Podcasts Are Going Multilingual

podcast translation and voiceover. multilingual podcasting

Podcasts have transitioned from niche to mainstream. As Deloitte, Edison, and Nielsen, etc. all agree, audience growth for podcasts has been nothing short of phenomenal over the past year.

The global podcasting market will grow by 30% in 2020 to USD 1.1bn, Deloitte predicted, topping the billion-dollar mark for the first time. Now, a podcast producer can pull in revenue any number of ways, as the same report pointed out; advertising, content marketing, subscriptions, contracts for branded podcasts, events, and so on. All this hinges on audience reach, and a surefire way to widen that is, naturally, to go multilingual.

In a March 20, 2020 blog post in Harvard’s Nieman Lab, Caroline Crampton noted how interesting it was that a new podcast, called The Nobody Zone, a six-part, true-crime series, was immediately available in five languages. “The trend for multilingual podcasts has really accelerated in the past year,” she wrote, adding that two big US publishers, Wondery and iHeartMedia, announced in August 2019 that their podcasts would be available in languages other than English.

Wondery has translated a podcast (Dr. Death) into Spanish, Castilian Spanish, German, French, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Korean. iHeart also plans to translate a number of its podcasts (e.g., Stuff You Should Know) into other languages, including Spanish, Hindi, Portuguese, French, and German.

According to Crampton, “The case for translation is clear for these big English-language providers. Translating and rerecording episodes with new voice talent is a moderate one-off cost, but it makes the shows accessible to millions more people in markets where podcast listening is really ramping up, such as South America and India. Not only are there plenty of listeners to acquire there, but via local distribution and monetization deals, these new language editions of existing shows can bring in fresh ad dollars.”

She further noted that while the cost of translation and revoicing could be beyond the reach of smaller podcast producers, there are those who are “working to bake multilingual options into their shows from the beginning of production.” Case in point, Lory Martinez, whose production house, Studio Ochenta, creates multilingual podcasts with a team of 10 freelance producers from around the world.

Martinez’s flagship podcast (“Mija”) was produced in English, Spanish, and French — which could help explain why the podcast made it to No. 1 on the Apple Podcast fiction charts in Spain and France, as mentioned during an interview with Martinez over National Public Radio. Mija’s second season, out in May 2020, will also be available in Mandarin.

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Even Spotify has been onboard since 2018, producing the bilingual podcast series “Chapo” with VICE Media. (In an article in The New York TImes, Edison’s Tom Webster said it was Spotify that moved the needle by adding podcasts to its streaming service, leading to “the biggest growth we’ve seen, and we’ve been covering podcasts since 2006.”)

The time is certainly ripe for podcasts to take advantage of the medium’s wide reach by making more shows multilingual. As Martinez (rhetorically) asked her fellow podcast producers in the Nieman Lab post: “You already have an international audience. Why not tap into the rest of it?”