THE MEDIA MONITOR 2020 SERIES. A series of posts released in January 2020 on what will keep the European media-makers busy for the rest of the year. Companies to watch, drivers and dynamics, key numbers. Not 100% of what is under the sun, but enough to let you think 🤔 and act 💪.
🎙️ For a long time, I used to underestimate podcasting. We live in times of content overabundance and limited attention span. I wondered how podcasts could compete to attract and retain attention better than other formats, especially those visual formats pushed and promoted by social platforms, like stories.
I was wrong 😔. Full stop. I was wrong, not only about the numbers but also about the quality. As in any content realm with a low barrier to entry, there is a longtail that will not make any impact, but along with the 99% irrelevant stuff, you find also a surprisingly high number of highly valuable narratives on almost any topics.
I found myself stuck in listening 40-minutes ⏱️ long podcasts. And since I am not an early adopter of anything (by nature and by choice), that means something: podcasting is ready to be one of the elevators of the attention economy.
The numbers. A snapshot.
A prudent estimate says that around the world, there will be 800 Million podcasts, with almost the same number of regular listeners.
Only in the US, 90 million people are regular listeners, and the 💰 podcast advertising market will reach 500 Mio USD in 2020.
💰 Globally, the market size is going to reach 1 Billion USD, according to the Forrester 2020 predictions.
Every week, nine to ten million in Germany, seven to eight Million in the UK download podcasts. Want bigger numbers? Watch China, where 425 million people are listener, or South Korea, where 53% of the population knows and consumes podcasts.
The most cited and prominent news podcast (in the western world), the Daily by The New York Times, reaches every day more than two million people.
READ ALSO THIS 👉. Want to see the most recent data and analysis from 2019? Not yet familiar with podcasting? I have put together a good collection of essentials and deep dives under 2019 THE STATE OF PODCASTING.
But there is something more than numbers.
What we are going to experience in the next couple of years is the development of an audio-centric ecosystem, where smart speakers, aggregators and tech vendors will contribute to taking podcasting beyond being a tool for a Millennial niche.
Podcasting is becoming at the same time mainstream and suitable for all types of interest niches, with many use cases and genres that we cannot imagine yet.
If many analysts focus their 2020 predictions on the battle between Spotify and Apple to be the first podcasting platform of the western world (and according to Morgan Stanley, Spotify has already surpassed Apple), I invite you to look beyond this competition.
The one player that will take podcasting to be more than “just” podcasting is Google.
In August 2019, Google released its podcast search and discover functionality, elevating podcasting to a pillar of searchable media formats, together with images, videos, text news. See: GOOGLE BLOG – PRESS, PLAY, FIND PODCASTS.
In November 2019, Google introduced the Your News Update feature in the USA. The feature works by getting atomised versions of podcasting news and offer them to users as a first news briefing via the Google Assistant. You can then ask what to get next, expressing interest for one or more topics or other selection criteria. The system gets back to you with a dynamic selection. It transforms podcasting into an interactive experience, with playlists you can create and listen on the fly for almost any topics: news, education, storytelling. See GOOGLE BLOG – YOUR NEWS UPDATE.
2020 will be a rollout year for searchability, discoverability and interactivity. And a consolidation year for aggregation, monetisation and production technology.
And it will be a year of podcasting going beyond the English language. If all of that works, we are at the dawn of a new form of the web: audio will be as much important as text and visuals, everywhere.
A CLOSER LOOK AT EUROPE´S NEW PLATFORMS: THERE IS LIFE BEYOND SPOTIFY.
CATEGORY: Podcast super aggregator. MONETISATION: Freemium. COUNTRY: France
In France, Majelan aims to be the leading app for French-speaking listeners. Available in French and English on iOS and Android, it launched in June 2019. The rollout plan is to launch in 50 countries by the next couple of years, with an international library of hundred thousand podcasts, made available in 15 languages.
The platform comes as a free app with aggregated podcasts, and as a premium app, Majelan+, available as subscription-based, cancel-anytime service with a monthly fee of €4.99.
