conal220

“Podcasting is no longer an emerging medium but an emerged medium.” That’s the read on the red-hot channel from Conal Byrne, President of the iHeartPodcast Network, speaking on the latest episode of the Inside Radio Podcast. On the heels of a sold-out IAB Up Front, packed with advertisers and content creators, Byrne senses a “new sentiment” within the industry, now that it has “real scale” with 90 to 100 million Americans listening on a monthly basis. “We’ve arrived,” he says.

A pair of inflection points potentially looming on the horizon could dramatically accelerate industry growth, Byrne says. One is if Facebook, one of the biggest content distribution platforms in the world, makes it possible for users to post and share audio content. Another would be if podcasting, a medium that remains largely iOS driven, can attract more Android users, who make up half the U.S. smartphone population. “There are two or three tipping points that podcasting is just in front of now, and if any of those actually happen, that $1 billion (in projected revenue by 2021) could have a multiple on top of it.”

One deterrent to growth commonly cited is the need for more sophisticated ad targeting. Byrne believes there have been “leaps and bounds” made in improving data, targeting and analytics during the past 12 months. For example, the iHeartPodcast Network can now geo-target and audience-target every single listen, Byrne says on the podcast. “You’re starting to get the targeting sophistication that you’re used to in your other digital media campaigns. That is now, more or less, available in podcasting. In real time, we are solving the data issues and the targeting issues. And because of that, my gut is that in the next 12 months, a lot of the established big brands, with big budgets to spend, will flood podcasting.”

Byrne also talks about iHeart’s expanded relationship with The Ron Burgundy Podcast star Will Ferrell and how the podcast network is launching a new comedy vertical around the comedic actor. Branded (with tongue in cheek) as the Big Money Players Network, it will serve as an idea incubator for Ferrell to introduce new characters – from both himself and his friends – along with totally new talent that Ferrell hand picks. Ferrell recently completed a second season of the hit “Ron Burgundy Podcast” and has greenlighted a third season.

Byrne also talks about drawing more female podcast listeners, the three things that have attracted Hollywood moguls to the medium, why audio dramas will be the next hot genre, and his advice for radio talent who want to expand into the hottest thing in audio.

Listen to the Inside Radio Podcast HERE.