Just before the coronavirus pandemic completely disrupted our lives, I had a chance to attend Podfest Expo in Orlando, Florida, which is considered the largest conference for independent podcasters in the world (note: Podcast Movement is probably the largest podcast conference dedicated to podcasting, but not necessarily focused on independent podcasters like Podfest Expo). This was the first time I was exposed to some of the eye-opening podcast statistics I will share with you in this post.
While podcasting has always been seen as a niche tool which may or may not be relevant from a marketing perspective, with every year we see more and more content creators and brands leveraging podcasting for business. I also have been investing more time into my Maximize Your Social Influence podcast and as I listen to other podcasts listed in my Top 10 Social Media Marketing Podcasts post, I thought it was time to convince you to consider podcasting for business through this post on podcast statistics.
Let’s now take a step back in history to put the current podcast industry in perspective before we consider the latest podcast statistics.
I might be aging myself here as a GenXer, but most of us who are a little bit older remember the days when families would gather around the radio to hear various programs. These could have been news, politics, weather, religious programming, or good old-fashioned fun. Parents and kids would fight over what station to listen to, just like they did the TV remote.
The times are a changin’, though. Increasingly people are turning to a new source of audio content that is fighting for share of time: Podcasting. Most people consider that the term originates from the fact that, originally, these pre-recorded audio programs were designed for the iPod and MP3 player of yesteryear. And originally, they were a very niche media product centered around the independent voices who placed their programs in Apple iTunes.
Today it’s safe to say that podcasts have become a regular part of worldwide media consumption. In addition, they have become an opportunity for us as marketers to reach target clientele especially since every iPhone includes the Apple Podcasts app by default. All of the other major technology and media players have also been investing in attracting the podcast audience, from the creation of Google Podcasts for Android phones to the enhancement apps such as Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and Spotify to better support podcasts.
Let’s look at some podcast statistics to consider.
Podcast Statistics show that podcasting is experiencing explosive growth
As a general rule, social media networks are leveling off in market share and saturation. After all, most Americans have a Facebook account, and that includes adolescents with their Instagram, Snapchat, and/or TikTok account. Likewise, other networks like YouTube are becoming ubiquitous channels for self-expression. Nonetheless, as these podcast statistics will show, Podcasting is growing faster than anything else.
More importantly for those of us that want to stick out and be found in a crowded digital space, the amount of podcasts that exist are about 0.1% of the total amount of blogs that exist! That’s an opportunity that is making podcasting a very attractive initiative for many marketers. In fact, here at Podfest, the keynote announced that there were more podcast listeners than Spotify listeners. Clearly podcasting as a mass medium has arrived. The question is: When will YOU start a podcast?
1. In 2021, there are 850,000 active podcasts, with over 30 million total episodes.
These numbers are both as of late 2019. That’s a lot of podcasts, but it’s even more impressive when you consider that:
2. In 2020 there were 700,000 podcasts.
This is truly a huge rate of growth: 150,000 more podcasts than the year before, which is the exact same number of new podcasts that appeared in 2019. Now, we can’t say that there were only 150,000 new podcasts. After all, this statistic only covers active podcasts. There would’ve been a certain number of programs discontinued over the course of 2020, in addition to the continuing ones. So, we can safely say that there were more than 150,000 new podcasts. In this context, the numbers are even more impressive.
Even back in 2018,
3. Podcasts are available in over 100 languages.
That’s more languages than most social networks have available. And it isn’t surprising, considering that in order to make a podcast all you really need is a way to record and edit audio, and a way to distribute it. This means that anywhere you can find high-speed internet access and consistent electricity, people with something to say can easily produce content. One can only assume that there are podcasts available in more languages, given the spread of internet access worldwide.
4. 51% of Americans reported listening to a podcast
back in 2019. While still barely a majority, the number is growing: The same study in 2018 had this figure at 44%. In other words, podcast listenership at this most basic level grew by 7% in one year. With a majority of Americans listening to podcasts, we can call this a mainstream media today.
5. 37% of Americans listen to podcasts every month.
These numbers are up from 2019, when it was 32%, and 2018, where it was 26% respectively. These numbers represent increases of 5-6% year over year. This is a bit slower than the yearly expansion rate, but then again, not everyone is going to enjoy something that they have just tried for the first time.
