platform. Since their acquisition of Gimlet in 2019, the company has placed focus on acquiring and partnering with podcast shows to create “Spotify Originals” similar to Netflix’s successful strategy with “Netflix Originals”.  

But it also looks like in 2021, Amazon is coming to play as well. In 2020 Amazon announced the launch of podcasts in tandem with Amazon Music. The brand followed Spotify’s strategy of exclusively signing celebrities for original content. Some of the high profile influencers that Amazon has grabbed so far include DJ Khaled, Becky G, and Will Smith. In addition, Amazon has also announced that they will be buying Wondery, even with Wondery's starting price tag of $300 million. 

All we can say is that as Spotify continues to gain traction on Apple and Amazon enters the race, it’ll be exciting to see who comes out on top in 2021. 

Additional Reading: Get a run down of the many acquisitions and partnerships Spotify conducted throughout 2020. 

3. Improved Podcast Experience

There are currently over 1.7 million valid podcasts on Apple. That’s a lot of audio content and options for potential listeners. In 2021 it’s going to become more important than ever for podcasters to provide an elevated experience for listeners through high quality audio and content. If you don’t, it’s easy for listeners to move over to a series that is achieving this. 

Podcast Tips For Podcasters: 

Audio Quality:

Content Quality: 

  • Plan. Plan. And plan. Creating a podcast takes a lot of (you guessed it) planning. 
  • Figure out what structure/format you want your series to follow. 
  • After this, prepare your podcast script (if relevant to your series). 
  • Place focus on setting yourself apart from the podcasts that currently exist in your category, what can you do to stand out? 

Additional Reading: Check out our deep dive into creating an amazing podcast experience.  

4. More Dynamic Marketing 

As we settle into 2021, it’s predicted that we’re going to start seeing brands come out with increasingly unique and dynamic ways to market their podcasts. Just throwing a link on your socials and telling your followers to listen isn’t going to cut it. You have to actively sell yourself and your series. 

We believe that we’ll see a rise in podcast related content ranging from blogs to books, HBO specials, and more. Creating content for your podcast doesn’t only boost your SEO and awareness, possibly converting new listeners through these avenues, but it also gives your current listeners additional content to consume and more chances to become hooked.

“It’s hard to capture the attention of this youth generation,” Ostroff said. “Everything is on demand, so they can get everything anytime they want. And being able to stand out in that crowd and have an audience and have people want to either see or hear any particular person is a Herculean task these days.” 

- Dawn Ostroff, Spotify’s chief content and advertising business officer

We’re also going to see more podcast campaigns run that take a step away from what we’ve traditionally seen in the past. In 2020, Spotify shared that they’re starting to look towards influencer marketing to grow podcast listenership

Additional Reading: Why you really should start thinking of your podcast as a brand

5. The Rise of Podcast SEO 

According to NPR and Edison Research, 60 million Americans own a smart speaker, with usage increasing during quarantine. This means more and more households will be using voice to search for podcasts or information on related content. It’s possible to have a podcast come up now on Google Search through keywords that have been said in episodes, similar to how articles with written keywords might pop up. 

This all falls under VSEO (voice search optimization), which works pretty similarly to normal SEO. It’s just based on spoken rather than written content. To ensure that you’re optimizing for VSEO, make sure you speak clearly throughout your podcast and have good audio quality. Also pick out keywords around the topic you’re covering and drop them throughout the episode. Just ensure that you say keywords naturally and organically. If it’s too forced and focused on VSEO, you’ll lower the listener experience of your podcast. 

In addition to VSEO, you still want to optimize your podcast for SEO. Some ways you can do this is:

  1. Adding keywords to your podcast descriptions;
  2. Creating podcast show notes;
  3. Transcribing your episodes;
  4. Writing blogs around your podcast content;
  5. Creating a podcast website. 

Additional Reading: Check out some other ways to organically boost your podcasts SEO

6. Increased Use of Programmatic Advertising

Before we dive in, what exactly is programmatic advertising, you ask? It’s the use of AI (artificial intelligence) to optimize and buy ads in real time. As an advertiser, all you have to do is identify your target audience and campaign budget and the technology handles the rest. You can see how this is incredibly powerful for podcasts as it opens up the potential for advertisers to outline their targets and automatically have ads placed in podcasts that meet that criteria. 

We can see Spotify leading us in this space with their Streaming Ad Insertion technology that places ads into shows in real time based on listener data. In November of 2020, Spotify also announced their acquisition of Megaphone, a company that inserts and sells dynamic ads for podcasts. This acquisition makes it possible for podcasts outside of Spotify’s network to use its ad insertion technologies. We’re predicting that this style of podcast advertising is going to become a standard in the industry across all listening platforms and podcasts. 

