The Podcast Show 2024

The Podcast Show 2024

The 2024 edition of The Podcast Show in London has just wrapped up, and I thought it was worth jotting down some thoughts, some things I learned, and some themes that seemed prevalent this year. I should add the proviso that there were lots of sessions taking place at any given time – perhaps 8-10 choices at key parts of the day, and I’ve only seen a fraction of them.

Some people use a trade show like this as a meeting opportunity, scheduling in practically back-to-back meetings with clients or potential clients throughout the day. Then there is the “catching up” with friends and colleagues aspect to a show like this. If you’ve worked in the industry for a while, then you’re sure to bump into lots of people you know. And that was certainly the case for me. And beyond that there are the sessions, and then the unofficial spin-off events often taking place in pubs and restaurants nearby.

Once again The Podcast Show was held in the Business Design Centre in Islington. This is a lovely venue, but by last year, I feared that the show had outgrown the venue. There were queues around the venue that made it hard to even move around some areas, regardless of which session you were trying to get into. And on the first morning last year, there was an enormous queue just to scan your barcode and get in.

I’ve got to say that the organisers seem to have solved many of those problems. Podnews reporting that Festival Director Jason Carter told them that 10,000 people were in attendance over the two days, but it didn’t really feel overly busy. Perhaps for a couple of the really popular sessions (which I avoided) that might not have been the case. I also made sure to collect my badge a day before the event, but talking to colleagues, the queue of last year hadn’t re-appeared and getting into the venue was straightforward.

The Business Design Centre has a central mezzanine area where most of the trade stands can be found, and lots of big familiar brands were present. From Spotify to BBC Sounds, and from Dolby to Shure, there were a multitude of stands. Not every major brand had a visible presence. Acast were there in the force, and sponsored the official after-show drinks at The Acast Arms, but they didn’t have a stand. And Amazon didn’t have one this year, having had a big presence last year. Some companies like Sony Music and Global had private areas upstairs around the balcony where they could hold meetings and entertain invited clients to private drinks receptions.

There are three large “theatres” inside the venue, with several smaller rooms and a few larger spaces in the open on the show floor. For those, headphones were supplied to combat the noise from the rest of the show.

My show on Tuesday had begun with some drinks with Podnews in a nearby pub in their rooftop bar, while torrential rain fell around us. On Wednesday morning I was up early for some breakfast with Sounds Profitable before the festival proper opened with a short keynote from Podnews’ James Cridland who wasn’t shy in sharing his thoughts!

In terms of sessions, my general view is that I want to avoid those “sponsored” events where speakers and guests from a single company basically just tell everyone how brilliant they are. That can particularly be a trap when there are famous faces in attendance. The big guest on the first day was James Corden who was speaking about his SiriusXM podcast. The curious thing with that particular booking is that while Corden is massively popular in the UK (he recently announced that he and Ruth Jones would be creating a final Gavin & Stacey Christmas special for the end of this year which will undoubtedly be the biggest or close to the biggest TV event of the year), his podcast is, as far as I know, available exclusively to SiriusXM subscribers. And SiriusXM is a US-only offering.

When I saw the booking, I assumed it meant that someone in the UK had bought the rights to the show, but I’ve not read anything to suggest that really is the case. Perhaps SiriusXM was basically letting the trade know it was available (presumably behind a paywall of some description), but this was a curious booking. Here’s a session with someone whose podcast you can’t hear. Enjoy!

I spent much of the first morning going to a few sessions where podcast statistics were shared. James Cridland shared some global data about podcast consumption during his talk, which is really useful. However the key proviso with reading too much into this is that the sample data comes from a podcast prefix analytics service called OP3. Like other analytics platforms, it’s an opt-in methodology and as such, as Cridland does point out, it leans heavily towards independent titles rather than those from any of the big producers (or platforms). That may skew the sample somewhat since those bigger producers, if they use any kind of prefix analytics, are probably using a different service. Spotify owns a couple of major providers in this space.

Tom Webster of Sounds Profitable shared some of the recent findings that his company had looked at recently. While this wasn’t new research, it was probably new to many in the audience and plenty of people (like me) were taking photos of some of the charts.

In particular he had some interesting thoughts on YouTube and particularly YouTube Premium subscribers and their acceptance of what are essentially host-read ads on the platform. In essence, YouTube Premium subscribers hate ads to such an extent that they pay for an ad-free YouTube, yet they like the host read ads they still see quite a lot! He also referenced an upcoming study that Sounds Profitable will be releasing soon.

I had planned to catch a session on video but ended up seeing some useful stats that Magellan AI, the podcast analytics company had captured on the volume of advertising and the type of advertising that they were seeing in podcasts. In short, ad-loads are going up, and of the markets they measured, the biggest loads are to be found in the US where they’re reaching around 9% of a podcast’s content. (To put that in perspective, commercial radio loads in the US might be 25%-30% in any given hour)

A couple of former colleagues from my Virgin/Absolute Radio days – Adrian Hieatt and Gareth Evans – were among those presenting a session on TfL’s Mind The Gap podcast. But the session really did serve as very helpful for any brand or company that is trying to produce a podcast. As with all of these things, you have to start with the listener. One helpful point was that interviewing the most senior people in the company is almost certainly not going to cut it!

