Last week I had the privilege of speaking at my high school alma mater’s Career Day about being a podcast coach and content creator.
It was an opportunity to teach students that now more than ever, they can start their own businesses with the tools on the phone in the pocket (or for some, on in their hands at that very moment).
But it was also a learning opportunity for me. I’ve been listening to podcasts essentially since some of these students were in diapers (or even before they were born). I’ve been podcasting since they were my oldest daughter’s age.
So I have some preconceived notions of what podcasts are and how people consumed them. While this was not a scientific study (I spoke to maybe 60-70 students throughout the day), it was eye opening.
Here are the informal stats:
- Every student I spoke to has a smart phone — specifically an iPhone. Most have an SE, 12, or 13 model.
- Every student who listened to podcasts (probably around half) used Spotify. One mentioned also using YouTube.
- Outside of the Joe Rogan Experience, none could actually name shows…just topics and episodes they liked.
- When I asked what advertisers they remember most, Hello Fresh came up the most.
- When I asked them what social network they used most, TikTok was the easy winner, followed by Instagram.
- When I asked them if they were nervous that TikTok might be banned, it was probably 30% yes and 70% no. They’d just move to Instagram.
- Finally, when I asked if they watched terrestrial TV (that is, non-streaming), only a few people answers yes, and almost exclusively for sports.
Point #3 was an especially interesting one to me because it means they don’t actually seek podcasts…they seek topics. And they let Spotify recommend episodes to them based on the topics.
This makes Spotify’s new vertical experience seem more obvious now. With traditional podcast apps like Overcast, where you curate your own experience (like RSS readers). Spotify, and very soon, YouTube, has a recommendation engine in place that the younger generation is leveraging.
They’re not looking for content. Just like all of the other apps they’re used to using, they let the content come to them.
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What Does This Mean for Podcasters?
You should take this with a grain of salt since my sample size is more anecdotal than statistical, but given Spotify seems to be leaning into a trend that aligns with my observations, I’ve been thinking about how this affects the podcaster’s approach to content creation.
First, episode titles and descriptions have become a lot more important. I’ve been preaching better titles for a long time, but they’re likely a crucial part to how Spotify recommends content to prospective listeners.
Second, your hook needs to be a lot better. Grabbing a listeners attention in the first 60 seconds has always been important, but now, since Gen-Z listeners will be able to swipe away with the same amount of ease as on TikTok, you really want to make sure you’re grabbing that attention and holding it tight.
For my part, I’ve been talking about how important the pre-roll CTA is. I’m currently working through if that might actually be a detriment on Spotify. It seems like they’re trying to smartly pick an interesting part of the episode to preview, but it’s still worth considering as platforms evolve.
Finally, artwork may become more important. Using the Spotify interface, you’re given a 60 second preview, with artwork. If you’re not already, I recommend you start doing custom artwork for each episode. I know I will.
The biggest takeaway is that after years of being pretty much the same, the way we discover and listen to podcasts is changing in a significant way — perhaps the most significant change in podcasting since the internet-connected mp3 player.
As podcasters, we definitely need to keep an eye on the trends and habits of the next generation of listeners…they already look much, much different from the first generation.