Podcasts are more popular than ever: here’s why

Twenty years ago, nobody had heard of a podcast, today the industry is booming with new podcasts and their listeners joining the audio medium everyday. 

Podcasts have surged in popularity in recent years with over 2.4million podcasts available on a variety of digital platforms like Youtube and Spotify.

In this article we delve into the reasons why podcasts are more popular now than ever before. 

Gabriel Soto from Edison Research said: “There are key factors that have driven the boom in podcasting. 

“Rising accessibility to smartphones and data plans throughout the years has made it easier for people to consume digital content like podcasts.

“Without the content gatekeepers that exist in television and radio, podcasting allowed creators from all walks of life to make shows that would appeal to the masses.

“Big shows helped popularise podcasting, but it’s the sum of all the smaller shows that have helped usher in new audiences since 2006, altering the face of the podcast listener to be younger, more female and more ethnically diverse.

“As a result, the share of Americans that have ever listened to a podcast has grown by 463% since 2006.”

Number of new podcasts

The number of podcasts has increased year-on-year for the best part of a decade.

As with other forms of media, the pandemic massively boosted podcast numbers in 2020 as people spent more time online.

Although numbers fell in 2021, the number of new podcasts are still surpassing pre-pandemic levels. 

Gabriel said: “The fall in listenership we saw when things began to normalise should serve as no indication that podcast listening has peaked.

“We’ve seen a quarter over quarter increase in podcast listening since the beginning of the year in our Share of Ear study- That’s evidence that podcast listening will continue to grow in 2023.”

Other than a dip in 2021, podcasts have steadily increased since 2014.
Data source:

Podcast listeners

Research shows that 424.2million people currently listen to podcasts globally with the number projected to reach more than half a million in 2024.

From 2019 to 2022 listener numbers have increased by 54%.

Kimberley Piper, 23, journalist co-ordinator at BBC Three Counties Radio, started a podcast for women who want to learn about sport with colleague Lily-Mae called ‘Girls do sweat’.

Kimberley said: “The majority of the time, sport podcasts involve men talking about sport with lots of technical terms.

“But I think there’s something powerful in asking the stupid questions, as me and Lily are new to these sports and so are the majority of our listeners.

“I think more people are turning to podcasts out of ease because you can listen to them anytime whereas radio is mainly broadcast live.

“When you interview someone on the radio you’re only speaking to them for five to seven minutes so you don’t get the chance to have a deeper conversation with them.

“I think it’s a really nice format to have longer discussions and see different sides of a person.”

Edison Research found that when looking at audio as a whole, podcast listening will never take over radio listening as a whole because radio can distribute music, unlike the podcast medium.

Graham said: “If you eliminate music from the equation and drill down on what we call spoken word audio, I do see a future in the far distance where podcasts overtake radio. 

“Podcast listening has already surpassed AM/FM radio listening in one of these categories: personalities/talk shows. 

“But it seems that it will take some time for it to surpass radio in sports and news.”

Why do people listen to podcasts

There are multiple reasons why people listen to podcasts but the most popular reason is to learn new things.

Gabriel said: “Success can mean different things in podcasting. Whether you’re hoping to be the next hit, or if you’re looking to promote your business via a podcast, all successful shows need to develop an audience.

“Our research shows the top two reasons why people listen is to be entertained, but also to learn.

“A good show has to either be entertaining or informative, a great show is both”.

Nick Bowen, 20, a labourer who also owns a property management business, said: “I like podcasts because you can listen to them while doing other things, it doesn’t take any time out of your day but still gives you the chance to learn something new.

‘You get new ideas, it keeps you entertained and keeps your mind working.”

Jasmine Sidwell, 22, investment banking analyst at Deutsche Bank, said she listens to podcasts both for work and to unwind and relax.

She added: “I listen to the ‘Financial Times’ podcast in the mornings because I need to be up to date with the most important business stories before I go to work.

“I listen to the ‘Girls Bathroom’ and ‘On Wednesdays we drink wine’ because the podcast is just two girls having a conversation and answering dilemmas. 

“I like listening to them because it feels like you’re friends with the hosts and it feels really relatable.”

The demographic of people who listen to podcasts is interesting, with 12-34 year olds making up the largest age group of podcast listeners.

Gabriel said: “This age group are also more likely to be on platforms like Spotify and YouTube consuming other forms of audio, and they encounter podcasts this way.

“Being raised in the age of information, young people also have a stronger desire to listen to content whenever and whenever they want to.

“Older generations are generally more satisfied with what they’re used to, such as television and radio, and don’t have as strong a need for the on-demand aspect of media.”

Featured image credit: Sascha Kohlmann via Flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence

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