A few weeks ago, the Captivate team exhibited at The Podcast Show 2022. This was the show’s first year and was held at the iconic Business Design Centre, which is situated in Islington, London (bang in the heart of London’s buzzing media district).
Our Head of Design, Garry, runs the Captivate Insider podcast. A weekly show dedicated to taking you behind the scenes of Captivate, where we’re actively helping you, the serious independent podcast creator, to save time, grow your audience and monetize your audio.
He had a chat with Captivate’s MD, Mark Asquith about The Podcast Show 2022, to get his thoughts about the conference.
A great episode to listen to, especially if you missed out on the show this year, wondering what you missed out on and thinking about attending next year.
Check out the podcast episode or continue reading (you can, of course, do both) as we’ve picked out the key highlights of their chat.
In this article...
Q+A with Captivate’s MD Mark Asquith about The Podcast Show 2022.
1. What did you think about The Podcast Show 2022?
Context is important with my answer to this question. Context around the history of events in the UK and US. This is important for anyone thinking about podcasting as an industry but for a high-level review of the conference, it was shockingly good, which I know sounds really weird. And I mean that from so many different perspectives.
For example, the organization was great. And again, we need context as it’s been a long road to this show. The money that had been spent by everyone was great, whether it was us [Captivate], [our partners] Global, everyone else exhibiting or sponsoring, and of course the Podcast Show themselves.
Another example is the speakers, as these were also good. For example, in the US you’re told, “here’s a celebrity speaker” and I am thinking are they a celebrity? I’ve got no idea because I’m not American. There have been a couple of times where I know the celebrity, but most of the time it’s some guy who won American Idol in 2000.
Being in the UK was a whole different kettle of fish, as I know the celebrities in my home country. For example, I was stood next to Gary Lineker, I met Louis Theroux, there was Fearne Cotton, I also met Johnny Vaughn.
To summarize, it was stunningly good for the first major show in the UK. It was really well done. A couple of little creaks, but nothing major.
2. Was The Podcast Show similar to other conferences you’ve attended?
It was very similar to what we’ve been to before in the US. So, for me, there are three types of conferences in the industry.
There are indie podcast conferences that are really great. And they’re all about the creators. So, in the UK, we’d had things like New Media Europe run by Mike Russell and Isabella Russell. There is also the wonderful Pods Up North, which is run by Ant McGinley, Vic Turnbull & Kate Cocker. One of the biggest creator conferences in the US is Podfest. These are all great to attend.
The other type, right at the other end of the spectrum, are industry conferences. The most pertinent example is the RAIN Summit, run by Brad Hill and his team. These are also great but for different reasons. When myself and Kieran go to these events we end up talking with other enterprise level hosts. We’re also talking to ad partners, VPs of publishing like Kathy MacMillan, and other industry level brands and companies.
Then you’ve got the middle ground. You’ve got events that try to straddle both of those areas. They didn’t always try to straddle both, but it’s just the way the industry has changed and is evolving. Back in the day there was no industry, it didn’t exist as it does today. So, I’m talking here primarily about Podcast Movement which is run by Jared Easley and Dan Franks, and that’s become the real, major linchpin in the US circuit.
Podcast Movement has grown so much since it first started in 2014. It has the same feel as The Podcast Show, in that you’ve got brands and you’ve got creators. It didn’t start like that. Everyone in podcasting used to meet up to help each other and share knowledge, it didn’t matter who you were. However, the industry has grown so much, for example there is Podcast Movement Evolutions in LA, which is very much industry level. Even though Podcast Movement is ostensibly for the creators, you get a lot of industry there. I would say 60% creator and 40% industry.
So that’s the landscape and before The Podcast Show, the UK didn’t have a conference which was similar to conferences like the Podcast Movement. Yes, it had New Media Europe, which is brilliant, but it was a small conference of about 300 attendees. Same with Pods Up North. The Podcast Show had around 3000 attendees per day, and they were trying to straddle both creator and industry. Something that had not been done yet in the UK.
Some aspects worked well, while others didn’t, but they will learn from this year. For example, the tracks on the day could have been better designed. Not all content is created equally, you need a way for attendees to design their days. So, if I am a creator I go to these talks. However, if I am in the industry I go to these talks. Louis Theroux and Johnny Vaughn talking about podcasting are not the same, as the creator that wants to learn how to grow from 100 to 200 downloads per episode. Getting this right is one of the challenges. But every conference has that challenge.
