What does the next decade of podcasting look like?

Ten years ago, Apple dropped the first batch of 3,000 podcasts into the iTunes store. In honor of this anniversary, they’re celebrating #10YearsOfPodcasts.

In the past decade, podcasting has transformed from an obscure medium for hyper-tech insiders into a media format that even your grandma can tune in to. They’ve come a long way, but podcasts have even further to go. What’s in store for the next decade of podcasting and radio? Read our 10 predictions for the next 10 years of podcasting.

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1. Listening is not limited to show-level subscriptions

Many podcast apps (including Apple’s Podcast app) make users subscribe to whole shows rather than letting them pick episodes à la carte. In the next 10 years (or sooner, we hope), it will become easier to listen to audio stories like we read articles: here and there, without an ongoing commitment.

2. Listening is connected across devices

From phones to cars to watches, people will have ample technology for listening to podcasts. In particular, the rise of cars with “smart dashboards” means that people will increasingly tune into podcasts as easily as they once turned on the radio.

3. Online discussions about podcasts go viral, regularly

When the first season of Serial aired, conspiracy theories abounded around the real life murder of Hae Min Lee. (Fans active on the Serial podcast subreddit are still compiling evidence.) As more online centers for podcast-specific discussion crop up (check out The Timbre or Spoken.am), podcast fandom can only grow.

4. Metadata about podcasts is consistent and structured

Ten years into podcasting, apps still rely primarily on RSS feeds to describe them. But RSS feeds are often unwieldy, disconnected from podcasts’ web presences and the people involved in them. Soon this data will be aggregated (for example, see people data and web profiles from Audiosear.ch), so it will be easier to find information about the people and things mentioned in podcasts, around the Internet.

5. Listeners support shows through new membership models

Though the large majority of podcasts are still generously free to download, podcast networks like Slate and Gimlet are experimenting with payment models where listeners pay up to tune in. If podcasting is going to be a financially sustainable industry, people will pay for (at least some) audio stories.

6. Audio recommendation is smart and personalized, even at the episode level

Related podcast episodes on Audiosear.ch

Just like we see recommended links at the bottom of articles we read, and recommended videos on YouTube, reliable podcast episode recommendations will mean you’ll never be at a loss for what to listen to.

7. Celebrities turn to podcasting to make their voices heard

The trend of the celebrity podcaster is already underway, with Hollywood stars like Alec Baldwin and Kevin Smith picking up the mic. In the same way that celebrities have turned to Twitter to communicate personally with their audiences, it’s only a matter of time before stars like Taylor Swift and Kanye West recognize the potential of podcasting to voice their unfiltered points of view.

8. Podcasts seduce big-name advertisers

In the past year, more and more advertisers have taken notice of podcasts. The intimacy of the medium, and the tradition of host-read ads makes podcasting especially value to advertisers looking to connect with audiences. Big brands like Ford are partnering with podcasts like Gimlet’s StartUp.

9. Audio stories are searchable

If the ubiquity of closed captioning for online video is any indication, we can expect that automatic speech recognition will extend further and further into the podcast world. The Pop Up Archive team has made strides toward this vision with Audiosear.ch, our podcast API and search engine.

10. Developers hack podcast projects

The technology around podcasting is ripe for innovation. Hackathon events for audio storytelling, like This American Life’s upcoming Audio Hackathon, reflect a consensus that quality audio deserves quality technology. Apply for the hackathon and join us for a weekend of audio technology scheming!

What do you think about our predictions for the next 10 years of podcasting? If you’ve got something to add, tweet at us!