Google's Podcast Strategy and What Wasn't Mentioned

After a week of slow drip releases on the company blog of Pacific Content (reminder: a Canadian branded podcast company), a Google Product Manager outlined Google’s podcast strategy. Go ahead and read all five articles but here are the salient points:

First things first and something I’ve not seen anyone comment on: what a fascinating product marketing strategy! Google could have chosen any publication for this announcement: Wired, The Verge, HotPod, take your pick! But they chose the Medium blog of a Canadian Branded Podcast Publisher. And not only that, but chose a slow drip, drip, drip of information over five days. I can’t come up with a theory about why Google went with this strategy – send your ideas in!

What did they actually announce? Let’s be honest, they really didn’t say much about anything. The entire run of posts was filled with ‘potentially’s, ‘maybe’s, and ‘imagine’s. Of course Google aren’t the first at this, there seems to be a trend of companies saying they are going to be doing things in the podcasting space before actually shipping anything (see: Spotify, Pandora and Apple). Maybe Google wanted to scare off rivals who see Android as the next growth area for podcasting? 2018 so far feels like the year of all talk but no action. If I think about it, Anchor seem to be the only company shipping new ideas with any regular cadence.

To me the most interesting things were the things that weren’t mentioned.

A Podcast App wasn’t mentioned. It feels smart for Google to play to its strengths: data search and recommendations rather than trying to make another standalone app. They can take a podcast episode and turn it into essentially a searchable text document and they also have an interest graph of their users. Think about Pandora or Spotify - all they know is what music you have listened to. Google knows what topics you have been searching for and has built up a profile of you and your interests which can be used as an input for generating podcast recommendations.

Original content was not mentioned which I think is going to be a key strategy for the big companies in the next few years. If Google thinks it can win by being the best at search and recommendations then maybe it doesn’t need to play in the exclusives game.

I was surprised that advertising wasn’t mentioned. Sure, they mentioned this notion of “supporting publishers business models” but considering Google own DoubleClick which powers the vast (and VAST, arf!) advertising network behind YouTube, I find it hard to believe they haven’t thought about bringing that to bear on podcasting.

Apple then reminded Google that they are still the leader in the space (largely by doing nothing since 2014) by announcing total numbers of downloads on iTunes and Apple Podcasts to have passed 50 billion in a confusing piece on Fast Company. Which again is an interesting marketing strategy; I can’t help but wonder how long Apple were sitting on that statistic…

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