December 5, 2019

Is 2020 the year of podcast apps?

Indeed, and after having worked with Castro, Supercast, or Waking Up, we do know how to build great ones.

Clarisa Guerra

Clarisa Guerra

Lead Marketing at Z1

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Is 2020 the year of podcast apps?

A new golden age for podcasting is coming soon, according to some industry gurus, and backed up by the huge growth in podcasters and listeners.

The word podcast is firmly back in fashion. A lot has happened since 2005 when the Cambridge Dictionary named it the word of the year and the big opportunity now relies in a near-future where monetization (that BIG challenge) is possible thanks to a paradigm shift where podcasts adopt the successful subscriptions and freemium model.

We have to admit we love the world of podcasting. It’s very close to our lifestyle here at Z1. When we think about podcasts, we think about culture, design, philosophy, technology or work-family balance, and we are huge fans of all of those things. Who isn’t, right? But we do mean it! That’s why we were super excited to get the chance to work on projects like Supercast, Castro, and Waking Up. We have also enjoyed working with Storytelling with data, which has a podcast among the different products they offer to their community.

Two views of the Supercast mobile interface designed by Z1.

Actually, you can listen to us on the Storytelling with Data one talking about how to think like a designer; and on The Remote Show reflecting about creating solid relationships for global clients or the importance of company culture in a semi-distributed team.

We enjoy working with disruptive businesses and innovative people. And the folks of the podcasting certainly have those qualities. They are either helping others to boost and broadcast powerful and inspiring content or spreading it themselves. We help with all the digital layers of their content and products.

Double up interface.

For instance, we partnered with the team at DoubleUp to build Supercast — a product that makes it easy for podcasters to monetize directly from their audience. We also worked with DoubleUp to design their agency website.

For Castro, one of the smartest and most powerful podcast players for iPhone that exist on the market according to MacWorld and PCMag, we gave their marketing website a whole new look and style. We designed several illustrations and a new set of intuitive icons that helps the user understand all the features the product has to offer.

Three views of the Castro mobile interface designed by Z1.

What can podcasting apps offer to really make a difference?

As podcast culture grows, the surrounding community also evolves. Bypassing difficulties like the time investment involved in creating good content regularly, creators can now create more high-quality podcasts, faster. At least technically. They can make crystal clear productions in an affordable way as cheaper and high-quality hardware keeps on coming. On the other hand, listeners increasingly have more apps and platforms to listen to and support their favorite podcasts.

According to The Podcast Ecosystem in 2019 Analysis, users seldom feel passionate — either positively or negatively — about the podcast app they’re using.

But, are podcasting listening apps making an impact? According to The Podcast Ecosystem in 2019 Analysis by Andrew Chen (well worth a read), not really so far: “Users seldom feel passionate — either positively or negatively — about the podcast app they’re using."

Z1 team podcasting

This suggests that the audio content itself is the core element users are engaging with, and since the content is the same on all apps, users don’t feel a particular affinity to anyone listening app.

This analysis also highlights two important things:

  1. “For some users, the app is a basic, functional listening app, as compared to other media apps and products, with rudimentary categorization and discovery features”.
  2. Creators are missing out on native monetization capabilities, in-depth analytics features or demographic information for listeners, to name a few. Things that Supercast, for example, has been exploring and implementing on its product.
Supercast dashboard.

Craving more and better features

You can be listening to podcasts while doing other things. This has traditionally been seen as an advantage for this kind of content over other media content. However, the act of listening also implies limitations that need to be overcome. The app that first overcomes these limitations will win a great competitive advantage and probably a tasty part of the podcasting revenue’s cake.

We have had the chance to talk with creators, listeners, designers, and engineers about this topic. Here you are some future trends around podcasting apps that might be interesting to keep an eye on:

  • Improve how users can select and share a specific clip of the audio content.
  • Let users leave comments over a time-mark on the podcast timeline with audio or text; comments that podcasters could answer on the go.
  • Let users pin, favorite and highlight moments on the timeline.
  • Develop a way to take advantage of live streaming podcasts, fostering interaction between podcasters and listeners.

As we have seen, there are already digital products moving in this direction. However, the truth is that there is still a lot to think about and do in this field. What other features do you think would make podcasts even better? And who wants to join us to design and implement them? ☝️

🎁 By the way, here you are some of the Z1 team’s top 5 favorite podcasts in Spanish:

  1. Aquí hay dragones.
  2. Programar es una mierda
  4. Cualquier tiempo pasado fue anterior
  5. La tecnologería

… and in English:

  1. Techmeme Ride Home
  2. The Indie Hackers Podcast
  3. The Knowledge Project
  4. Broken Record
  5. Making Sense