Rather than trying to be a niche service, Majelan aspires to appeal to a wide range of audiences. Even more, and based on the model that the Chinese platform Ximalaya established successfully, Majelan claims to have a broader audio strategy, to include in the future anything ready to listen, not only podcasts.
In tech terms, it is an RSS feed aggregator player: you can even paste a podcast URL in the app to add any podcast you want. And that raises a commercial issue that also Luminary had at launch.
The platform initially encountered some challenges, with some of the 13 million episodes it collated not wishing to appear on the platform. Even if RSS feeds are open by definition, and include RSS feeds in your player is legal, to do that is morally questionable. That is why podcast creators, both indies and media companies, want that aggregators like Majelan adopt an opt-in process, rather an opt-out. Many of them did not want to be included in Majelan.
In terms of UX, Majelan has something interesting to offer: an editorially-driven home page, with manually created playlists for specific subjects or inspired by moods (à la Spotify).
The real value generation of the app, until the premium subscription takes off, is the accumulation of behavioural data, that Majelan plans to give back to podcasters. That could pave the way for a non-subscription type of revenues, such as paid placement of podcasts within playlists. This revenue stream does not conflict with the declared business model. However, it is still ambiguous in the way some content creators could find themselves being part of the same listening experience with brands they do not have (or might not want to have) a direct relationship with.
There is optimism about the ability of Majelan to sort out these issues, the proof of that is the new series A funding round of December 2019, when the startup collected 6 million EUR, bringing the total amount of funding to 10 million EUR.
CATEGORY: Editorially led aggregator (100% podcast by contract). MONETISATION: At launch 100% free, by 2020 subscription. COUNTRY: France.
Launched in May 2019, Sybel is the creation of Virginie Maire and Matthieu Viala, both experienced media professionals and successful founders of startups (*). The app has celebrated in January 2020 the one million active listeners, and the recognition by Google play as the best new app launched in 2019 🥇. In December 2019, users had listened to 7 million podcasts on the platforms.
(*) With Makever, a leading French TV production group, and FinderStudios, the second biggest multi-channel network in France, they already have two successful eight-digit exits under their belts.
The platform cannot be more different than its direct competitor Majelan. It does not ingest automatically existing podcast RSS feeds but makes agreements with creators one by one 🤝. The result is a high-quality selection of content, with a rich lineup that reveals a family-oriented strategy. Many podcasts are for children (300 hours and growing) and the UX itself is crafted to create safe space that kids themselves can access (in 2019, 15.000 children users).
The interface is elegantly designed and fits 100% the mantra of the “joy to use” goal of mobile UX. We love it 🤟🏼. Many media in France call Sybel the “Netflix of Podcasts”. Sure it is the commitment to explore more genres – comedy, drama, thriller, meditation, education, inspirational – and to commission originals (20% of the total programming) to keep the level of the podcast portfolio unique in the French panorama. Worth to mention the Behind the Wall series, dedicated to the 30 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Sybel is managed by a Team of 25, growing, and plans to expand to other markets – most probably the first being Germany – in 2020. The first funding round amounts at 5 Million EUR, but the quality of the product and the well thought positioning would deserve more fuel to propel rapid growth across EU markets. The user base is mostly millennial, but the potential to reach a wider public is high.
The app comes 100% free at the moment. Still, it aims at introducing a 100% subscription-based model, once the user base is consolidated and habits developed.
« L’audio est une expérience plutôt intime. On ne voulait pas la polluer avec de la publicité et c’est pour cette raison qu’on propose un abonnement. Mais on a fait en sorte de proposer un prix plutôt bas pour éviter de créer une barrière à l’entrée. » – Virginie Maire, fondatrice de Sybel
CATEGORY: Super aggregator. MONETISATION: Freemium COUNTRY: Denmark, Germany. ACTIVE LISTENERS AS OF JANUARY 2020: n/a.
