The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on people. On the other hand, it has significantly accelerated both technology and adoption. I’m definitely not the first person saying this. Many industry experts and analysts have been writing about podcasting, online courses, and more. But as a podcaster and creator of online courses, I see something interesting about the future of podcasting, events, and online courses.
Let’s start with some data.
Market Size of Podcasting, Events & Online Courses
Podcasting has grown significantly from where it once started. As I write this in mid-May 2021, it’s said that podcasting will be a $1 billion industry by 2021 based on Ad spend. The biggest players being Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and Google Podcasts.
On the other hand, online learning, online courses, and the self-education industry is growing at ~$1 billion per day. This industry has been growing rapidly in recent years (estimates in 2018, 2019, 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant trends with work-from-home have had their effect on this industry.
The online events industry is interesting. Before the pandemic, the events industry was a $1.1 trillion industry. But given that everything is moving online, the virtual event industry is seeing a steep upcurve and is said to grow at $269.20 billion during 2021-2025.
Now that you understand this, let’s look at the other side – consumer and behavior.
How People Consume Content?
We’ve been consuming content for centuries in various forms. For the sake of this article, I’ll stick to online content. Here are some ways we consume content, from low-quality to high-quality:
- Social media posts – Tweets, Facebook feeds, etc.
- Clubhouse, Events, Reddit
- Blog posts
I’d argue Reddit is an exception, depending on how you use it. But let’s keep it that way. In fact, I love the way Wes Kao looks at this with her “Content Hierarchy of Bullsh*t” (below picture). Do read her full article on the details, as she presents the case for cohort-based courses.
The Changing Landscape
While all of this content is being consumed online, we must note that they are different forms of content:
- One can listen to podcasts anytime.
- Clubhouse discussions are real-time and are not available for listening after the event has happened.
- You can read books anytime.
- You cannot watch video courses when you’re doing something else.
- Social media drives/trigger your consumption behavior, unlike the others.
But interestingly, as we start to consume content from one creator or source, we start to move between these different mediums or apps. You participate in a tweetstorm, click on the Clubhouse profile link of the creator, participate in a CH room, learn about the creator’s book, buy the book, discover a course by the creator and a podcast. The experience transcends media.
Yes, all these different forms of media have evolved. They’re now on steroids, accelerated by a worldwide pandemic. But has this made the life of a consumer any easy? Or, to put it in Aristotle’s words, is the whole greater than the sum of the parts?
No. It’s not.
This orchestra is missing a conductor.
There is noise and chaos. And the only way out is to usher the conductor, so noise can give way to the melody. Transmedia content is the need of the hour.
As an increasing number of people are starting to work from home and from remote locations, productivity will take a hit. The last thing we want to see is people becoming more unproductive because of unorchestrated content.
The Growth of Communities
The other interesting trend is the growing interest in online communities. And when it comes to communities and people, Facebook and LinkedIn Groups are ancient. Tools like Gatheraround are looking at communities from a whole new angle.
The internet has, for a long time, looked at communities as groups. But in reality, communities are more than just groups of people. In the real world, communities have social structures, activities, peer-to-peer interaction, and so much more.
Tools like Gatheraround and even Zoom’s breakout sessions are great examples of how online tools are triggering peer-to-peer interactions. Concepts like this help “break the ice” and lead to real connections instead of just a “friend” in your social network.
The other important aspect of communities is status roles. From a newbie member to growing your way to gaining mastery, good communities have a ladder through which people grow. Many tools like Slack, Duolingo, and more use this to get people engaged on their platforms.
And that reminds me of technology.
Technology for the Future
Status roles reminded me of technology. Specifically three of them.
- Blockchain and NFTs
- 3D Tech
Blockchain and specifically NFTs or Non-fungible Tokens. Because NFTs, though nascent, can soon evolve to support the growth of community-driven commerce (a whole different topic, for another day). Imagine buying an NFT sold by your favorite pop star, and using that as a way to show your “status” in the pop community.
3D tech has for quite some time been popular among gamers. But just like a lot of tools and platforms came out of the gaming community (remember Slack?), 3D will too. According to this report, the 3D virtual event market size is expected to reach $41.58 billion by 2027. So, this is definitely going to have an interesting role to play in the future of podcasting, events, and online courses.
Finally 5G. Enough has been said about 5G, and I don’t want to sound redundant. But yes, this is definitely an interesting space to watch, given the advent of digital SIMs and smart objects.
The three industries are going to be massively interconnected. Newer platforms will offer this transmedia experience. That said, these industries will grow independent of each other. There will be an increased focus on the creative economy (a topic for a future post).
If I were to pick two words to summarize this, they would be consolidation and communities. These are the two elements that will continue to push these different industries. Technology has always been an enabler, and it will continue to be.
Another trend I do see but did not mention is the growth of purpose-driven content. I’ll write about it when I can articulate it better and gather some data points. Community-driven commerce is another area that interests me. I hope to write about it in the days to come.
Love to know your thoughts in the comments below.