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It seems like everyone's buzzwords this year were “the new normal”, “unprecedented times”, and “we’re in this together”! While those phrases may be true, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all ready for the old normal - which we will hopefully get closer to in 2021. This year has greatly affected how people consume media - the time of day, the content, and even the type of media. It has been another strong year for podcasts, with current numbers from Podtrac reflecting a 27% increase in downloads YOY. While no one could have predicted what 2020 would bring, Code3 is making audio predictions for the first half of 2021. PODCASTS WILL BE USED FOR EVENT COVERAGE According to Spotify, news and politics podcasts grew by 140% this year, which supports the fact that more people are turning to podcasts as a trusted source of information. For the first time this year, we saw podcasts “go live” to cover the election, with The Daily live streaming for 4 hours. While live podcasts may or may not continue, we do expect to see podcasts covering big events. Since many big-crowd events like concerts, conventions, and sports games are still not allowing audience members to attend in person, many people are missing those experiences. Podcast hosts are able to connect with celebrities, athletes, and subject matter experts in a variety of fields, and bring that content to their listeners. Many people trust their favorite hosts to cover these events and bring them the highlights, which will likely continue into next year. The Platform War Will Add New Competition Spotify has made major moves this year to position itself as a leader in the podcast space, with new acquisitions, ad opportunities, and exclusive contracts. While Apple’s market share is declining - this might be the time they do something about it. Wondery is up for sale and Apple has been one of the interested parties - unfortunately for them, so is Amazon. Amazon has been quietly but steadily positioning themselves in the space, adding podcasts to Amazon Music in September. Now that podcasts are available on their platform, Amazon Music becomes the default if you want to listen to a podcast on your Amazon smart speaker. Amazon also announced in October that their app Audible now has over 100k free podcasts as well. We expect to see major moves in 2021 from the top players in the industry through acquisitions, exclusive content, and publishers trying to assert themselves in the space. Diversity Matters More Than Ever In 2021, we can confidently predict that brands will continue to embrace diverse voices. This year put a spotlight on social and racial injustices that have been happening in our country for years. People have high expectations for brands to take a stand and publicly support these causes. According to a study by Pandora, 53% of people are more likely to buy from a brand that aligns with their social and political beliefs. We have already seen several publishers promote and develop content to highlight Black creators, like The Black Effect network from iHeart (which is already sold out through 2021!). Moving forward, it will be crucial for brands to continue to support diversity and inclusion in order to stay relevant and gain consumer support. The Growth of Voice and Interactive Audio Ads The adoption of smart speakers continues to grow in the US, especially with more people at home full time. We predicted that the back half of 2020 would see wider brand adoption of voice ads, but it looks like it will take a little longer for this to become mainstream. With long lead times and higher price points, brands have been slower to commit to smart speaker ads, but this technology has come a long way in a year. The ability to have a consumer use a voice command to interact with a brand by adding something to their shopping cart or to learn more about a product is definitely appealing to advertisers. As the kinks continue to be worked out, this could be a powerful advertising opportunity for brands looking to stand out in the first half of 2021. first half of 2021 In addition to smart speakers, interactive audio ads are also continuing to be developed. Spotify has the ability to insert “In-App Offers”, where an ad will pop up, listeners can click on it, and it takes them directly to the brand’s site with the promo code already entered. This is a game-changer for podcasts, and other companies will be quick to follow in their footsteps. The challenge with podcast advertising is that the listeners are often doing something else while listening and have to remember what they heard from an ad and find their way to the site later. With a visible advertisement to see and click on, this could greatly improve engagement from Podcast ads and provide tangible results without relying on a 3P tracking partner. We are excited to see what happens with podcasts during the first half of 2021 and beyond - we expect continued growth of listenership, new company acquisitions, exciting content, and new ad opportunities. To learn more about podcast and audio ad opportunities, please contact Katie Kelly at


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