The podcast industry is a booming phenomenon in North America and Europe, which could reach a billion monthly listeners worldwide by 2023, if it continues to grow at its current rate.
In Canada, both French and English-speaking Canadians see podcasting as a real editorial opportunity and a new cultural use. While the historical players in broadcasting have been able to adapt to this new phenomenon, creating specific content and allowing existing programmes to be available for this new use, this has not prevented the emergence of new players: content creators, producers and broadcasting platforms. However, there is not yet a stable economic model and the legal framework of the medium is made difficult by its constant development, even if the industry seems to be on the way to sustainability.
In France, the podcast industry is also a booming market and faces the same issues: the adoption of an economic model by broadcasting platforms and the distribution of value between creators, producers and broadcasters. It should be noted that public institutions are interested in podcasting in order to allow recognition of creations and to grant specific support to independent studios. However, there are not yet any programs dedicated to supporting and accompanying podcasters.
The first collaborations between these two countries show the common interest of these two cultures in developing the podcast market, particularly during prescriptive events.
I. A growing cultural phenomenon
According to the Reuters report of the Institute Digital News, Canada and France are tied for 13th place among podcast consumers worldwide (far behind the United States of America, which alone represents nearly two-thirds of the world market). The two countries have a total of 28% auditors in their populations.
Podcasting emerged several years ago in Canada. Since 2006, for example, several universities, including McMaster University (Hamilton) and the Sherbrooke University, have been offering audio and video courses in podcast format.
Today, there is a real podcasting industry in Canada. In 2018, 61% of Canadians were familiar with the term “podcast” or “podcast” and 36% of the adult population, or 10 million Canadians, listened to at least one podcast during the year. On average, 28% of Canadians (7 million) listen to one podcast per month, 19% are even weekly listeners, with an average consumption of 5 podcasts per week, which represents about 4.3 hours) per week (evolving from 2017 when listening was 3.4 hours).
Since this year, the biggest consumers are no longer 18-34 year olds, but 35-54 year olds who represent 45% of the monthly listeners. This reflects an increase in the number of listeners that is no longer limited to urban youth from privileged backgrounds.
In France, the podcast market is as dynamic as in Canada.
Four million French people listen to it every month, with an average consumption of 13.7 podcasts per month. In terms of content, Canadians prefer survey podcasts, sports programs and comedy programs.
However, French-language content remains under-represented. In 2017, there were
only 12,000 French-language podcasts worldwide, compared to about 400,000 English-language podcasts listed on iTunes.
II. A thriving Canadian market grouped around key players
The Canadian podcast landscape is made up of both independent studios that create native podcasts and large media and audiovisual groups such as Rogers, Corus, Entertainment One and CBC, which produce original content but also find in podcasts a way to enhance the value of their radio programs.
As in the music and video industries in the digital age, distribution models are multiple and major platforms have been set up or have integrated podcasts into their initial offering. The market is dominated by Spotify, Apple Store and Google Play, which act as virtual podcast stores.
There are also “giants” such as Soundcloud and Youtube, platforms of
distribution and audio and video hosting. By investing more than $500 million (US) in the acquisition of independent platforms Gimlet Media, Parcast and Anchor in recent months, Spotify has affirmed its commitment to becoming the market leader in podcasting.
Other platforms, small and medium sizes are developing. BaladoQuébec is a more modest platform, which hosts nearly 450 local podcasts and in is promoting.
Finally, there are podcast broadcasters such as ICI Premiere or Qub Radio, which are taking advantage of their media status to develop this new broadcasting mode.
Initiatives have therefore grown considerably in recent years, but the influence of the United States, a true “nation of podcasts”, has significant repercussions. In Canada, Apple Podcasts Analytics’ daily top 30 list of episodes watched includes more American podcasts than national ones. As in other sectors, English-speaking Canadians consume more American content than Canadians.
III. An economic model under construction in Canada
Financing is one of the main issues in the industry when you know that about 60% of podcasts disappear after seven episodes. The implementation of a viable business model is therefore a real challenge for investors. Different models are emerging, but no trend is currently emerging, producers generally adopting the strategy of multiplying funding: integrated advertising, participatory financing, sponsored podcast, subscription, grants…
Advertising and brand content are nowadays the two most popular monetization options. In 2018, the sector was worth €479.1 million. Its balance sheet, if it continues on the growth of previous years, should therefore double in 3 years, since according to a recent report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PwC, the podcast industry could generate more than a billion dollars in annual advertising revenue from 2021 onwards. Industry giants like Spotify are implementing significant advertising strategies to generate resources commensurate with their heavy investments.
As for the method, many creators use dynamic advertising that evolves over time. It is now used in 48.8% of podcasts.
In Canada, advertising is very popular. In the independent Canadaland podcast, each program is sponsored and discussions are frequently interrupted to make way for announcements made by the presenters themselves.
According to a 2017 Canadian study, 25% of the 2646 podcast listeners surveyed said they were “more likely” to buy a product mentioned by a podcaster for the confidence they placed in him, and 30% said they bought a product after hearing an advertisement in the podcast they were listening to. A solution that is therefore attracting more and more advertisers.
Brand content, or the creation of content for brands, works very well in French-speaking Canada. For example, the Urbania podcast in Quebec has created a partnership with Desjardins.