Gabriel Soto, senior director of research at Edison Research was back at The Podcast Show to talk through some of their findings from their Edison Podcast Metrics UK. For example, the above slide shows how in the UK we listen to podcasts much more while walking or taking public transport.

He also shared that 67% of UK weekly podcast listeners ever listen to/watch podcasts with a video component. This goes up to 79% of US weekly podcast listeners. He also dug into Gen Z (i.e. 15-24) listening patterns.

I also thought that this was a useful look at the kind of demographics that Edison captures on podcasts that they measure (assuming that they have a large enough sample size).

It was good to catch up with Gabriel having first met him last year at this conference, and previously meeting several other colleagues of his from Edison.

As I mentioned above, I didn’t go to too many sessions featuring famous folk, even though there were a few around. I confess I didn’t always recognise everyone who was being hassled for selfies. But I did spot the winner of The Traitors and wondered if he was launching a podcast! I think he was actually on a panel about the show’s sister podcast.

I did go along to listen to Dino Sofos of Persphonica who was particularly highlighting his company’s Political Currency podcast with Ed Balls and George Osborne (If reports are to be believed, it was creating this podcast that was the reason that Global dispensed with his services on The News Agents. This was not referenced on stage!). Amusingly Balls told us that his co-host Osborne was certain that the General Election was going to be in the second week of November.

Five hours later, everyone’s phones started pinging with the breaking news that the election would actually be happening on 4th July.

Sofos also showed off Miss Me, the fairly new (and popular) podcast with Lily Allen and Miquita Oliver they make for the BBC. Video is clearly a really important element of that podcast.

Indeed, if there was a single theme at this conference, it was video. I didn’t bother joining the throngs who were going to the big YouTube session, but it’s a critical part of podcasting these days – for better or worse. I will return to YouTube and podcasts in a separate blog post.

Much of my afternoon was spent in meetings, dipping into sessions and speaking to a variety of folk. I learnt about a very fancy (and not cheap) portable ambisonic recorder. I discussed issues surrounding Spotify’s “hiatus” in being IAB certified for their podcasts and what it might mean longer term (no real conclusion I’m afraid). And much more…

Wednesday morning began early again for me with a visit to the BBC Sounds stage to hear some colleagues use industry research and some BBC-specific research on podcasts.

What I liked about the session was that this was useful information that could be used by any podcaster as you can see from the bullets above. I confess that I was slightly sad to learn that many 15-24s won’t give a podcast a listen unless they already know the presenter. Compare and contrast to earlier days in podcasting where you almost certainly didn’t already know the presenter.

A session on translation was interesting as it’s something that does come up with my work. Obviously AI is something that is being employed more and more in this although in this session the speakers all agreed that you needed a human translator to at least look over the results.

Given the amount that AI is currently in the news, with companies racing to include it in hardware and software, AI didn’t seem to be quite as big a subject at this show compared with last year. I’m not saying that it wasn’t a point of discussion – how could it not be in the week that Scarlett Johansson seemed to threaten legal action against OpenAI for them allegedly employing a voice actor to perhaps mimic Johansson’s AI character in the film Her.

But what I do sense is that although there are plenty of ways of automating the production of podcasts with AI, from improving the audio as Adobe does, through to podcast transcriptions from the likes of Descript or OtterAI, the dispiriting end of the market where a podcast can be practically auto-generated, seems to be a lesser threat. Why would anyone listen to an auto-generated AI news headlines podcast when the real thing exists, and is certainly better?

That said, a lot of people are clearly using AI to help them write – be it show notes or even scripts. A show of hands at the start of one session made that clear. Whether than leads to a certain level of blandness in copy I couldn’t say. If every podcast starts, “Hey guys…” then I’ll know we’ve reached end times.

The other “celebrity” session I attended was Nihal Arthanayake of Five Live interviewing Cush Jumbo to promote her forthcoming podcast, Origins. And while I’m not sure the world is exactly short of famous-people-interviewing-other-famous-people podcasts, Jumbo is very engaging. Indeed it was on the basis of seeing her interviewed previously that made me attend the session (and I did love The Good Fight which she was in for several seasons). Nihal and Cush are friends and it showed on stage with a diverting 30 minutes that was if nothing else, a nice way to break up the conference. The Sony Music crew were in plentiful attendance, and it’s perhaps no coincidence that Jumbo is also friends with David Tennant. Their Donmar production of Macbeth is transferring to the West End this autumn and they also appeared together in Deadwater Fell. Tennant previously had a podcast with Sony Music (or at least Somethin’ Else as it was at the time), so I’d guess that’s how the link was made.

Much of the conference dealt with the UK or the US, so it was good to go to an African podcasting session and learn more about the landscape there. Data costs can be an enormous barrier across the African continent although they seem less so in Nigeria compared to other countries, even big markets like Kenya and South Africa.

There’s a lot of exciting creativity coming from Africa, but the monetisation just isn’t there yet which is a major challenge.

