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The state of podcasting, in 9 charts

COVID-19 has impacted large swathes of the media industry. However, podcasts remain a resilient, growing, market. 

Here are nine charts demonstrating the increasing robustness of this field:

1. More than 100 million Americans now listen to podcasts

“This year,” eMarketer reports, “105.6 million people in the U.S. will listen to podcasts, surpassing 100 million for the first time. That equates to half of U.S. digital audio listeners.”

Awareness, as well as listening, to this medium continues to grow. 

According to The Infinite Dial 2020® from Edison Research and Triton Digital, 75% of Americans aged 12+ are now familiar with the term podcasting, up from 70% a year ago. Monthly listening is also up 5% year-on-year. 

2. This will be a $1 billion ad market by 2021

In 2019, U.S. podcast advertising revenues increased by 48% reaching $708.1 million, the IAB says. Growth has slowed due to COVID, but U.S. podcast advertising revenue was nonetheless predicted to grow by 14.7% this year. 

Analysis from eMarketer determines that U.S. podcast ad spending will surpass 20% of all digital radio ad spending this year, and podcast ad spending will increase by around 45% to $1.13 billion in 2021.

IAB predicts similarly robust levels of growth, as podcasts continue their upward trajectory. 

Source: Fourth annual IAB Podcast Advertising Revenue Report

3. Spotify now the most common app for podcast listening

For over a decade, Apple faced little competition as the preferred app and platform for podcasts listening. However, Spotify’s recent entry into this market has very quickly seen them become top of the podcasting pops. 

Interestingly, they’re not the only podcasting app to have seen growth during this past year. Across the U.S., TuneIn, NPR One and Google Podcasts have also all seen a discernible rise in usage. 

Image: Most commonly used apps for listening to podcasts among podcast listeners in the United States from 2019 to 2020. Via Statista.

4. Spotify’s podcasting growth not confined to the USA

Research published by Mark Mulligan of MIDiA and the Music Industry Blog indicates an even greater lead by Spotify over its rivals when additional markets – Canada, Australia, Germany and France – are added into the mix. 

Mulligan’s data found that in Q2 2020 42% of podcast listeners used Spotify. This was 10% ahead of Apple Podcasts. 

“This does not necessarily mean that it yet leads in terms of volume of listens,” Mulligan cautions, “but it is the platform that the largest share of regular podcast listeners visit.” Moreover, “Spotify was second in Q4 2019,” he adds, “so it is a rapid ascension for the streaming platform, leaving Apple trailing significantly.”

5. Weekly listeners tune in to an average of six podcasts a week

For media watchers, The Infinite Dial data from Edison Research and Triton Digital is the Bible for U.S. podcasting data. 

Their latest research found that 24% of the U.S. population (aged 12+) listen to podcasts on a weekly basis. That’s akin to 68 million people. 

This demographic listened to an average of 6 hours 39 mins of podcast content a week. 

Within this, the average listener consumes six podcasts a week, but substantial numbers of super-users are consuming even more. Nearly a third (30%) of U.S. podcast consumers claim to listen to 6-10 (18%) or 11 or more (12%) podcasts a week. 

6. Daily News podcasts have huge appeal for publishers

“News is the leading podcast content genre for US podcast advertisers,” IAB revealed this summer,  “capturing 22% of revenue, followed by comedy (17%), and society and culture (13%).”

Within this, daily news podcasts may hold particular appeal. “Daily news podcasts make up less than 1% of all those produced but account for more than 10% of the overall downloads in the US and 9% in France and Australia,” the Reuters Institute found recently.

COVID has acted as a further catalyst for production and consumption. Across the six countries analysed by researchers Nic Newman and Nathan Galllo, 37 of the 102 daily news podcasts that they identified launched in the past year.

7. Audiences becoming more tolerant of podcast ads

“Ad tolerance among weekly podcast listeners is gradually growing,” argues the Westwood One Podcast Network in their Fall 2020 Report. The rationale behind this appears to be a recognition that ads make these shows – which are often free – possible. 

“An uptick in ad tolerance should not be taken lightly,” they conclude, “since many media consumers tend to be averse to advertising, proof being the existence of ad-blocking software and premium ad-free media subscriptions…”. 

Image via Westwood One’s Podcast Download – Fall 2020 Report

8. Outside the U.S., audiences grew during the early days of COVID

Insights published by Voxnest found that across their Network “we saw massive worldwide growth,” in the early stages of the pandemic. 

“Global podcast listens increased by 42 percent and European listens were up by 53 percent,” they wrote in their 2020 Mid-Year Preview.

“We specifically tracked the two countries who were quarantined first,” they commented, and found that listening was up by 29% in Italy and up by 25% in Spain.”

Interestingly, consumption in the U.S. fell during this time – perhaps indicating an initial link between podcast listening and commuting – although certain genres saw substantial growth. 

Design orientated podcasts were up 3,404% by mid-April from the start of the year, with Food podcasts also up 2,123% during this period. Music Interviews (+755%), Medicine (+531%) and Music History (+508%) also saw major gains, as listening habits evolved. 

9. Listening in the U.S. has rebounded 

Speaking to Variety Intelligence Platform (VIP) a subscription-based product launched in April by the entertainment brand, Chartable CEO Dave Zohrob recounted a similar story on  Apple and Spotify, as podcasting “took a sharp dip in mid-March.” By June, however, the medium has bounced back and has “been growing since.” 

VIP outlined a similar story at other companies, including Acast, Podtrac and Gimlet.

An October 2020 survey conducted for the Variety Intelligence Platform, observed that 52% of U.S. based respondents claim to now be listening to podcasts “much more” or “a little more” than when the pandemic began.

Implications

As publishers look ahead to 2021 and their strategies for the year ahead, these charts suggest that podcasting remains a medium with substantial potential for growth; both in terms of audiences and revenues.

“Podcast listening is pandemic proof,” argues the Westwood One Podcast Network.

The positive sentiment towards ad acceptance – coupled with the resilience, and even growth in pandemic-era listening that Westwood One, VIP and others, have noted – provide several welcome silver linings for publishers, at a time when the industry needs some good news.

Subsequently, given the potential for this medium to cost-effectively support their engagement and revenue strategies, we can expect that more publishers will further double-down on podcasting in 2021.

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