American podcast giants move into UK as demand grows for audio

IN my last blog post for WTM London, I highlighted podcasts as being one of the main topics of conversation at the Traverse content creator conference in Italy.


(SEO, affiliates and IG Stories were the other big topics).


Figures discussed at the conference suggest that podcasts are now booming in the UK, with nearly 6m people tuning in every week, according to Ofcom.


And this week comes news that two of America’s biggest podcast players, Wondery and Sticher, are joining forces to open a UK office.


Wondery is the largest independent podcast publisher in the world, while Sticher has the largest network of podcasts. The two remain separate entities but are targeting the UK with a joint podcast platform, Podfront, aimed at the growing podcast market.


The UK is still a relatively small market: the number of people listening to podcasts every week has doubled in five years, from 3.2m in 2013 to 5.9m last year.


The increase is across all ages, but the most growth is among young adults aged 15-24, the group most likely to accept advertising as a pay-off for receiving free, regular, quality content on a range of subjects, including travel.


Podfront is a library of 300 podcasts produced by the two companies, who plan to hire eight people in London to sell advertising and then produce more local content.


The joint venture is led by former AudioBoom executive Ruth Fitzsimons, who told Digiday in an interview: “The [podcast] industry is starting to professionalize, this is being approached from a global media perspective. We want to be part of the industry internationally. The UK has reached the tipping point where it’s worth investing in an office and building out a team to grow the footprint.”


The UK rates third for listening across Sticher’s network. But while the audience is established and growing, the provision of content is fragmented with numerous platforms: two independent producers were at Traverse – Susan Schwartz @LushLifepodcast for beginners and Palle Bo @TheRadioVagabond for a more advanced class.


“Podcasting takes a lot of time,” warned Susan, who hires a producer to edit and publish her podcasts. She advised using a spreadsheet to organize and structure a publishing schedule, usually a 30-minute podcast every week.


Sticher and Wondery will clearly be aiming to grab a slice of the £10m currently spent on UK podcast advertising (compared with £383 in America) – while looking to work with the 75% of UK advertisers who are looking to increase their podcast budgets this year.


So while you thought you’d mastered the major social media channels in Snapchat, IG, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, along steams podcasts to demand your attention….

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