Podcasting Survey Study Statistics

Podcasting Statistics – Data from Study of 1,076 Podcasters


Behind each success story, there is a lot of hard work, trial and error, and experimentation. But I was always curious about what works for large populations. So I have asked 1,076 podcasters about their best practices, techniques, and results to find out what creates the best results.

Many podcasting statistics were surprising but also shed a lot of light on the current state of podcasting, and pointed towards new future trends.

In this post, you’ll learn about top listeners’ sources, marketing channels, episode formats, and how podcasters use their websites, plan, research, and prepare their episodes. Monetization and sources of income were also important focus of this study.

The answers are divided into two groups: podcasters who make at least $50,000 per year from their shows vs. lower-income podcasters who haven’t yet crossed that threshold. This way, we can achieve a deep level of insight and help guide podcasters towards achieving success.

Let’s start with the most powerful top-level highlights.

You can also skip to the part which interests you the most:


TOP 12 Actionable Highlights, Trends and Podcasting Statistics

1. There are 3 breakthrough points that show a high correlation between effort put into podcasting and financial success – those are the number of published episodes, months of podcasting, listeners per episode.

2. Successful podcasters are 7.7 times more likely to have published over 100 episodes and 15.8 times more likely to have published over 200 episodes. This confirms the long game nature of content marketing, which requires patience and dedication.

3. Success in podcasting comes with time and experience. 69% of podcasters whose show is over 24 months old are monetizing it successfully, while 80% of lower-income podcasters have shows younger than 24 months.  

4. The number of listeners per episode is highly correlated with podcasting success. Higher-income podcasters are 8.1 times more likely to have move than 1,000 listeners per episode. The majority of podcasters operate in a traditional publishing model, dependent on ads, and on a broad reach.

5. Publishing 1 episode per week is a sweet spot formula for the vast majority of podcasters, and 63% of successful podcasters choose this consistent publishing schedule.

6. There is no winning formula when it comes to the length of an episode. Higher-income podcasters are able to turn any length format into a success. However, for 56% of higher-income podcasters, the best performing episodes last between 40 and 120 minutes.

7. Higher-income podcasters are 1.7 times more likely to have a show addressed to a very specific group of people. 90% of higher-income podcasters have spent time and analyzed the target audience of their shows.

8. Higher-income podcasters are 1.7 times more likely to be active or very active in promoting their shows. 43% of lower-income podcasters are minimally active or not active at all in promoting their shows.

9. The number of used marketing channels is highly correlated with financial success. Higher-income podcasters use on average 3.6 marketing channels. This is 157% more than lower-income podcasters.

10. 53% of higher-income podcasters use more than 4 marketing channels. Higher-income podcasters are 2.8 times more likely to use 4 or more marketing channels. Lower-income podcasters are 6 times more likely to use only 1 marketing channel.

11. The number 1 monetization channel used by 63% of higher-income podcasters is sponsors and host-read ads. Direct contributions are used successfully by 47% of higher-income podcasters, proving the right strategy is necessary to make it work.

12. Podcasters who earn over $50,000 per year are 2.8 times more likely to have sponsorships as the main monetization channel, and 1.6 times more likely to sell their own services as their main monetization channel.


Learn more insights from this study:

For a lot more details, and greater understanding listen to our podcast where we help you to build the best show possible based on analysis of podcasting statistics:


Download the full podcasting statistics presentation with bonus commentary and bonus slides:


Breakthrough Milestones

Learn more and listen @ ImprovePodcast School

How many episodes have you published?

01. How many episodes have you published? - podcasting statistics
  • 53% of successful podcasters have published more than 200 episodes.
  • Only 3% of podcasters who have published over 200 episodes do not monetize their shows successfully.
  • 90% of lower-income podcasters have published less than 100 episodes, vs. 74% of higher-income podcasters who have published over 100 episodes.
  • A 100 episodes is a lot of opportunities to master storytelling and engagement skills and learn to create a compelling narrative style.

TOP finding#1 Breakthrough Point:

  • Successful podcasters are 7.7 times more likely to have published over 100 episodes and 15.8 times more likely to have published over 200 episodes. This confirms the long game nature of content marketing, which requires patience and dedication.

Expert opinion:

Wenbin Fang, founder and CEO of Listen Notes (the best podcast search engine):

“I think the absolute number of episodes doesn’t matter much. The key is to always have fresh content for episodic podcasts, and leverage existing brands for serial podcasts.

For episodic podcasts, success is certainly correlated to consistently publishing contents over a long period of time. A couple reasons:

a) Listeners typically subscribe to several podcasts and only listen to the latest episodes on top of their play queue in the podcast app. If a podcast doesn’t publish new content for a long time, then it won’t put new episodes in the listener’s play queue, and won’t get any attention at all.

b) Search engines (both Google and Listen Notes) all favor fresh content. Everything being equal (e.g., podcast reputation & popularity & keyword relevance…), new episodes tend to rank higher than old ones. There are over 2.2 million RSS-based podcasts on the Internet. It’s unrealistic to expect a listener to subscribe to 10+ podcasts and listen to every single new episode. More and more people listen to podcasts without subscribing — unbundling podcasts. For example, many people use our Listen Later playlists to add episodes from different shows on demand. In the world of unbundling podcasts, search engine would play an important role. It’s important to rank higher on search results. This is not a new problem for publishers. We already stop bookmarking entire websites since late 1990s, when web search engines (specifically Google) became mainstream. Instead, we use search engines to find individual web pages, read them, and move on.

For serial podcasts, the success really depends on the publisher’s existing brand & marketing.  Serial podcasts tend to have a fixed amount of episodes. Once those episodes are published, the podcast is done. “

Dan Franks, founder and president of Podcast Movement:

“This is exactly what I would expect to see. The longer podcasters are sticking with it, the more likely they are to start seeing a growth in income from their show. While “slow and steady wins the race” is not sexy or exciting when you’re first starting out, it is something that clearly contributes to the long term success of a podcast.”


How old is your show?

02. How old is your show? - podcasting statistics
  • Almost 1/3 of successful podcasters were able to monetize their shows in a shorter period than 24 months, proving the medium’s high marketing potential. This group monetizes mainly their show selling their products or services.
  • 20% of lower-income podcasters struggle to find financial success even after 24 months, hinting at a bigger problem with successful growth and monetization strategies.

TOP finding#2 Breakthrough Point:

  • Success in podcasting comes with time and experience. 69% of podcasters whose show is over 24 months old are monetizing it successfully, while 80% of lower-income podcasters have shows younger than 24 months.
  • The fastest road to monetization of podcasts is achieved through selling products and services.
  • Creators with the longest-lasting shows earn the most through sponsorships, direct contributions (like Patreon), and selling their services.

Expert opinion:

James Cridland, editor of Podnews, speaker and consultant about radio and audio:

“The most successful podcasters in the world have been behind the microphone for many years, honing their skills and making the relationships they need to succeed – and it clearly pays off, according to this data. This survey shows that hard work, consistency and tenacity are, as always, the key to success.”


What is your average number of listeners per episode?

03. What is your average number of listeners per episode? - podcasting statistics
  • Having more than 5,000 listeners per episode makes a podcast over 29 times more likely to be monetized successfully.
  • Only less than 2% of all podcasters who have more than 5,000 listeners per episode struggle with their shows’ monetization.
  • 60% of shows with over 10,000 listeners per episode monetize mainly with sponsorships and host read ads.

TOP finding#3 Breakthrough Point

  • The number of listeners per episode is highly correlated with podcasting success. Higher-income podcasters are 8.1 times more likely to have move than 1,000 listeners per episode. The majority of podcasters operate in a traditional publishing model, dependent on a broad reach.
  • 25% of higher-income podcasters manage to do so with less than 1,000 listeners per episode, proving there are ways to monetize niche audiences with podcasting effectively.

Expert opinion:

Todd Cochrane, founder Blubrry.com, Podcast Hall of Fame Inductee

“There are varied ways of making money from one’s podcast and even though your audience may not be massive it’s still possible to derive significant income outside of standard podcast advertising. The information provided in this survey is refreshing and proves that Podcast is a viable medium at all audience levels.”

Dan Franks, founder and president of Podcast Movement:

“The most exciting thing I see here is how many podcasters are making significant revenue from their show, despite having less than 1,000 listeners per episode. This is something we’ve preached for years, which is if you have a show in the right niche with the right target audience, that product market fit becomes more important than simply looking at the listener number with no context!”