3. Was it wise to hold off until 2022 because of COVID?
The first Podcast Show was meant to happen in 2021, but because of COVID, it didn’t go ahead, which was a very wise choice. There was talk of the show going ahead in 2021, but when I spoke to the organizers, I told them that I didn’t think it would be wise, as you only get one shot with a new conference and first impressions count. It’s tough but it’s better to stomach it and hold off until 2022. I think others gave the same feedback.
When they came out of the blocks and launched in 2022, they swung hard at it. A lot of money and resources were invested by themselves, partners, and exhibitors. It ended up being a big event, with a lot of fringe events on in the evening. I do think they missed out by not having a party, as these unites people at these kinds of events. That was the only major miss I saw this year, but again it’s all about learning from putting on these events and knowing how to improve next year.
4. Was it business as usual for Captivate at the conference?
This is an interesting question for me to answer. The short answer is yes, but that’s because Captivate is unusual in that we’ve only exhibited once as Captivate, and even then, we weren’t properly Captivate.
We exhibited at Podcast Movement in 2019, but at that time, Captivate was just an idea. We did exhibit as Captivate at Podfest in 2020 but we had only been launched for two months.
Between Podfest in 2020 and this year’s Podcast Show, Captivate had gone through three or four major versions, certainly two complete overhauls, 1000 different features and Global’s acquisition. During that time, we’d also transformed from being a brand-new podcast host to one of the biggest hosts in the market based on our numbers.
So, for me and Kieran, you could say exhibiting at The Podcast Show was business as usual but not for Captivate as a brand. Me and Kieran are used to seeing what happens at these conferences from an exhibitor perspective, but as Podcast Websites and not Captivate.
Back in those days, it was a smaller industry. People knew each other. People knew us, and if they found out we were building something, they knew it was going to be decent because of what we had done before, and so signed up for the alpha.The Podcast Show was a completely different ball game. People came to the booth as Captivate users or they were aware of what we offer. What was great was we had so many people, such as the guys from The Sequel Pitch podcast, come up and say they would have stopped podcasting if not for Captivate. So that was new for us and the brand.
5. What was it like being at The Podcast Show with our larger family organization, Global?
I think first and foremost, it was the first time that we’d all [Captivate] felt part of Global since the acquisition because it was the first time we’d all been together in person. They helped us so much. Ali Jones was fantastic, like a real kind of MVP. There was James there and Chris Baughan, all this talent in the industry was there because they’re part of Global, but also that complements Captivate, from an indie podcaster’s perspective. Everyone at Global was excited to meet the Captivate team.
Visually it was obvious we were part of Global too. Our display shell had the Global logo, our booklets we were giving away also had the logo on too. People can see that we are part of Global, which in the US means a lot because Global is part of iHeart and that’s huge over there. But also in the UK, Global has such a nice brand and holds a unique place in the UK audio and media scene. Owning all outdoor and radio stations, being able to access audiences and talent. Talent ranging from people like Emily Maitlis and Johnny Vaughn, down to Andrew Marr. I don’t want to say down, but it is down to people like you and me, the people that are in the bedroom creating podcasts. It’s all representable.
So that was really good. And I think it was also one of those things where you didn’t quite realize how much brand goodwill there was for Captivate. People in the UK really enjoy what we do.
Also, there’s the logistics side of things. Logistically, it was easier. Bear in mind, before the acquisition, we are so used to handling everything involved with exhibiting at a conference. Granted, we filled up our own cars with what we needed for the conference, but that was because everything was here in the Sheffield office and not at Global’s offices. However, when we got rid of all the merchandise, we didn’t have to handle things like, “where shall we store items until next time?” When we’ve packed it down, it was just logistically part of Global’s pack down. We just took it back up to them.
So personally, that was much, much easier. And it’s very different from Keiran and I carrying 1,000 t-shirts on a plane. The first time I went to Podcast Movement, I took all our t-shirts in a separate suitcase and was there like Del Boy giving them out.
