I have been making the point repeatedly on the Beyond Social Media Show that the 800 pound gorilla in the podcasting room is Amazon. As of now, the critical mass of the podcasting world revolves around Apple. The company owns the primary directory where people discover and subscribe to podcasts; its iPhones and iPads are the primary devices people use to listen to podcasts.
Google recently expanded the podcasting universe by accepting podcast submissions to the Google Play Store but Apple has been the major game in town for so long, it will take them a while to catch up.
I have been making the point that Amazon has all the pieces in place to become an instant and serious competitor to Apple as a podcast distribution channel. It appears they’ve taken the first step in just that direction this week.
With the Amazon Video Direct program, the company has opened up its platform to everyone. By opening up an account, you can upload your videos to Amazon to be included for purchase on Amazon and/or to be streamed from Amazon Prime Video. Video creators can earn 50% net from purchased or rented videos on Amazon or .15 to .06 per hour watched for streamed video.
Se, let us count the ways in which Amazon is positioned to challenge Apple as the dominant podcast delivery channel.
Amazon owns the most advanced eCommerce platform ever developed. The company continues to innovate, from one-click purchases to Dash buttons and voice-activated commerce. Amazon has moved well beyond its online book store origins to become the go-to online store for everything, so it enjoys a position as a center of online gravity that cultivates a massive audience.
Amazon, therefore, has the infrastructure already in place to allow video creators (and podcasters) the ability to monetize their content. Indeed, the signup process for Amazon Video Direct is requires the submission of tax information in the expectation that participants will make money off their videos.
Also, as a podcaster who wants to sell individual videos or offer subscriptions, Amazon already has the credit card information of its users saved, so you don’t need to clear that hurdle.
Amazon Web Services
In order to serve as a podcast delivery channel, you need to be able to host the audio or video files of podcast episodes. That requires a lot of server space and can be pretty expensive. I pay $30 a month to Libsyn to host our Beyond Social Media Show audio files.
By contrast, Amazon offers its Prime subscribers free photo hosting and sells its Amazon Cloud Drive service to consumers at $60 a year for unlimited space.
Additionally, as part of Amazon Web Services, the company offers the Amazon S3 storage service to developers, who can try it out for free with 5GB of storage.
Business Insider reports:
Amazon Web Services accounted for 37% of the $9 billion infrastructure as a service (IaaS) market in 2013, according to analysts from equity research firm Evercore. The IaaS market is growing by 45%, but Amazon Web Services has a growth rate of 60%.
AWS also has more than five times the computational capacity of its 14 next IaaS competitors combined, according to a Gartner report published last fall.
So Amazon has the infrastructure in place to host and stream video and audio files. It also has the capability, should they want to offer it, to give podcasters an easy mobile app solution, which could then be distributed through the Amazon App Store.
Amazon Recommendation Engine
Amazon has been around since 1994. I’ve been a customer since 1999.
Over the course of those many years, Amazon has archived not only the things I’ve bought from the store but also the gifts I’ve bought for friends and family as well as my browsing and searching behavior on amazon.com.
Add to that foundation of behavior the company can analyze the fact that I became an Amazon Prime customer several years ago. From that point on, the company could now analyze my content consumption preferences through the movies and TV shows I watch and the music I stream.
I have a Kindle eReader, a Kindle Fire Tablet, a Fire TV stick and a Fire TV set-top box. I own an Echo and recently subscribed to Audible.com and got a Washington Post subscription.
I have the Fire TV app installed on my Xbox One and on one of my Smart TVs. I read by Kindle books on my computer, on my iPad and on my Kindle Fire Tablet. I occasionally use the Shelfari social network for book lovers, which Amazon owns.
All of that activity gives Amazon a treasure trove of information about what kind of content people pay attention to, which they can mash up with the existing transactional data the company has on its subscribers to create a recommendation engine that is second to none.
This is what Amazon recommends for me:
Apply that recommendation engine to podcasts and podcasters will benefit from a powerful new discovery tool with which to build their audiences. “Based on shows you’ve watched, you would like the Beyond Social Media Show“!
Amazon Review System
Amazon figured out early on the power of reviews in providing validation of a product to customers, which helps lower the psychological barrier to a sale. The company’s implementation of reviews essentially provided a proof of concept to online retailers everywhere.
Amazon helpfully provides a bar graph that segments the percentage of users who have reviewed an item based on the number of stars it was given.
But the particularly unique thing about Amazon’s review system is that they will flag reviewers who have actually purchased the item they are reviewing with a Verified Purchase label, as you can see in the screenshot below. This is a superb way to vet and validate reviews to give customers more trust in them.
It is easy to understand how effective this system would be when applied to podcasts. All the company would really need to do is replace the “Verified Purchase” label with a “Verified Subscriber” label.