Between 2019 and 2020, there was
6. A 29% increase in the percentage of Americans 55 and older who listen to podcasts at least once a month.
As a result of this increase,
7. Almost 25% of consumers 55+ listen to podcasts monthly.
This is, to put it mildly, a huge increase. While it would be interesting to know what kinds of podcasts this demographic prefers, there’s a good chance that a wide range of topics is covered. For instance, older workers are likely to be in management positions and concerned about retirement funding. So, business and financial podcasts are sure to be hits. In addition, there’s politics, hobbies, and more. For this reason, podcasters will need to start assuming an older demographic for more “serious” topics.
Now, let’s take a look at how weekly podcast listeners behave. While there are a ton of monthly listeners, the weekly ones are more committed to the content they consume. For that reason, they’re more likely to respond to advertising placed on podcast episodes.
One study found that
8. the average weekly podcast listener spends 6 hours and 39 minutes listening each week.
This is quite a bit of time, and it reflects one of the more common times when people listen: the daily commute. Listening to something while commuting every day is a near-universal American activity, whether talk radio, music, or something else. For an increasing number of people, this is a podcast. Downloaded to a smartphone, they can be piped into the car audio or headphones as appropriate.
What these numbers tell us, then, is that podcasting is becoming a major force in media consumption.
So, who listens to podcasts, anyway?
Besides the fact that there are a lot of people listening to podcasts, as followers of media trends and as marketers we want to know what the demographics are among listeners. Here are some basics about the typical podcast listener.
9. 58% of South Koreans listen to podcasts at least monthly.
This is the first time in our statistics series that Americans have not been the highest percentage of media users, and I find this interesting. Numbers from the same source have the top five podcast listeners rounded out by Spain (40%), Sweden (36%), and Americans are tied with Australia at 33%. If you take the percentage given in another study cited above of 32% of Americans, then the Aussies beat us by a small margin. One thing I like about this study is that it considers the percentage of the population, and not just raw user numbers.
But, since most of the readers of this blog are Americans, let’s return to US-based podcast statistics.
10. 36% of American males 12 and over listen each month.
By contrast, only 29% of their female counterparts are this dedicated. It isn’t at all unusual to see a form of media dominated by one sex over the other. For instance, Pinterest is favored by women, while LinkedIn is ruled by the men. Much of this probably has to do with the gender gap in careers. After all, men can listen to a podcast in the shop while working on a car, or nailing siding to a building. It’s a bit harder to listen in an office setting, where more women work.
11. 40% of those under age 55 listen monthly.
By far, this is the largest American segment to be listening every month, and it’s 8% higher than the all-ages listening rate. Part of this, of course, has to do with overall technology usage. Older people still spend more time listening to or watching old-fashioned broadcast television. They tend to use computers for email and checking up with the grandchildren. A few more are on Facebook or YouTube. But they aren’t online for many hours every day, nor do they own as many smartphones as the younger set.
12. 67% of podcasts assume an audience between the ages of 18 and 44.
And as a rule, these are the people most likely to listen. That’s because podcast listeners tend to be technologically savvy. You have to look for a good podcast in order to find one; it isn’t something that’s in your face all the time, unlike other forms of online media.
13. 45% of podcast listeners have a household income over $250,000.
Whether you’re considering only Americans or the global population, this figure is far higher than the overall percentage of people that make this sum of money. What this means is that podcast listeners on average have a much higher income than the general population. Given that the format allows for multitasking in a way that reading blogs or searching social media doesn’t, I’m not surprised. Also, until the smartphone became popular, listening in often required expensive equipment that not everyone can afford.
14. In the US, 26% of podcast listeners have a college degree or higher.
That’s higher than the proportion of the US in general that is college educated, and it goes along well with the higher income brackets. After all, most high-paying jobs require at least some college. It also means that podcast listeners tend to be intelligent.
What podcasts do people listen to?
It’s one thing to know that podcasts are popular, and another to know what kinds of things people listen to. Fortunately, we have a survey to look at
15. The most popular podcast topic in 2019 was music.
In fact 61.1 million American households listen to music podcasts on a regular basis. Next, TV and movie-themed casts are enjoyed by 60.5 million Americans. Finally, a minimum of 49 million people listen to podcasts on tech, family, society, the arts, comedy, health, politics, games, sports, religion, and business.
It’s fair to say that this is a wide variety of topics, and that there’s something for everyone. That doesn’t even count more niche topics that are less popular. In addition, some niches like music have a wide variety of style options, even within the English language. Needless to say, the options for reaching people with your advertising message are endless
How do podcasts fit into listener’s lives?