Spend on programmatic advertising in general is estimated by Statista to increase to $127 billion by the end of 2021. While the COVID-19 pandemic dampened growth in ad spend overall in 2020, eMarketer predicts that programmatic advertising will experience a bounce back in 2021, which would align with Statista’s estimations. 

Additional Readings: Learn how to grow your podcast through Spotify’s Ad Studio

7. Realizing the Value of Niche Audiences

Oftentimes aspiring podcasters reach out asking if there’s even space for a new series among all the other podcasts that already exist. Our answer always is: yes, there is. As we discussed earlier, as we enter 2021 it is going to become even more crucial for you to create a great listener experience, but first, you need to clearly define your audience. 

If you’re planning on creating an interview podcast where you talk to startups about entrepreneurship, it’s unlikely you’ll attain the results you want. Why? Because there are already so many podcasts out there in this exact category, making it very challenging to compete against those that have been podcasting for years or have a loyal following behind them. 

But if you were to create a podcast with a journalistic format where you follow a startup CEO for a day, placing focus on startups specifically in marketing tech, you would probably build a stronger audience. Yes, the pool of individuals who would find this series relevant compared to a podcast about entrepreneurship in general would be smaller, but obtaining a large audience with that topic is going to be difficult against the Gary Vs and Master of Scales of the world. 

With the volume of podcasts that exist and at the rate they’re being created, making your podcast niche and specific is going to lead to a large advantage. 

Additional Reading: How to learn more about your podcast listeners

8. More Podcasts!

And finally, we predict that there will be more podcasts! It was amazing to watch in 2020 how many brands and indie podcasters launched a new series. Whether you’re a brand with specific marketing or sales goals that you want a podcast to achieve, or you’re just bored in quarantine and want to start a comedy show to connect with your friends, we see the number of podcasts only growing from here. 

We’re living in the midst of an audio boom and we’re looking forward to seeing what 2021 brings. 

More Podcast Predictions

Are there any predictions you have for 2021? Let’s hear them! Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn


Platform
Price
Pro’s
Con's
Anchor

Free

  • Easy to use
  • Automatically distributes your podcast to major platforms.
  • Embed media player.
  • Great if podcasting is a
    side hobby
  • Very basic editing
  • Since it’s a free tool, you don’t have full control over the monetization of your podcast.
  • Not the right platform for people taking podcasting seriously
Buzzsprout

Free for 2 hours of content per month

$12 for 3 hours per month

$18+ for 6 hours and up

  • Very user-friendly
  • Caters to both long term and beginner podcasters
  • Advanced analytics
  • Easy distribution of your episodes
  • They measure their size requirements to hours not megabytes
  • Bonus: get a free $20 Amazon gift card when you sign up for any paid hosting plan!
  • Advanced features like dynamic ad insertion need some work
Libsyn

$5/month for Monthly Storage 50mb

  • Oldest podcast hosting site.
  • Easy distribution to major platforms and great for scaling once your podcast gets bigger.
  • Hosted over 35,000 podcasts.
  • An iTunes Podcast partner.
  • Allows you to publish your podcast to specific directories.
  • Embed media player.
  • Price is based on storage
  • 50mb storage for $5 won’t be enough if you are publishing weekly so you’ll end up with a higher price point
Podbean

Unlimited audio package: $9/month

Storage space:

Unlimited

  • Great support & customer service features
  • Unlimited audio.
  • Pages are easy to customize
  • Can schedule podcast release dates.
  • Easy to use.
  • Uploads and changes to podcast titles and/or descriptions are automatic to Spotify.
  • Embed media player.
  • Simple Analytics
  • Analytics aren’t as advanced as other platforms
  • Upload and changes to podcast titles and/or descriptions take a day to change on iTunes.
  • Not an iTunes podcast partner.
  • The process to send a podcast to iTunes is more tedious. But, you will still be able to get on the platform.
Blubrry

Classic

$5/month

Monthly Storage

50mb

  • Podcast Wordpress plugin and management.
  • If you want to record a new introduction or conclusion, add in a sponsored ad or upload a new version of a podcast, it doesn't count towards your storage usage per month.
  • Blubrry allows a 25% storage overage each month
  • Prices are based on storage.
  • Usability is okay.
SimpleCast

Starting: $15/month

Recommendation: $35/month

Monthly Storage: Unlimited

  • Hosts your audio files no matter what the size!
  • Dynamic insertion for podcast ads or edits.
  • Incredibly detailed analytics including number of episodes completed and listener location tracking.
  • Embed media player.
  • Easy to use.
  • Great distribution! Easy access to all major podcast platforms.
  • Customizable podcast
    website.
  • Prices are slightly higher than other platforms, but well worth it especially if you have a branded company podcast!