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The digital media boom that companies are betting billions on

Podcasting is a growing, billion-dollar industry – and it’s here to stay – says business columnist Marcellus Williams. 

Illustration by Jabari Courtney 

One thing is clear in today’s ever-evolving media landscape, the rise of podcasting is more than a trend. It is a revolution that has impacted how we connect with the world around us. 

During the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic, American podcast consumption shot up 18 percent, according to strategy and research company Pinkston. Around this time, we witnessed the world’s leading audio-streaming companies like iHeartMedia, Amazon and SiriusXM invest into the research and development of their own podcasting ventures.

Each executed major acquisitions in hopes to cash in on the growing consumer base. According to the U.S. Podcast Advertising Revenue Study, podcast advertising spend is projected to more than double by 2025, reaching up to $4 billion. 

This new revenue opportunity is the driving force behind the continued investment into our favorite podcasts. Spotify, for example, has been able to purchase the rights to a few of the biggest podcasts in the world, such as “The Joe Rogan Experience,” “anything goes with emma chamberlain” and “Call Her Daddy,” which is part of their $1 billion dollar plan to become a dominating power in podcasting.

As different mediums of broadcasting continue to fluctuate in popularity, companies such as Apple, Amazon and Spotify have found themselves realigning their business strategies to place more emphasis on the podcast industry as a whole. 

According to a study from Sounds Profitable, reports show that podcast advertising has now become more effective than both TV and radio advertising, with survey respondents claiming they would be more inclined to purchase a product when advertised through a podcast rather than TV or radio.

Over the years, podcasting has become more than a simple audio log we put on while doing a mindless task. It’s now a multimedia form of art we use to influence knowledge, impact culture and stimulate discourse.

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The growth of podcasting has caught the attention of more than just audio companies. Talent agencies have found themselves signing popular podcast hosts in hopes to further connect their stories to audiences as well as help them expand to different forms of media. Ocean Latimer, an agent trainee at United Talent Agency (UTA) and Howard University alumnus, shared how UTA is keeping up.

UTA is a leading talent agency that represents influential individuals across all industries, serving as a pipeline between their clients and opportunities across entertainment, media and business. UTA assists their clients with branding, contract negotiation, project management and overall exposure. 

“We have our IQ department, which is centered around monitoring data and trends not only in podcasting, but in all facets in entertainment,” Latimer said. “It allows our agents to seize opportunities and stay ahead of the curve in the ever changing ecosystem of podcasting.”

UTA has done its due diligence in growing the podcasting industry. They serviced their wildly popular podcast client Alex Cooper, by negotiating a contract with her show “Call Her Daddy” to Spotify for $60 million in 2021, which previously aired on Barstool Sports.

Agent trainee and Howard University alumnus Desmond Braxton spoke to some of the driving forces behind the growth of podcasting.

“I think that it’s a great medium for storytelling,” he said. “There’s definitely a large demand for people that want to hear stories they can relate to, and modern day podcasting is a fresh and exciting medium to get those messages across. People that learn better through listening.”

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Podcasts have also served as a safe space for underrepresented individuals to share their voices and perspectives.

According to the Black Podcast Listener Report released from Edison Research, 43 percent of the U.S. Black population are monthly podcast listeners, compared to 37 percent in 2022. Popular Black-hosted podcasts include “Silence is Not an Option,” hosted by Don Lemon, and “Therapy for Black Girls,” hosted by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford.

As more Black hosts enter the podcast space, historically underserved Black listeners have had the opportunity to connect with content to which they can relate. 

Howard plays an essential role in sharing Black stories through podcasting

The “HU2U” podcast, produced by Howard’s School of Communication, “illuminates experiences that help tell the University’s story,” its website says. Along with shows being produced through Howard University, students have created their own spaces to connect with the Howard community and beyond.

Nigel Hodge, a senior broadcast journalism major at Howard from Charlotte, North Carolina, shared the ideation and significance behind his Spotify podcast, “Not Too Much.”

“I share self growth tips, how to be confident in their body and exude it in different ways, content creation advice and more,” Hodge said. “There are a plethora of things people can learn from listening to my podcast…I think podcasts are a pioneer of sharing underrepresented voices.” 

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Jacob Duncan, a junior nutritional science minor from New York, and a seasoned podcast listener, shared what he believes makes a quality podcast.

“I prefer informational podcasts. I enjoy multiple hosts as well… When there’s one individual sharing information while the other hosts stimulate the discussion it helps me as a listener digest the conversation,” Duncan said. “Also, a good joke once in a while never hurts.”

Copy edited by Jasper Smith

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