Are You Listening?

Audio is having a moment. In fact, the audiobook and podcasting market are expanding faster than the overall media and entertainment market according to a 2020 report from Deloitte. They estimated that the global audiobook market will grow by 25% and the global podcasting market will increase by 30%, surpassing $1 billion US for the first time. The prediction was made before anyone was really talking about social audio, which has become so buzzworthy that Facebook and Twitter are developing their own versions to compete with Clubhouse and Discord.

Audiobooks are not new, but they have become more sophisticated. Once the province of authors and voice artists, audiobooks are now being narrated by A-list talent who discovered that it was something they could do from home during the Covid lockdown. The audio experience is now immersive, enhanced by well produced soundscapes to bring stories to life. Our client Podium Audio, one of the leading independent audio first publishers, saw retail revenue of $50 million in 2020 and was early to bring on celebrity voices.

Another MPRM client, REALM, formerly Serial Box, rebranded as part of an expansion beyond its roots as a destination for immersive audio fiction into a globally distributed podcast network for the world’s most engaged fans. Exclusively focused on fiction, Realm entered the podcast arena with a strong track record of creating and producing compelling original series; soon after entering the podcast arena, multiple Realm titles landed in the top 30 on Apple Podcasts, including Orphan Black: The Next Chapter written by Malka Older and starring Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, Perry Mason), which debuted at #1 on the fiction charts within days of launching.

Media companies and streaming audio platforms have placed a major bet on podcasting with Wondery and Gimlet, acquired by Amazon and Spotify. Yet independent podcasting continues to flourish as we’ve witnessed in the success of another MPRM client, Multitude, which has built a successful business creating communities around its conversational-style collective of podcasts. One of the reasons for the investment is the belief that podcasting will serve as a development platform for potential film and television properties.

The power of audio as a storytelling medium is nothing new. The broadcast of Orson Welles’ The War of the Worlds in 1938 on Halloween caused a panic as some listeners believed there was an actual Martian invasion taking place. A more recent source for great audio storytelling, NPR has provided a training ground for producers who have now gone into podcasting, with many of their shows also now available as podcasts.

What is relatively new is an increasingly competitive landscape. As Spotify, Amazon and now Apple compete for ears, podcasters are finding themselves in the same predicament as filmmakers and television producers who have found distribution yet still need to stand out in a crowd to ensure their show gets noticed. It’s a challenge we know well, having successfully translated our experience with independent filmmakers and television production companies to next generation audio media companies. Competition is the price of success.

Here’s a random sampling of what the MPRM team is listening to:

Work in Progress with Sophia Bush

The Daily

Fresh Air

Morbid, A True Crime Podcast

Marc Maron’s WTF podcast

You Must Remember This

Pure Cinema Podcast

The Dollop

Song Exploder!

The Read

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