Amazon offers authors profile pages that includes the author’s bio, the ability for users to follow the author, and, of course, the author’s books.
Authors can manage their profile, promote themselves with video and events, and track book sales through Amazon Author Central.
Swap out the books for podcast episodes and you’ve got instant podcast profiles.
Mechanical Turk Translation
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service is a crowdsourcing marketplace that matches individuals who are willing to perform tasks requiring human intelligence with jobs that require that intelligence. The service is often used for getting written transcripts from audio files.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon launched its video service in 2006 as Amazon Unbox and rebranded it in 2011 as Amazon Instant Video. The service competes with Netflix and Hulu by offering streaming video of movies and television shows and, increasingly, original content, such as shows like The Man in the High Castle.
The purpose of Amazon Video Direct is to attract the talent YouTube has been able to foster from the likes of PewDiePie and The Fine Brothers and offer that content to Prime Video subscribers.
That play for talent, however, provides podcasters an entre to an Amazon ecosystem that features a handful of delivery channels.
Amazon Fire Tablets
In 2011, Amazon introduced its line of Fire tablets with Prime Video built-in. Now that the company has opened up Instant Video to all content creators, podcasters have another mobile channel through which to build their audiences.
Business Insider reports that Amazon
shipped 2.2 million devices in Q1 2016, up 5,422% YoY. The Fire tablet accounted for 5.7% of the market last quarter, up from 0.1% in Q1 2015. Amazon’s success is due in large part to the relatively low cost of its products. The Fire tablet retails for $50, but has also been sold in bundles of 6 for as low as $250, or ~$40 a piece. Amazon is using the device to bring more customers into its retail ecosystem.
Amazon Prime TV/Stick
In 2014, Amazon introduced both the Fire TV set-top box as well as the HDMI plug and play Fire TV Stick. With Fire TV, podcasters can now get direct access to the living room, assuming the podcast is visually compelling enough, of course.
In order to take advantage of Amazon Video Direct, podcasters will need to produce their shows as video, of course. We record the Beyond Social Media Show live on YouTube then use the audio for iTunes and Google Play, so we’ve got video to use on Amazon Video Direct.
And we have audio ready whenever Amazon opens up the Echo for podcasts, which seems such a no-brainer it would appear inevitable, especially in light of the Video Direct program.
Amazon Echo App
The Amazon Echo is configured via its companion mobile app, which, one would think could be updated to include a podcast feature through which users could subscribe to and listen to shows on their phone when they are out and about.
Audible recently announced Channels, which, though they are not calling them podcasts, are a “channel” through which Audible subscribers can find and listen to podcasts.
Audible Channels will feature only select partners as of now, but it is notable that the Amazon company has opened up its audio books service to podcasting.
Amazon Domain Authority/Search Visibility
Amazon.com routinely shows up at the top of Google search results for product-related searches. The domain name is now 22 years old and the Amazon brand is among the most well-known in the world.
According to SEMRush data, Amazon.com enjoys 327 million visits a month from organic search results and claims a top-three ranking in search results for 6.28 million keywords. Eighty percent of Amazon’s search engine traffic is a result of generic keywords, so it is not merely the power of the brand name that is driving all that traffic.
Amazon also has more than two decades of internal search data to give them insight into how its own users search amazon.com. The insight that data can provide, coupled with its understanding of the site’s own external search traffic, could factor into search discovery for podcasts.
Savvy podcasters themselves would be able to optimized their podcaster profile pages on Amazon.com to both attract internal search traffic as well as rank well in Google and Bing results.
Don’t forget that Amazon acquired the Alexa web analytics service in 1999.
Alexa ranks sites by tracking the online behavior of users of its toolbar for the Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome web browsers. The Alexa Toolbar features a popup blocker, a search box, links to Amazon.com, and the Alexa ranking of the site that the user is visiting.
Based on that set of data, Amazon likely has a good idea of what type of podcasts a given user would like base purely on the websites they visit.
Finally, keep in mind that Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post not long ago. Though I have not seen any reports of Amazon and the Post sharing data, you have to figure it is a no-brainer business decision, especially when you include the fact that you can use your Amazon login credentials to sign into the Post website and app.
At the time of the purchase, I figured Bezos would use the content consumption data from WashingtonPost.com visitors to add another dimension to the eCommerce giant’s predictive analytics. Can you predict the types of things people will buy based on media consumption behavior?
The Washington Post purchase gives Amazon more content data to include in its recommendation algorithms.
Lastly, the Post may itself also provide a future platform for podcasting with Amazon Video Direct serving as a sort of farm system for podcasting talent.
For all these reasons, I think Amazon is positioned better than any of the major players to capitalize on the growing podcasting trend.