6. Did people ask about the Global acquisition?
When we first got acquired by Global a lot of people were saying, “oh, you know, now you’ve been bought by a big company it’s all going to change.” But that really isn’t the case. We weren’t looking to get bought, we weren’t chasing people for a deal which meant we could find a partner suited us and what we needed.
I’ve said it before, you don’t buy something, then stop it doing its thing, if you bought it for the reason it does its thing.
It was good for people to see that in person at the Podcast Show. Like, look, here I am still running around wearing the Captivate t-shirt. Look at the giveaways that we’ve got, look at the content that we’ve got. It’s all the same. We’re still the same team. We still have the same stuff that you love, like the monthly webinars, the live streams, all that.
A lot of people forget that Captivate has grown faster than probably any other podcast host, outside of Anchor, because that platform is free. In the time that Captivate has been around, we’ve generated more revenue. We’ve done better than any other host has done in that same time frame and that is without offering people a free plan. And that says something and comes from the fact that me and Kieran are on the front lines all the time talking to people. So, when people do see us face to face, they realize that even with the acquisition we’re still the same.
A lot of people can get disarmed by this, I guess some people don’t believe that you can be that genuine. Which sounds weird.
For example, with Johnny Vaughn, I’ve listened to him for 20-25 years on the radio. When I first met him, I fist-pumped and went straight into a bit of banter. Same banter that I would have with anyone. That is because everyone has always been the same to me. When you take this approach with a brand, and take it through an acquisition, people can’t get their head around it because for many brands this isn’t the norm.
For example, at The Podcast Show, I treat everyone the same. I will give the independent podcaster with five downloads an episode the exact same amount of time, attention, care, thoughtfulness as I’ll give to the celebrities, highflyers, and influencers.
I am also not going to spend my time at swanky dinners with celebrities, highflyers, and influencers. I am going to spend time talking with my team. I’m going to spend time with the podcasters that need help. I’m going to go to the meet ups with real podcasters. I don’t like that idea of separation e.g. podcasters that are recording in their bedroom can’t come to this important dinner, as they’re not ‘special’ enough. And I think that is where you lose people as an industry.
I think that me, Kieran and the Captivate team tried at The Podcast Show to keep that very real. We’d say to people, “oh, we’re going to Pods Up North meetup, be great to see you there.” It wasn’t our meetup because other people do a better job of it. So, we’ll go to them, and we’ll support them. I could have gone to the fancy dinners put on by mega brands. What’s the point in that? That’s boring. What are we going to do, strike a deal? That’s not how you do business for me. It’s about the real people.
7. What are your tips for people attending The Podcast Show next year or other similar conferences?
I think you’ve got to find and talk to the people that are going to help you. I got into podcasting because I thought I’d found the people that were like me. It wasn’t because of the brands. There were no brands in the podcasting space when I first got into it. It was so earnest, because everyone was there to help each other and to create great sounding content.
So now it’s become this big industry with big brands now involved, you need to understand how to get the most from it. I mean, sure, go and get Spotify stuff. Go and get your Patreon mug and all that other good stuff. But understand that it’s all about meeting the right people that can help you. And you’ve got to pick the places. You know, it’s rare that you’re going to get anything from a mega Spotify meetup or a mega brand party other than free ale or beer. The real value from an independent podcaster’s perspective happens at the fringe meetups where there’s 50 people and they’re all there because they love that thing that they do.
Nick Hilton put one on that we went to, and it was all creators and people just sharing the amazing work they are doing. And there was so much you could see. There was so much good stuff going on because people were just helping each other. And I think, especially if you’re new to the scene in the UK, I’d recommend going to those events, because you will feel like they are your people. You’ll feel this more than an anonymous brand that’s just putting a party on, because they’ve got some budget to do it. That’s great for the dopamine but you’ll get the real value from these smaller fringe meetups with actual people that are doing the good stuff.
Final thoughts and what to do next
Tickets for The Podcast Show 2023 aren’t yet available, however you can sign up for news and updates about the upcoming podcasting conference.
During the conference, Mark gave a talk about listener acquisition during the conference which will be available in Captivate’s platform, in our Growth Labs section (Captivate users will get notified once it’s available). If you aren’t yet a Captivate user, why not sign up to a 7 day free trial? During the trial, setting up or transferring a podcast show is easy, you have access to ALL features including Growth Labs, and can talk to a dedicated support team – which are human and not robots.
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