The independent studios also rely on donations from listeners and on financing
participatory. Some podcasts have built real communities, so fans often support their favourite shows very generously.
Also, the most influential player on the Canadian scene is currently Patreon, a monthly subscription-based social funding platform that allows podcast creators to obtain funding from patrons.
The models are therefore multiple and often depend on the nature and size of the
projects. For the time being, there is no profitable business model for creators of
The time is still ripe for financial experimentation, with a strong emphasis on participatory financing and subscription.
The Canadian podcast scene also wants to prove that it can exist independently of its American neighbour. Québécor and web radio QUB have the ambition to organize a Canadian industry, from production to distribution and broadcasting of French-language content, to get out of the yoke of Apple and Google.
Public financial assistance programs for the audio industry are not yet adapted to the production of sound content and in particular to podcasting. However, the institutions in the field are beginning to realize the magnitude of the phenomenon. For example,
Magnéto, a non-profit organization, received a grant to support the creation of Canada Council for the Arts, recognizing podcasting as a means of a valid form of artistic creation.
IV. A comparable situation in France
The French market, like the Canadian market, is made up of leading independent players such as Binge Audio (300,000 listenings per month), small studios and historical public media. Radio France was one of the first to launch itself and its podcast production has grown by more than 80% over the past two years. France Inter and France Culture together have nearly 50 million monthly downloads. Arte Radio, a pioneer in podcasting since 2002, stands out by developing real immersive audio experiences. All the major media groups are investing in the podcast industry: M6 has just launched its RTL Originals’ native podcast offering, available online and on the largest platforms, and Europe 1 created its label in September 2018.
As in Canada, French actors are still looking for the most appropriate economic model : subscription, participatory financing, donation, participatory production, and of course, brand content. This is the choice made by Nouvelles Écoutes, a native podcast studio where advertising is personalized, whose programs total 1,200,000 monthly downloads, where the audience has quadrupled in one year.
The problem of the distribution of wealth between platforms and producers is
central. Thus, the launch on June 4, 2019 of Majelan, a new platform created by Mathieu Gallet, raised some relevant questions about the diffusion model to be applied to develop this industry. The ambition of this platform is to create a structure of the podcast market by using RSS feeds to aggregate content. The creation of a colossal library through this process nevertheless raises questions about how podcasts are now distributed and monetized. This method divides the podcast industry: some creators have asked Majelan to remove their podcasts from the platform, while others have contacted Majelan to be present. Content aggregation is the platform’s free offer that does not add or remove any advertising and thus increases the dissemination potential of programs. An aggregation platform can therefore be considered as an additional source of revenue for content creators by responding to a public demand to access their favorite podcasts on a single platform. But it can also be perceived as using external content to retain listeners, hoping to turn them into subscribers. The platform sells a paid offer, starting at 4.99 euros per month, consisting of original programs distributed exclusively or produced by Majelan.
There is every indication that distribution agreements are being signed quickly between creators, producers and each platform.
V. Prospects for collaboration
In France, the first festival dedicated to podcasting was held in November 2018 at the Gaîté Lyrique in Paris. The Paris Podcast Festival, which wanted to introduce this media to the general public and bring together fans, seems to have won its bet by bringing together more than 4500 visitors. A Canadian participation in the next edition could provide co-production and co-funding opportunities, thus broadening the pool of Francophone listeners and increasing the visibility of content.
In Canada, various podcasting events have emerged in recent years, including the Hot Docs Podcasts Festival, held in Toronto, which has become a benchmark event in North America, and Transistor in Gatineau-Ottawa, which is predominantly French-speaking and focuses on the linguistic issue of podcasts because of its geographical location in a bilingual environment. Both festivals have already been in existence for more than three years.
In 2018, the participation of Joël Ronez (Binge Audio) and Thomas Baumgartner (LIVE
Magazine) to a round table integrated into the industry program of Hot Docs podcasts, demonstrated the importance and interest of international exchanges around podcasting, particularly around Francophone industries. This year again, the festival should welcome French professionals to participate in discussions aimed at the industry. Proof of this is that France and Canada have a lot to contribute to the development of financing models, but also to the optimization of accessibility and discoverability of content. The platforms are thus seeking to offer an increasingly rich and diversified offer and the French studios could be interesting partners for French-speaking Canadian platforms that have more “DIY” (Do It Yourself) structures than English-speaking ones, often funded by large media groups.
The bilingual nature of the Canadian market, and more particularly the specificity of the French-speaking market, can present interesting development and collaboration opportunities for French and more broadly French-speaking creation abroad, particularly for groups such as Arte or France Media Monde.
At a time when new communication media are being sought and in view of the media success of these recent exchanges in industry, original partnerships and cooperation are essential to contribute to the development of this sector from both a creative and a dissemination point of view. For example, the collaboration between the Quebec podcast Distorsion and the French podcast Le Bureau des Mystères, addressing the same topics, allowed the two podcasts to share and broadcast their respective communities of listeners and build an international audience.
These collaborations between independent podcasts contribute to the development of their content and audiences but do not yet allow their authors to finance themselves. One of the future challenges is to access recognition of podcast creations by public institutions, which would enable the sector to assert itself and become sustainable. The support and assistance of institutional actors in the creation and dissemination through the implementation of aid and support programmes, and through a legal framework for the industry, would enable the sector to develop and create partnerships and strong exchanges at the international level.