Shared from the 10/12/2020 Financial Review eEdition

Locked-down listeners turn up the dial on podcast hours

Australians have doubled their time listening to podcasts this year, with lockdown woes, social media fatigue and a surge in new quality content driving increased demand.

New Spotify data compiled for The Australian Financial Review also revealed that Australia is in the top 10 podcast-listening countries out of the 92 markets that the Stockholm-based audio streaming company operates in.

Listeners have flocked to comedy, culture and news series especially and have put five local podcasts at the top of their playlist. They are News Corp’s daily news digest From The Newsroom; The Quicky News Update from women’s news and lifestyle website Mamamia; The Squiz Today, which is a daily news update targeted at women started by former Woolworths corporate affairs guru Claire Kimball; Schwartz Media’s daily highbrow news breakdown 7:00 AM; and The Betoota Advocate, which is from the satirical newspaper of the same name.

Year on year, the biggest change to the top podcast category so far is news and politics, which has moved from being outside of the top 10 to third place as COVID-19 worries have upended the 2020 plans of many and the United States heads into a decisive election.

Taking a leaf out of the well-worn ‘‘glocalisation’’ content model book, where global companies increase the chances of local success and acceptance by adopting the tone and style of different regional cultures, Spotify is doubling its local production of original podcasts in 2021.

Spotify content partnerships manager for Australia and New Zealand, Prithi Dey, says the $US47.8 billion ($66 billion), Nasdaq-listed technology giant wants to unearth local voices who will resonate with Australian listeners.

‘‘It’s about working with content partners and creators that tell a real, true Australian story that Australians want to hear in an Australian tone of voice. When we look for content creators, we look at it through the lens of ‘is it a good idea?’, ‘does it address a content gap?’, and ‘who is the audience?’,’’ Ms Dey said.

For podcasters themselves, competition is fierce and growing by the day.

Spotify has more than 1.5 million podcasts on the platform, up from 450,000 one year ago.

Ms Dey, who has been at Spotify for just over a year and is the first person with a specialist Spotify podcast commercial role in the region, sees this year’s doubling of listening hours as a ‘‘big leap’’ for the medium. ‘‘I think it really speaks to the format, and how easy it is to consume. It’s like your friend in your ear – you can listen to podcasts anywhere, when you’re walking, driving, commuting or cooking,’’ Ms Dey said.

Spotify’s podcasting push also involves having its engineers work on how to make new podcasts easier for people to find on the app. In terms of music, the company has proven itself the master at this.

But while finding new commercial radio stations involves a simple twirl of a dial in the car, podcasts have traditionally relied more on good oldfashioned word-of-mouth style marketing in order to find new audiences.

To try to change this, Spotify launched the ‘‘Your Daily Drive’’ playlist in Australia at the start of 2019, which mixes podcast clips with a listener’s own existing music library.

For Spotify, 90 per cent of the company’s revenue comes from premium subscription fees, and 10 per cent from advertising. But like Apple, access to all of its podcast content is free.

In Australia, brands such as Steggles, McDonald’s, eBay and Mondelez (makers of Toblerone and Cadbury Dairy Milk) have run Spotify ad campaigns this year. ‘‘Streaming audio is the fastest-growing, most innovative space in media today. And if brands aren’t really thinking about that in terms of being in it, I think it’s something they need to think about,’’ Ms Dey said. ‘‘Maybe just like digital video, it took a while for ad dollars to follow consumption.’’

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