‘Podcast market oversaturated’: media exec

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One of Australia’s most respected media executives, Helen McCabe, has warned that the podcast market is increasingly oversaturated, predicting that only those with the best products, voices and audiences will make it through as the industry evolves.

McCabe worked for News Corp for over a decade and then went on to become the editor in chief of The Australian Women’s Weekly. She has also been digital content director and head of lifestyle for Nine, and now runs subscription content platform Future Women.

“Podcasting is exploding… Everyone thinks they can host one, everyone wants to produce one, and I do think we’re at a moment in time where professional interviewers and podcasters are now really coming to the fore. The quality of production is now starting to be quite important,” she told Nine’s Big Ideas Store earlier this month.

She said in order to get scale in the crowded market, podcasters and publishers “need to be absolutely brilliant at what you do”.

“I think the craft has to be very, very well honed, and that can be in the documentary style, it can be in the interviewing style, but you’re competing with the best in the world,” she said.

“So I would certainly caution anyone who’s got a budding podcast idea to be very careful about it, because it is a tough space to get a really big audience. That said, a niche audience that speaks to your brand and to your needs, it’s a fantastic space.”

McCabe admitted she wants to look at subscription audio offerings, however it just hasn’t quite made it to the top of her to-do list yet.

“I know there are models in this country, and I think Acast does it, where you can get the ad version, a bit like Spotify, or you get the ad-free version for members, and obviously that would be a logical thing for me to start to do. It is just not getting to the top of the list at the moment, but I do think there’s a lot of value in doing [it] ad free, because that’s a really good experience for the audience… and we should be doing both,” she said.

Advertising and marketing expert Russel Howcroft, himself now employed by Nine Radio on Melbourne’s 3AW Breakfast show, said while he hopes the future of audio isn’t niche, brands should be backing the medium long term.

“Brands should remember that the programming they attach themselves, or podcasting in this case, that they attach themselves to, they’re attaching themselves to it because the audience has great interest in the content of the podcast. They’ve got a far greater interest in that than they do in the advertising. So pick the content that you can piggyback on, and as a result of piggybacking, you get the halo effect of the [quality] of that content. And then also, be in it for the long haul as an advertiser. So back the content in because you believe that the content is going to be attractive to the audience that [you want to attract],” he said.

McCabe backed this sentiment, noting too many brands jump and change wanting instant results.

She also warned as the industry grows further, it’s going to be harder and harder to keep up.

“Be prepared for lots of change,” she said. “It’s a very fast-moving market and what looked good yesterday won’t look good next week.”

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