Room & Pod: The Hot New Hotel Amenity is a podcast studio

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The “everyone’s got a podcast” quip has become less of a joke and almost a true statement of fact these days. And to podcast, everyone needs the same thing: a place to record. Just as consumers expect easy access to listen to podcasts, they are also looking for convenient ways to become a podcaster themselves. In response, we’ve seen the rise of the “Airbnb for podcast studio” model, where customers can rent studio space on demand through an online portal. But the next hotspot for designers to check in are places already brimming with amenities: boutique hotels.

The Detroit Foundation Hotel is home to one of the best-known hotel studios; co-host of a popular podcast my favorite murder recently included a photo of the chic setup in her Instagram story. Meanwhile, customers can book a custom booth next to a library and private patio in LA Mayfair Hotel; youAce hotels in Los Angeles and London offer free recording equipment through a program called Studio A. Elsewhere in Europe, Stockholm is very chic, very modern Hotel at six owns a podcast studio for rent. And perhaps the most accessible is the free in-house studio at the new Marriott’s. Downtown Chicago Moxy Hotelwhich also hosts monthly live podcast events.

The irresistible rise of podcasting is no secret. A recent Nielsen survey found that “self-identified ‘passionate’ podcast fans grew from 13 million households in 2016 to 16 million in 2017”. More Americans than ever are familiar with this medium, which is a comfortable format for many consumers given the growing consumer reliance on digital media and streaming entertainment. According to Edison Research survey results, podcast listeners – “young, educated and affluent” – are an attractive demographic for advertisers. (This demographic happens to overlap with those who appreciate shop hotels.)

Feeding the demand for podcasts, of course, is an ever-growing supply of podcasters. In June 2018, Apple reported hosting 550,000 active podcastsa number that has already jumped 20% for 660,000 in less than a year, and that’s only on Apple’s network. “There has been a significant growth not only in the number of people entering the podcast space in terms of launching their own shows, but also a huge increase in viewership which is now motivating advertisers and sponsors and people using podcasts as a marketing vehicle for their businesses,” says Traci DeForge, founder of Produce your podcasta DIY podcast production service.

DeForge sees huge benefits in setting up the hotel podcast. “When someone travels, do they want to pack their carry-on with a ton of gear?” she asks, noting a client’s recent frustration with trying to interview podcast guests while on the road and without access to the studio. Instead of lugging gear and finding a sub-optimal room solution, the client could have walked into a hotel studio and brought or called guests, a much simpler and better option.

For hotels, podcast studios offer the added bonus of a new revenue stream. Guests can use the studios for free (or at a reduced price), but they are also available to outside guests at standard studio rates. The Detroit Foundation Hotel studio can be reserved for up to two hours free of charge for guests and non-guests. The Mayfair is offering its studio free to guests and outside customers for two hours for $60. A look at Studiotime, the Airbnb for studio rentals, shows prices ranging from $30 to $175 for one hour. (And they don’t come with fancy bars on hand.) Hosting a studio apartment also underscores the boutique hotel’s position as a hub of creativity. “Boutique hotels are so much more than a place to sleep,” says Ariela Kiradjian, co-founder of Stay Boutique and COO of the Boutique and Lifestyle Chefs Association. “They capitalize on the reality that travelers will invest in unique immersive experiences.” The Boutique & Lifestyle Leaders Association says it doesn’t currently have hard numbers on the growth of the hotel podcast studio market, but is working on compiling numbers over the next few years. Kiradjian expects the trend to grow, but notes that at least in the immediate future, they are more likely to only appear in metropolitan areas and high-end boutique hotels, as their target demographic are more likely to be “creatives”.

Are hotel podcast studios about to become as common a hotel amenity as free Wi-Fi? It’s not quite comparable yet, but DeForge sees things headed in that direction. “I think it’s very forward-thinking to assume that’s the direction we’re going,” she says. Whether a hotel has a studio can be a deciding factor for conference and event planners, for example. “The bigger podcasting gets, the more accessible podcasting becomes,” she says, “the more it makes sense.” She says the best metaphor for hotel studios might be fitness centers — a feature consumers have come to expect now, but hasn’t always been so standard.

As for the “everyone has a podcast” statement? DeForge compares it to the beginnings of another medium: “I would compare it to the launch of Twitter and everyone said you had to have a Twitter account. Now, it’s basically the same gold rush around podcasting – you have to have a podcast. Hotels recognize this gold rush – or at least, gold rush – and happily act as platforms to welcome it. They will not be the only ones to do so; as podcasts are increasingly touted as “the future of storytelling” and “the next frontier of marketing,” the addition of studio availability will only become more appealing. Chicago culture writer Alex Nitkin noted that podcast studios are even becoming a feature of luxury apartment complexes.

Today, some podcast studios up the ante by offering lounges, bars and cafes. It may only be a matter of time before lounges, bars and cafes are required to have check-in booths.

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