Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
3 mins read

Ascent of audio: Podcast revenues to grow 110% by 2020

Mobile listening has grown exponentially. Although podcasting has been around for well over a decade, it has seen remarkable growth in the last two to three years, buoyed by the improvement in the quality of content, better accessibility, media coverage and measurement metrics.

According to Edison Research’s 2018 podcast statistics, around 124 million Americans have listened to a podcast in 2018, an increase of 12 million over last year and around 48 million listened to podcasts weekly in 2018, compared to 42 million in 2017.

This growth trend looks all set to continue at an increasing pace as mobile phones and smart speakers open up new and interactive avenues for publishers to engage with their audiences. According to Canalys, the smart speaker installed base will reach 100m in 2018 and Gartner predicts that 75 percent of US households will have smart speakers by 2020.

73 percent of smart speaker owners say they used smart speakers for listening to news and current affairs.

NPR and Edison Research’s The Smart Audio Report

The increasing interest and rapid adoption rate of audio content is driving publishers to hire and create device specific content. The Washington Post’s “Daily 202” and “Retropod”, and NPR’s “The Indicator”, are short and created specifically for smart speakers.

The New York Times’ “The Daily” podcast has been downloaded over a 100m times. Alastair Mackie, Financial Times’ head of audio for commercial, says that FT’s “News in Focus” audio show has 1 million listens a month with 15 percent of listens coming from Google Home devices.

FT’s audio ad revenue has tripled in the last year.

Alastair Mackie

Earlier this year, Bloomberg Media introduced a text-to-audio function in its app and website, according to Julia Beizer, Bloomberg Media’s global chief product officer, “Audio is particularly interesting for our audience because of that multitasking utility that is a real news use case. The delivery of journalism is changing to meet this moment; audio for a multitasking audience is a huge tool in our toolkit.”

Alexander Bregman, former Strategic Partner Development Manager, Product Partnerships EMEA at Google, speaking at the Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin earlier this year, said, “The Google Assistant is often thought of as on the Google Home, but it is actually available on 400 million devices including your smartphone, computer, smartwatch and headset. A user is likely to catch up on the news headlines in the morning using Google Home, then get smartphone or watch notifications on a particular story as it evolves throughout the day, and maybe in the evening go deeper into that story on a television.”

The US podcasting industry reached $314 million in revenue in 2017, an 86 percent rise from $169 million in 2016, according to a new study conducted jointly by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC, US.

The firms have also estimated that podcast revenue will see triple-digit 110 percent growth between 2017 and 2020, by when revenues are predicted to reach $659 million.

Podcasts are listened to for at least 90 per cent of their duration.

iTunes Analytics Data 

The medium has demonstrated significant potential, for example, 64 percent of audioBoom’s (a global on-demand audio and  distribution platform) listeners bought a product or service they heard about on an audio show.

Russell Lindley, owner and co-founder of Ad Results Media, says, “2017 was the first year that Ad Results Media’s clients spent more in podcasting than radio. To put this into context: as podcasts audiences continue to grow, Ad Results Media has seen rates for podcast ads go up as much as 4,000 percent proportionally.”

What’s more, podcasts offer a great opportunity to connect with the hard-to-reach millennials who make up for the majority of podcast listeners. The Financial Times found that more than 60 percent of its listeners were millennials. According to data released by the Acast Audio Intelligence Report this year, podcast listeners tended to be younger, with two-thirds being new listeners in the 16-34 age group.

16m US households claim to be “avid fans” of podcasts, this figure has increased by 23 percent year-on-year.

Marketers Guide to Podcasting (Nielsen)

Podcasting offers advantages that go beyond revenue. The audio medium offers a unique intimacy factor that helps build a closer relationship with audiences. A podcast allows publishers to associate a name and voice with their publications.

Brendan Monaghan, CEO of Panoply, a podcast network started by The Slate Group, says, “You’re hearing their voice. You connect with them every week. Our podcast audiences are incredibly engaged and they spend money. And it’s an additional way to extend your brand editorially while reaching a new audience because the people that listen to your podcast don’t always overlap with your readers.”