The rumblings have started through the podcast world, and the big players haven’t said (or written) anything about anything yet, but I’m sure there’s been all kinds of back end, off line chatter for months now. And, two days ago, Google announced that content creators of podcasts can get their shows listed in the Google Play Store.

There are several significant issues with podcasting, which have been addressed by writers here, here and here. The Google announcement (you can check out the link to the announcement page here and the interview they did with Libsyn (a podcast distribution company) here) while great in the light of Google discontinuing Google Listen in 2012, doesn’t answer how this new venture is going to significantly impact podcast content creators positively in two areas where they struggle:

Getting accurate audience analytics

and

Developing a strong marketing and branding process.

Let’s all be clear for those of you who consume, but don’t create, audio content:

Itunes and Apple doesn’t care about audio content (i.e. podcasters don’t get accurate download information and analytics on listeners (i.e. who’s listening when and through what device)) because Itunes and Apple don’t make any money off of downloads of podcasts.

Yet, Itunes is where most podcasts (even The Earbud_U Podcast) are located. Apple has ruled the roost for 10 years during this era of podcast creators struggling with inaccurate distribution metrics and having podcasters beg listeners to give review of podcasts in Itunes to demonstrate they are listening. And all this was happening while Google was busy developing life sciences projects and tanking Google+. This phenomenon of inaccurate analytic data also haunts how podcasters monetize what is still an expensive process for many content creators to start, while showing little traction (even less than starting a blog in some cases) early on in the production process. This combination of inaccurate analytics, the struggle to get traction and the lack of support from the larget distribution platform on the planet, leads many podcasts to be abandoned by frustrated creators.

Thus, the question: Is having a podcast in the Google Play Store going to improve the tracking and analysis of downloads and listeners for the benefit of podcast creators, in a way that Apple has caved on providing or developing?

In other words, by submitting to Google Play Store and Google Play Music, are podcast producers going to have access to the entire suite of Google products to track and monetize their downloads, i.e. have access to Analytics, Search, Google Ads (which Google promises not to put on top of creator owned content, or insert into content mid-show) and even Google My Business?

This leads to the second concern that wasn’t addressed in the interview that Google did with Libsyn: Branding for podcasting is all about getting the right audio content, at the right moment in front of the right listeners. This leads directly into the vagaries and complications of getting discovered through Google search, which to Apple’s credit, they have largely left up to the content creator to manage and struggle with. Most branding and marketing for podcast content is a shot in the dark, leaving many podcasters thinking that the best way to market is as an “always on, always downloadable” piece of content; and then, to go off and make content in other areas, bringing those audiences over to the podcast from platforms that have nothing to do with podcasting. A lot of these decisions are based on how Google manipulates its search algorithm in relation to podcast content in particular and audio content in general. There’s no “You Tube” for audio content.

The question then is: If a large podcast creator whose content already generates 10 million downloads a month (i.e. Serial, This American Life, The Adam Carolla Podcast, The Jay Mohr Podcast, The Marc Maron Podcast and on and on) is going to be ranked at the top of a Google search in Google Play Music (where they dominate without being listed in Google Play Music currently) how does that impact who gets listed highly in the Google Play Music library for listeners?

And then, what is going to happen to the searchability of the content of the mid-range folks (people like Arel Moody and The Art of the Charm Podcast–among others) who already are struggling to market themselves and rank as highly as the big players?

And then, where do smaller podcasters (like The Earbud_U Podcast, The Launch to Greatness podcast, Grammar Girls, and others) whose content doesn’t rank highly in their own niches (or who are having to partner with other podcasters to form networks (like The Rainmaker Platform, Relay.FM and others), because audio content consumption hasn’t happened yet at mass in their niches?

Google moving into the space of promoting podcasts in their store is interesting to me as a podcast creator, in the same way that IHeart Radio partnering with podcasters and Spotify also partnering is interesting to me. None of these moves take away the core responsibilities of the content creators, which is to create an engaging, interesting and motivating platform and then to create audio content on top of it.

In the future, as more and more marketers, organizations and brands discover the power of the spoken word, I predict a time when all of the branded, walled garden, distribution players (don’t be surprised if in three years Facebook announces it will launch a search service for podcasts) will seek to bend the arc of engaging content creation (and content creators) in their direction. This might be good for the field of podcasting (which is still niche at around 200,000 podcasts compared to 1.5 million blogs) but the audiences are growing, slowly, niche by niche.

And don’t worry. I already got Earbud_U approved to be in the Google Play Store, and I’ll let you know when it goes live.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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