There’s some big news this week in the podcast world: podcasts are coming to Pandora.
You’re probably familiar with Pandora, a music streaming and recommendation platform founded in 2000. The site’s recommendation mechanism – called the Music Genome Project – recommends songs with similar traits to listeners based on their preferences. Pandora has over 70 million unique active users per month, making it one of the largest audio platforms in the United States. In January, Pandora’s new President indicated that they were going to get into the podcast space, and November 13th marked their first big move: the launch of a public beta called the Podcast Genome Project.
The beta version of the new Podcast Genome Project was made available November 13th to about 1% of users on Pandora’s mobile app. Much like Pandora’s original Music Genome Project (which is what made it such an innovative platform to begin with), the Podcast Genome Project will combine algorithms and human curation to analyze, sort, and recommend podcasts to users based on their interests. The project will reportedly draw on over 1,500 attributes to build a picture of users’ preferences and make top-notch recommendations.
This all sounds pretty exciting – but what does it mean for the more than 500,000 podcasts out there? And if you’re one of our podcasters, what does it mean for you and your show specifically?
What’s this mean for podcasting as a medium?
Firstly, podcasts will now be available on a platform with 70 million unique active users per month – a huge user base which might include a lot of folks that haven’t yet gotten into podcasts. That’s a whole lot of people who might start listening and great news for the medium as a whole. Pandora’s CEO Robert Lynch noted that although “it might feel like podcasts are ubiquitous,” 83% of Americans aren’t weekly podcast listeners just yet – “and a majority of them report that’s simply because they don’t know where to start.” Pandora wants to help these listeners solve that problem – which could be a boon for podcasters, too.
In addition, this new iteration of Pandora’s Genome Project could boost the discoverability of podcasts, which can sometimes be lacking (for instance, in light of the recent changes to the search function of Apple Podcasts). If the podcast version of Pandora’s famous recommendation technology works as well as its musical counterpart does, it will become much easier for listeners to find shows, individual episodes, and eventually even individual episode segments that align with their interests. This could have huge benefits for helping smaller and independent podcasts get discovered as they are linked algorithmically with similar, potentially bigger, shows.
When will I start seeing podcasts in Pandora?
The beta version of the Podcast Genome Project, which is currently only available to 1% of Pandora users, began November 13th 2018 and is set to close in December of this year. That means that in December the beta will then open to the public, and everyone will be able to see podcasts in the app.
Which podcasts are on Pandora already? Does Pandora make podcasts?
Pandora announced a list of launch partners including APM, the BBC, Gimlet, HeadGum, Maximum Fun, NPR, Parcast, PRX+PRI, reVolver, Rooster Teeth, Slate, The New York Times, The Ramsey Network, The Ringer, WNYC Studios, Wondery, and Libsyn, and the well-established shows Questlove Supreme, This American Life, and Serial. There are more than 400 podcasts available in this first wave, and more on the way.
Seeing as Questlove Supreme is an original Pandora podcast offering, it wouldn’t be surprising if Pandora starts to develop more in-house shows, much like Spotify has done as it has pushed more strongly into the podcast market over the past year.
Should I submit my podcast to Pandora?
If you’re a podcaster, having your show on Pandora is a good idea for several reasons. For those people that love Pandora but don’t yet listen to podcasts, this development will allow them to use their favorite app to find and listen to them, rather than having to jump over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher, or some other app in order to find you. Having your podcast in as many places as possible is always a good idea! Eventually, if the algorithms and curation that will link different shows together work well, you could experience a boost in listenership as people discover your podcast through recommendations.
However, you can’t submit your show to Pandora just yet – but it may be right around the corner.
When and how can I submit my podcast to Pandora?
The main message is: sit tight. While the initial 400+ podcasts available on Pandora are already locked in, it won’t be long before new shows are added.
If you’re hosted by Libsyn – and if you’re a client of ours, you are! – then you’ve already got one foot in the door. Libsyn is one of Pandora’s launching partners and reaches its own network of about 90 million unique audience members. This means that a whole bunch of Libsyn-hosted shows are part of the 400+ podcasts available on the beta version of Pandora’s podcast feature, and more are on the way. In anticipation of podcasts coming to Pandora, Libsyn has built a special Pandora destination into your regular Libsyn dashboard that will become available once podcasts on Pandora open to the general public for listening and submission. You’ll be able to submit your podcast to Pandora from the destination dashboard; control the number and timing of the episodes you release to Pandora; and track how many downloads you get from Pandora.
According to the special announcement made by Libsyn’s Rob Walch on The Feed podcast, podcasters hosted by Libsyn should email him at firstname.lastname@example.org if they want to be submitted to Pandora when it opens. (Note: the newest episode of The Feed, which features the special announcement about Libsyn’s new partnership with Pandora, isn’t available on the desktop site yet, but can be listened to via their app, The Feed.)
For everyone else, Pandora will eventually make a public link available for podcasters who use other hosting platforms to submit their shows.
What does this mean for advertisements and the overall monetization of podcasts?
According to Nick Quah of Hot Pod, Pandora is still developing its marketing tools, which will likely be rolled out in 2019. He describes a tool being built by Pandora that could remove mid-roll advertisements from episodes and swap them out with Pandora’s advertising – whatever it turns out to be – for those podcast publishers who have advertising deals with Pandora. Otherwise, your mid-roll ads would be preserved. This approach could be really interesting but is currently just an idea, and Pandora is apparently in discussions with a number of podcasting production companies to figure out how best to integrate advertising and potential marketing partnerships into their offering. Podcasts don’t currently make as much on advertising as other content mediums, and there needs to be a widening of the demographic that listens to them. If Pandora can bring their innovative track record to bear on the production, recommendation, and advertising of podcasts, it might increase their profitability, too.
However, podcasts aren’t all about profitability, at least not from advertising; your podcast can be an excellent marketing tool if you’re a small business owner, influencer, or other entrepreneur that uses a podcast to drive listeners to check out your services. Even if you’re not baking ads into your podcasts, this Pandora news can be great for you, too.
Podcasting is maturing as a medium, and this seems like a great step forward. We’re hopeful that this means podcasts will reach even more ears, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on these developments. How about you? Are you excited about this news? Have questions? Let us know!
Michaela Herrmann is a freelance writer, podcast editor/producer, and member of the Digital Freedom Productions editing team. She currently lives in London.