Podimo is a Danish start-up (funded with 6 Mio EUR) that aims to provide a ‘superior experience’ in discovery and recommendation compared to the existing podcast streaming and download services. The initial offer provides exclusive and ad-free content for 39 Danish Krone in Denmark and 4,99 EUR in Germany, with publishers getting between 20 and 50% of revenue depending on the level of exclusivity.
As Majelan in France, the launch of Podimo in Germany in November 2019 made the start-up get under scrutiny, due to the questionable practice to integrate open standard podcasts, including the ones available under a Creative-Commons-Non-Commercial-Lizenz (CC-NC), and lock them in a commercial platform. Despite the harsh confrontation with the German podcaster scene, Podimo considers the entry in the German market already successful and the first step to establish a European leadership.
The advantage of being a super aggregator with international ambitions is the ample choice of podcasts from different countries you have in the premium app, especially from journalistic titles. That includes some of the most prominent titles, like the Daily (NYT), 1619 (NYT), or Today, Explained (Vox Media), and The Intelligence (The Economist).
The big commercial media step into the German arena: RTL and PRO7S1.
RTL GROUP: is live in Germany with AUDIO NOW . PRO7SAT1: should launch its platform by mid 2020.
RTL Radio Germany launched its central Audio platform in March 2019, under the brand “Audio Now”.
Users have access to a large selection of podcasts and audio series 100% free of charge. The lineup includes audio series from German radio stations such as Antenne Bayern, the podcasts from Spiegel Online, the productions by Auf die Ohr GmbH and “The Daily” from the New York Times. Besides, new audio series from Stern and Brigitte.de have been available since the start, which can be heard exclusively at Audio Now as part of the Bertelsmann Content Alliance. Other originals include “Die Diagnose – der Stern Podcast”, where doctors become detectives and track down the most puzzling cases of illness among their patients.
The Audio Now sections “Up to 30 minutes” and “Up to 60 minutes” aim to help you quickly find the best content for the currently available time budget – on the way to work or in the evening before going to sleep. A personal area lists recommendations and makes it possible to discover new formats based on interests.
In spring 2020, P7S1 plans to launch its platform for audio-on-demand content. The proposition should be based on the availability of the best TV authors to create exclusive audio blockbusters. As in the case of JOYN, also for the new audio app, there will be a freemium model.
P7S1 has been talking with a network of artists, authors and producers, as well as exclusive media partners to develop a robust in-house podcast pipeline. From the start of the offer, 15 to 20 in-house productions should be available.
The German Podigee is not a newcomer. They started as a podcast hosting service already in 2013. Now the company serves some of the biggest publishers and media groups in Germany and is expanding. The solution offered is end-to-end from transcoding and optimisation to podcast cross-platform delivery and analytics. The podcast hosting is a crowded segment, with several local champions like the Italian Spreaker, acquired by Voxnest (from New York City, the world capital of podcasting) in 2018. Consolidation across Europe will be inevitable and will work well if not creating a two-class system of Enterprise hosting for big business and low end hosting for indies since the line between the two is – luckily enough for podcasters – not so straight. You never know where the next podcast phenomenon could come from. And good hosting is a crucial pillar of a thriving ecosystem.
CATEGORY: Audio AdTech COUNTRY: France FOUNDED: 2018
Audion is an ad-tech start-up specialist in digital audio & podcasting monetization.
The company was created in January 2018 and offers advertisers a technological solution to embed dynamic advertising in real-time in the audio content.
The ad is automatically adapted to the geographic context (localization, weather conditions) and the podcast’s content to guarantee smooth non-intrusive advertisement that respects the user experience. The solution allows the publisher to monetize all podcasts across any distribution platforms. Audi.on works fully automated and includes personalization (DCO) and campaign analytics.
Among the clients are several media companies, agencies and publishers in France. The company has raised end 2019 1.1. Million EUR seed funds from Founders Future, Kima Ventures and a pool of business angels, to scale the business abroad. The first market outside France where the company has already entered is Germany.