How Wondery is changing the future of podcasting

Wondery’s first original podcast, Found, is a fascinating exploration of the mysteries behind the seemingly everyday notes you often find on the ground. Hear these stories of love, loss, transformation and more and see copies of the notes featured in the podcast. Listen and subscribe to it here!

In the world of audio entertainment, most content is made for live consumption. Until now, broadcasting dominated the audio market, and on-demand audio represented a smaller sector.

Of the $26 billion audio market in the United States, most revenue comes from commercial and satellite radio advertising. Driven by a sudden rise in podcasting (30 percent in 2015 alone), the on-demand audio sector is next to grow. As podcasting draws larger audiences, increased content, advertising, and streaming platforms will follow.

Paving The Way

The on-demand television revolution paved the way for audio to enter the on-demand entertainment market. The decline of linear television broadcasting started with TEVO appearing in the TV ecosystem years ago.

For the first time, consumers could watch shows on their own time, not when programmed. This shift changed various elements of television production, and on-demand programming shaped how shows are consumed, monetized, created, and produced.

As audio grows in the on-demand space, the style and scope of consumption is also projected to change. Like television, as the market changes, new content will arise for on-demand versus live consumption. Podcasting is currently the major player in this expanding space. As podcasts like This American Life and Serial generate widespread cultural interest, more people are tuning in.

The podcast market is roughly 57 million Americans. According to one study, 21 percent of Americans ages 12 and up listened to a podcast in the past month. This is up from 17 percent in 2015. Since 2013, monthly podcast listenership increased by 75 percent.

Growing Pains

Yet as podcasting’s popularity continues to soar, podcasters are in need of support in growing their audience and generating revenue.

One study said 75 percent of podcasters expressed dissatisfaction with their ability to gain new listenership. This could be due to social media not extending to audio forms beyond music, and a broken audio discovery.

For example, Product Hunt has a curated list of podcast episodes aimed at developers and other creators, yet a consolidated platform for other market segments does not exist. In order for podcasters to connect with and grow audiences this is essential.

Another struggle that 70 percent of podcasters listed is their ability to generate revenue from their work. When blogs became popular, tools like AdSense supported bloggers with advertisements on their website appealing to their audience.

Podcasting does not yet have a strong equivalent. In order for independent podcasters to continue creating content, they must have an easy revenue source for their continued efforts.

Market Monetization

Hernan Lopez, CEO and founder of new audio platform Wondery, recognized now is the time for on-demand audio consumption. Lopez says in many markets, monetization takes a while to catch up with current consumption rates.

He believes with the sudden rise in podcasting, the audio space is no exception. Here he saw an opportunity to enter the audio industry as a well-funded and organized player.

There is no lack of podcast listening platforms. The mobile-friendly apps Overcast and Castro are leading companies offering streaming services. Yet beyond listening capabilities, these platforms do not address the major concerns with podcasting’s future.

The opportunity still exists for a scalable platform that helps podcasters grow listenership, connects brands to consumers, fosters social media sharing, and offers discovery capabilities.

Businesses and brands are starting to realize the money-making opportunities in audio content. With the exception of hit shows, most independent podcasters still struggle to connect with audiences and advertisers alike.

Wondery will utilize ART19’s distribution and discovery services to address these monetization challenges.

ART19’s listening metrics and technology will enable Wondery to measure listenership and target advertisements. This data helps advance the discovery, social sharing, and marketing of podcasts. By helping advertisers, podcasters, and audiences connect, podcasts will likely become more profitable, searchable, and shared.

From CEO To Startup

Lopez comes from the world of television. He spent 18 years at FOX International Channels, with the last five as CEO. At FOX, Lopez saw how on-demand consumption changed the television ecosystem.

He realized the opportunity to impact the non-music audio space in a similar way. He said audio and television are both about creating content consumers spend time with. They engage for either emotional connection, entertainment, or to learn something.

“I knew I wanted to start a company that could grow from the early stage into something big,” said Lopez.

“My best chance of doing that was to do something that hadn’t been done before, as opposed to trying to enter a bigger market and compete against other companies. I prefer to enter with more space in the market.”

Once the connection happens with an audience, Lopez said the next step is to monetize it. Like Spotify, Wondery operates under a dual-revenue model. Profit comes from advertisers on the platform and consumers upgrading to a paid subscription.

Lopez said the biggest difference in running his own business is how he spends his time.

“Everybody tells you that starting a business is more difficult than running an established business and it’s true. It’s difficult in many ways, but it’s more rewarding in many ways because you spend more time creating value than protecting value which is something you have to do in an established company.”

The Theatre Of The Mind

Wondery also plans to roll out two original shows this summer, one of them being a radio drama set to air late summer. Lopez wants to focus on this genre of podcasting, known as the “theatre of the mind.” Like the podcast show Limetown, this audio style has an engaged market, yet has not reached widespread popularity in the U.S.

When radio became all-new, all-talk, and all-music, radio drama became discoverable only on the Internet. Yet back when radio was the main medium for home entertainment, radio drama provided hours of entertainment for audiences. Producers such as Orson Welles and Norman Corwin became known for their style of sound artistry.

Lopez is a fan of radio drama, and plans to bring this style of audio art to the Wondery platform of original content.

Differentiation In Audio

Beyond creating original content, Wondery differentiates itself from other podcasting platforms in various ways. Currently no other streaming app connects advertisers, consumers, and content in one space. By doing this, Wondery brings together industry issues like audio discovery, hosting, and funding.

This could be the thing podcasting needs in its next stage. By merging all the players in this market, Wondery aims to tackle listenership and revenue issues that threaten the growing industry. This is important, as on-demand audio content grows and commands more of the global audio market.

The Wondery Launch Team

Wondery’s founding team spans all sectors of media. Lopez says with five team members in Los Angeles and one in New York, they have the ideal launch team. He explains the group as a mix of left and right-brained individuals with commercial, creative, and technical drive.

As Wondery prepares for launch, its focus is on securing advertisers and creating original content. Lopez hopes to both create a media platform audiences associate with quality content, and produce a popular radio drama for the U.S. market. He said if he achieves either of these two things with success, he will be satisfied.

Wondery’s first original podcast, Found, is a fascinating exploration of the mysteries behind the seemingly everyday notes you often find on the ground. Hear these stories of love, loss, transformation and more and see copies of the notes featured in the podcast. Listen and subscribe to it here!

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