Popular online magazine Slate is mixing things up. While many major media outlets have “pivoted to video” as a means of conveying information in the digital era, Slate is doubling down on audio work.
Though it may seem a bit counter intuitive at first glance, the move makes a lot of sense. Slate benefited from 100 million podcast downloads across its entire podcast network last year. What’s more: downloads are said to be up 42 percent.
The move reflects a big shift happening more broadly in online entertainment and news media. A 2017 study showed a 73 percent jump in podcast-based ad revenue, and the industry has only continued to grow.
While publishers like Slate are committing more resources to podcasting, other companies rely entirely on the medium, and it’s been working well for them so far. For example, New York-based company Gimlet Media raised $20 million in investment, and did so by pitching a business model centered entirely on podcast production. Other companies like Art19 and HowStuffWorks are garnering multimillion-dollar investments. It seems as though everyone is trying to get in on the action.
With the rise of voice-enabled smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo, some business experts believe that this is just the beginning. Proponents of podcasting also argue that audio is more accessible than video. Audiences can listen while they’re driving, working, or doing chores, but it’s harder to watch video while multitasking.
In addition, awareness around podcasts has grown quickly, and it still hasn’t peaked. Two years ago, only about 48 percent of Americans were familiar with the term “podcasting.” Now that number has reached 60 percent. The data is compelling, which is exactly why companies are chasing the trend.
In this context, Slate’s new focus on audio rather than video makes a lot of sense. However, only time can tell whether this investment strategy will pay off in the long run.