What Does the Future of Podcasting Look Like?

What does the future hold for podcasting? We asked this question to Jordan Harbinger, broadcaster and Co-Founder of the Art of Charm podcast and the Art of Charm Academy.

When asked this question, and whether or not podcasting is having its moment (as the media suggests), Harbinger argues that there’s actually never been a lull in podcasting to begin with. Harbinger would know: deemed the “Charlie Rose of podcasting” by Inc. Magazine, he’s been a podcast host for more than a decade.

“Right now, there’s a spotlight shining on podcasting. But the number of people listening to, consuming and creating shows has been increasing, but it’s also always been an upward trend,” explains Harbinger. “There’s only been a lull in media coverage, until now.”

Harbinger expects podcasts to achieve greater usage in the coming months and years. From 2015 to 2016, podcast listenership grew by 23 percent in the US (1). Even so, right now, less than one in four people listen to podcasts on a monthly basis and only 13 percent of people listen to podcasts on a weekly basis (1). For podcast creators and regular listeners, these figures might sound surprisingly low, but statistics such as these simply show the potential for growth, says Harbinger.

“The Future is Pretty Bright”

Some question how much digital audio will grow, but smartphones and other platforms will only make it easier to distribute, access and consume audio on-demand. These changes will help push these usage numbers even higher for years to come.

“The future is pretty bright because of the amount of people that still don’t know about podcasts or still do not listen to them—and because of the market potential, combined with the technology catching up to make it easy for everybody to consume the media.”

More Personalization…Everywhere

We already have podcasts on-demand, but imagine even greater choice and personalization when it comes to what you are listening to, no matter where you are. It might be in the car, in the kitchen, or at work, and the experience will be entirely seamless and totally customizable to what people want to listen to at any given moment, Harbinger predicts. “It’s a inevitable that every car will have this ability. Many new models have 4G/LTE connections and they’ve got apps—including podcast apps—built into the car, and the mobile companies are just itching to create contracts with automotive companies and manufacturers to create [these experiences] for their consumers.” Connected cars haven’t completely taken root yet, but it’s getting there.

Harbinger further believes that “no young person is going to take their local FM station that plays the same song eight thousand times, with eight thousand commercials, over a podcast that’s run by somebody they’re interested in,” he says. “Even if it’s just a music show, or a morning variety show, celebrities, comedy, or whatever they are interested in.”

That inevitability is part of why brands are taking notice of podcasts as a medium for content creation. “With this major, market expansion, you’re going to see brands coming into the podcasting space.” Time will tell if they can deliver the kind of content that can cultivate a long-term, loyal listener base but the opportunity is there.

Listener Retention Will Be About Quality

And that’s not just the future for brands in the space, says Harbinger. It’s no surprise that the podcasts that will be able to “win”—or those that will still be around in the next few years—are the ones that will be able to consistently cultivate compelling content to keep listeners coming back.

Whether it’s a brand or an independent show, having the ability to offer a differentiated, engaging and thought provoking show will help creators and hosts compete for listeners’ time. “These are people that listen to your voice for an hour or more every single week for most shows. That’s an investment from these people,” says Harbinger. “These are people that will spend time with your show, so you really need to focus on the level of quality, and I think that’s where most people go wrong.”

Although digital audio will be more accessible and there will be greater choice in the ecosystem, quality will still be paramount. “The higher quality shows are going to be the ones that last. What [many people are doing] right now, is they’re doing the same cookie cutter show, and that is the trend that I see dying.”

It will still be a union of art and science, but listeners will always crave stories that evoke emotions. “If your audience sticks with you and you’re sticking with it, you’ll end up where we are now: we created content consistently for six years, created a loyal audience of ten or twenty thousand…and then we exploded in popularity. Now, we’ve been doing this for 10 years, and the Art of Charm podcast has a monthly audience of 2.2 million,” shares Harbinger. “It’s about getting better at [storytelling and podcasting], treating it like a business, and then maybe having it take off.”

Where do you think podcasting is headed? Let us know on Twitter @ringr_us.


  1. http://www.edisonresearch.com/the-infinite-dial-2016/

About Jordan Harbinger

Art of Charm podcast host Jordan Harbinger (@TheArtofCharm) has always had an affinity for social influence, interpersonal dynamics, and social engineering, helping private companies test the security of their communications systems and working with law enforcement agencies before he was even old enough to drive. Forbes named him one of the 50 best relationship-builders anywhere and Inc. Magazine calls him “the Charlie Rose of Podcasting.”
Harbinger has spent several years abroad in Europe and the developing world, including South America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, and speaks five languages. He has also worked for various governments and NGOs overseas, traveled through war zones, and been kidnapped — twice. The only reason he’s still alive and kicking is because of his ability to talk his way into (and out of) just about any type of situation. At The Art of Charm, Harbinger shares that experience, and the system borne as a result, with students and clients.

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