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Web Summit 2020 Talk: Stitcher CEO - All Things Podcasts

 In the afternoon of Web Summit day 2, the CEO of Sticher, Erik Diehn, sat down with Wall Street Journal’s Anna Steele to discuss all things ‘Podcasts.'

Talking about the next generation of talk radio the CEO discussed how podcasts had become a choice medium in the same way that people choose to watch the content they like on Youtube. He even went on to use the same idiom that many use to describe the eternal watching of videos - when listeners begin listening to one podcasts, they often find themselves down a podcast rabbit hole as they continue to find even more enjoyable content. Even during the pandemic, people were finding the time to enjoy their favourite shows even if they could no longer listen to them on their morning commute!

The ways in which listeners can access podcasts is also evolving. More platforms such as Spotify, for example, are distributing the audio to an audience that may not have been involved in the niche group that were the original fans of podcasts. Distributing on platforms which reach a wider audience in turn engage with a more varied possibility of content creators. The audio landscape, in some ways, becomes its own type of “rabbit hole." On the same platform listeners and viewers can access videos and audio, they are listening to podcasts, watching videos and subscribing t channels and it creates a range that wasn’t there in the beginning. Diehn emphasized that the money that Sticher has accumulated in worth (a staggering £300 million and counting) is all thanks to the listeners. 

The real surge in podcast popularity correlates with the use of the iPhone (majorly connected around 2013 - 2015 according to Diehn). In the same example as the distribution platforms; Apple incorporated a free podcast app in its iOS format. The more people buying iPhones, the more people were listening to podcasts (this is how I personally listen to them!); in simple terms the wave in consumers meant there was a stronger demand for content. 

Growing the concept of podcasts was not always easy. It even got to the point where the creators were debating calling it podcast - they thought it might have been too strange, especially combined with this strange world that they had discovered in the topics of podcasts. One of my favourite podcasts, ‘Serial’ was actually discussed and described as the culmination of all the trends. Essentially, the platforms where people were able to access podcasts met the niche topics that podcasts contained enabled a true crime series to peak as a podcast series in 2014. 

Diehn did touch on the pros and cons that result due to a growing popularity. Alongside new listeners, the feel of a tight knit nature of the community inevitably dwindles. Whilst more money can be generated via advertising companies and shareholders wanting to be involved, this can sometimes create more restricted guidelines because of what is and what is not allowed to be said on certain platforms. However a “commercial element has to take place to allow that talent to continue to make these great shows."

The most important part of Stitcher is the listeners - as proven during the 2020 Pandemic, arguably more than ever - “if the listeners are there, revenue will be there” - and if revenue is there, the grounds are created to produce and distribute great content. 

So if you fancy listening to a true crime story or hearing your favourite celebrity interview other famous people I’d recommend a look at Stitcher! 

Ellie Bancroft

Ellie is a recent BA English Literature graduate and aspiring publisher with a passion for writing. Her favourite pastimes include reading and shopping. 

Web Summit 2020 Talk: Stitcher CEO - All Things Podcasts Reviewed by Ellie Bancroft on Friday, December 04, 2020 Rating: 5

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