Until recently, knowing how people used media throughout the day was fairly simple. Folks would read the newspaper first thing in the morning, then the radio while driving to work. Catching the news at breakfast, and finding out about events for the day, was an important part of an American worker’s day.
But it had one problem: You can probably eat or drink while reading the paper, but most other activities are out. This isn’t a good form of content if you need to multitask. On the other hand, audio content invites multitasking as it allows you to perform a wide variety of tasks while listening, so long as it doesn’t take too much concentration.
16. 49% of podcast listeners, listen to the programs at home.
This is one way that podcasts are taking the place of listening to music being played while you do house work or pursue a hobby. In fact,
17. 59% of listeners have done housework at the same time.
Housework can include everything from ironing clothes to mowing the lawn. These are times when we generally don’t need to concentrate too much on the chore at hand, and can focus most of our attention elsewhere.
18 . 51% of those surveyed said they listen while driving.
Driving is one of the more important times for listening to the radio, if you consider that it was once a ubiquitous practice. It is clear to see how podcasts are now competing with that head on.
And in another example of people listening to podcasts away from home,
19. 46% have listened to podcasts while out on a walk.
This is a situation where in the past most people would have listened to music that they own. It might’ve been using a digital music player or one of the older tape or CD-based models, but people have been walking around their neighborhoods with head phones for decades. Only the format is changing.
20. 65% of podcast consumers listen to podcasts through their mobile device.
In particular, Edison Research has found that smartphones are the most popular device to use. Another 25% prefers computers, and around 10% relies on smart speakers.
It is likely that there are many reasons why people choose to use smartphones. Back when podcasts were new technology, smartphones were relatively primitive. Remember Palm Pilots that pretty much only kept track of email and schedules? The equation changed radically when the iPod turned into an iPhone. Before that point, people would carry both a music player and a cellphone. Now, the smartphone can serve both functions, and then some.
The bottom line here is that people listen to podcasts in similar ways they might have listened to other forms of portable music in the past.
Which brings us to the next question:
What are some marketing-related podcast statistics?
As important as it may be to know the type of audience enjoyed by podcast creators, as marketers we do like to know what’s in it for us. Since podcasting is still maturing as a medium, the numbers aren’t as easy to obtain. But hopefully what I’ve found here will be helpful.
21. In 2021, revenue from podcast advertisements are expected to grow by 35%.
Growth at such a fast rate isn’t necessarily sustainable, and revenue is growing faster than the number of listeners. Still, this is an impressive statistic. In terms of total dollars spent on podcast advertising.
22. Estimates say that by 2021 advertising revenue on podcasts should reach $1.1 billion.
For advertisers, this means that many more adverts are being placed into podcasts each year. There may also be rate increases as podcasts get more listeners. On the other hand, it also means that there are some real opportunities to make money through podcasting.
23. 69% of listeners say that podcast adverts introduced them to new products or services.
And as we marketers know, an increase in brand or product awareness is the first step in increasing sales. This is especially true with consumer products, because it is easy for consumers to get into a rut of using the same things all the time. Plus, it allows people the opportunity to do research via other forms of content we’ve put out for them.
24. 38% of listeners report purchasing things that are mentioned in podcasts.
There’s no question that this contrasts with more mature forms of media, and those with a wider appeal. After all, a larger percentage of social media users have bought things because of sponsored content on those platforms.
However, it is probably fair to guess that customers don’t listen to podcasts that often with the goal of finding new products and services. This is a lot like traditional forms of media consumption: content is consumed to get information, be entertained, or pursue any number of interests besides just shopping. On the other hand, people look at Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest all the time with the goal of finding out about products and services. Intent makes a lot of difference.
Finally, while there is no podcast statistic to prove my point yet, most podcasters that have developed business podcasting will tell you that it helps build a deep and loyal relationship with their followers which, combined with a website, email marketing, and relevant product or service, without a doubt contributes to sales.
Not so long ago, podcasts were considered a nerdy form of media. As podcasts become more mainstream however, they are experiencing explosive growth. This is giving us as marketers an incredible opportunity to help shape a new genre of media while also making money for our companies or clients.
If you are thinking about launching a podcast and don’t know where to start, check out my step-by-step guide here:
Do you already have a podcast? Please drop a link in the comments so readers can check it out.
Which of these podcast statistics convinced YOU to start podcasting?
Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash