Paid podcasts: The slow crawl towards a new revenue model

Former Editor & Content Director

The next 12 months will see more podcast publishers and distribution platforms experiment with different revenue models, but it will still be some time before subscriptions or user-payment models are the norm.

This is according to a group of industry experts who gathered on Monday at Podcast Day 24 to discuss the future of podcasting in Australia, noting that even with a die-hard fan base, it will be difficult to get the same amount of revenue from consumers as from advertisers.

Acast’s content director across Australia and New Zealand, Guy Scott-Wilson, said the local market’s innovations and experimentation in the next couple of years will be underscored by podcasters looking to diversify their revenue streams beyond just advertising.

“There’s a lot of people talking about it, and it’s really really exciting,” he said, noting announcements from Acast as well as Apple and Spotify in this arena. “We’re passionate about helping podcasters to understand that monetisation doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all solution and they can do it on their own terms based on what their audience expect and what works for their brand.

“So certainly I think diversifying revenue streams is something that’s going to be hard to avoid over the next 12 months.”

Sharon Taylor, the managing director of Omny Studio, agreed that the industry is moving in that general direction, but it is still in the very early stages of development.

“I do agree that we’re moving towards a world where people will be willing to pay for podcasts and bonus content and things like that, but I think we are only just at the early, early days of that… I think it’s going to be a long time coming,” Taylor said as part of the Podcast 24 Day panel.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of experimentation this year. What Apple’s doing with channels is going to be really interesting, and I wouldn’t be shocked if in the next 12 months you end up having to pay Apple to even be able to access podcasts… And what that does to the ecosystem in the next 12 or 24 months is going to be really interesting.”

ARN’s head of digital audio, Corey Layton, agreed that Australia’s size – often good for publishers being nimble, adaptable and fast-acting – could act as a barrier to scaling subscription models.

“I think subscription is going to take a long time,” he said. “It’s quite different in Australia in terms of our population size in being able to turn a meaningful dollar around subscriptions [so it’s] going to be difficult, even if you have a die-hard fan base. I just think it’s going to take time.”

Despite the consensus being it’s still some way off, there have been a number of initiatives launched in recent months.

Acast has Acast+ which provides local podcasters without their own paywall strategy or technology to tap into the opportunities, including offering paying subscribers ad-free streams, exclusive content, early access and more.

Apple also got in on the grind, revealing a podcast subscription product. Similar to Acast+, the paid product will offer consumers ad-free listening, access to additional content, and early or exclusive access to new series.

The new offering is billed as a “global marketplace for listeners to discover premium subscriptions offered by their favourite creators”.

And women’s publisher Mamamia – which has recently boasted about its extraordinary podcast growth and engagement – launched a paid audio offering.

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