Another session was about the differences between the US and UK markets, and it continues to be the case that a lot of people in the UK look enviously towards the massive amounts of money that can seem to be floating around in the US. That’s despite the fact that 2023 in particular saw a lot of job cuts across both big and small players in the market.

When I heard a speaker mention that production costs are cheaper in the UK than the US, I did raise an eyebrow. I know that this is a real issue that many freelancers in the sector continue to fight against. In all forms of media, it’s very easy to find new people to come in at the bottom and do things for very little money as a way to get a “foot in the door.” But that leads to all kinds of challenges with the barriers to entry and who is represented.

When I look at the shortfall in attracting some demographics – notably young women and those from less urban environments – it’s probably useful if the podcast sector is able to support the kind of people that reflect those audiences. Being paid peanuts for jobs that require you to live in expensive cities like London is definitely exclusionary.

That said, podcasting does allow more remote operating than many other parts of the media. Dino Sofos from Persephonica spoke about how his company had moved to Sheffield, and others I met at the conference had come from all across Britain to be there. Unlike TV or radio, that’s a real possibility – you just need good internet connectivity after all.

Overall, a very successful conference, and a decent range of speakers. Some sessions were a little repetitive and while I know sponsors expect to get a big stage as part of their deal, they do need to do more than tell everyone how wonderful they are. I even managed to battle the app to work out where sessions were being held (why are all conference apps essentially dreadful?). Practical things like the WiFi just about held up, and the location of the venue does at least mean that there are a range of alternatives to the one café on site.

Given that a lot of Europeans travel to this show, I’d have liked to have heard a little more about the state of play in other markets around the continent, and while there were African and Spanish panels, I didn’t hear anything about further afield such as the Middle East or Asia. Considering the number of British Asians, and the propensity of ethnic minorities to listen to podcasts over and above others, that felt like a missed opportunity. [Update: there was an Asian panel that I missed. Also an Australian one.]

Having never been to any of the international conferences like Podcast Evolutions I can’t compare this was any of them, but my suspicion is that this is more global than any other conference. I thought that Amazon/Wondery was perhaps a little quiet this year – and considering Wondery+ has just launched in the UK – they did at least have promo codes for a three-month free trial. Apple is always low profile at these kinds of things. But Bauer seemed to be missing in action from the radio side of the UK audio industry. But then they haven’t leant into podcasts nearly as much as the BBC or Global.

If you do work in podcasting then I do recommend attending next year. I note that the organisers are selling access to audio recordings of all the sessions. It’s worth checking out Podnews for a discount if that appeals.

[Updated to correct typos, an ownership attribution, and I’ve included a slide and a link to Magellan AI’s stats]






8 responses to “The Podcast Show 2024”

  1. Johanna Fink avatar

    Yellow Shelf was unable to make it to London this year for The Podcast Show 2024.

    So I really appreciated reading your blog Adam … so many insights and takeaways to learn from.

    Hope to meet you at The Podcast Show 2025!

    Founder of Yellow Shelf

  2. Jeremie Mani avatar

    So many conferences and teachings! Well done for summing up what happened in 2 days.
    It was our first experience as exhibitor and speaker and we have loved the energy of this London Podcast Show.

  3. adambowie avatar

    Thanks for the kind words all! Glad that this was a useful catch up.

  4. Ana Ribera avatar
    Ana Ribera

    Hi Adam,

    This is Ana from Spain. This was my first year at The Podcast Show and even though I was only there on Tuesday and Wednesday, I really enjoyed some of the sessions and the atmosphere in the room. We presented a European podcast project called WePod with people from Italy, Spain, Belgium, Hungary, France, Poland and Serbia. My only criticism of the Podcat Show is that it is all about English speaking podcasts…and there is a whole world of things going on in Spanish for example.

    Nice summary, I really enjoyed it.

  5. adambowie avatar

    Hi Ana,

    Thanks for your kind words.

    Yes, I agree that while there were a few panels here and there about different regions’ podcasts, the show is heavily Anglocentric. I think that’s probably a product of the current position with monetisation. But growing that out would be helpful and might position The Podcast Show as the “global” podcasting event.

  6. […] have posted reviews of their impressions and experiences, including Adam Bowie and, on LinkedIn, Lev Cribb, Norma Jean Belenky, Gareth Evans, and James Cridland. Undoubtedly […]

  7. Tiffany Ang avatar

    Hi Adam,

    Great summary! You caught the events I didn’t manage to go to so this is a nice wrap for me.

    I’m one of the few Asians who travelled to London for my first podcast show and I felt like a kid thrown into candy land. There is definitely a growing appetite for pods in Asia but we’re not at the same level as the UK and US (yet). That said, it’s a great region for interesting discussions and stories. Lots of potential to build communities.

    Hopefully next year we can hear more about the podcast industry in Asia, at least more than one panel.

  8. adambowie avatar

    Hi Tiffany,

    Thanks for the comment, and it’s great to hear that you enjoyed the show. It’ll definitely be fascinating to hear about the growth of podcasting in Asia in the future. I’m sure that there will be great demand for podcasting as it develops across the region.