Success Factors

Learn more and listen @ ImprovePodcast School

How do you prepare for recording?

04. How do you prepare for recording? - podcasting statistics
  • 57% of lower-income podcasters don’t use drafts or uses only a general outline of the episode.
  • 74% of higher-income podcasters have either a detailed outline or a full script ready before. When it comes to monetization, the higher level of episode preparations yields more significant results.

Expert opinion:

David Ciccarelli, the founder and CEO of voices.com a marketplace for voice-overs and audio production:

“The best podcasters arrive prepared for each recording.  Be it a monolog and your topics and talking points are outlined in advance or an interview when the questions are planned out in logical order, both situations will yield a better result by working from prepared material.

As a podcaster myself and a guest on over 50 other shows, preparation is key.  

When hosting your own show, even having your opening lines scripted helps generate excitement for the episode. And, to close, you should have your call-to-action scripted too. Be clear on how your audience can help you, by subscribing and if you’re a few episodes into the series, you’ve earned the right to ask for a review in Apple Podcasts or wherever they are listening.

As a guest on other people’s posts, I’ve always appreciated receiving the questions in advance.  It helps me jot down talking points or reference stories that I know the audience will find helpful.  While I a catalog in my mind, by getting the questions in advance, I’m reading for the questions when it’s posed and can share the story without skipping a beat.”


How often do you publish new episodes? 

05. How often do you publish new episodes? - podcasting statistics
  • Lower-income podcasters are 1.7 times more likely to publish less than 1 episode per week than higher-income podcasters.
  • Publishing 1 episode per week is a sweet spot formula for the vast majority of podcasters, and 63% of successful podcasters choose this consistent publishing schedule.
  • Publishing more than once a week is not a popular podcasting formula
  • Creators who publish more than 2 episodes per week tend to be 3.2 more likely to be successful.

How those factors are important to make your podcast successful?

(on a 1-10 scale)

06. How important are those factors for your success? - podcasting statistics
  • Classic podcasting strengths, like content quality, regular publishing schedule, and uniqueness, are highly valued but all podcasters. Lower-income podcasters assign them even more value, while higher-income podcasters see the picture behind success more holistically.
  • Lower-income podcasters assign more value to their social media followers and their show’s name. However, social media is still valued relatively high by all podcasters since it is an essential listeners’ source.

TOP finding:

  • Emerging Pattern: lower-income podcasters focus only on podcasting, while higher-income creators put additional emphasis on the surrounding ecosystem of guests, and other podcasting hosts, as well as deploy classic and proven marketing tools like a dedicated website and email marketing.

Expert opinion:

Chris Land, founder of Improve Podcast, host of ImprovePodcast School

“Podcasting landscape is maturing in a very healthy way.

The traditional values of what makes podcasts enjoyable are relevant and strong despite the medium’s rapid growth.

The growing importance of research, marketing and communication tools signalizes how much attracting podcast listeners is crucial. The competition for attention will significantly increase in the coming years.


Content Type

Learn more and listen @ ImprovePodcast School

What is the primary niche/category of your podcast?

07. What is the primary niche:category of your podcast? - podcasting statistics
  • Higher-income podcasters outperform lower income-podcasters in categories of business, technology, history, storytelling, science, education, and health & living.
  • Lower-income podcasters are more present in the niches of society & culture, games & hobbies, comedy, news & politics, tv & movies, and music.

What form factors you use for your podcast?

08. What form factors you use for your podcast? - podcasting statistics
  • 65% of higher-income podcasters create interviews, as this is still the most form of podcasting. However, higher-income podcasters are 2.8 times more likely to create non-fiction stories and 1.4 times more likely to publish hybrid (multi-segment) episodes.
  • Besides the interviews, lower-income podcasters are heavily focused on co-host discussion episodes and solo episodes. More than 40% of lower income-podcasters publish those types of episodes.

TOP finding:

  • While interviews, co-host discussion episodes, and solo episodes, are the dominant form of podcasting, a higher chance of financial success is provided by publishing non-fiction narration and hybrid shows.

Expert opinion:

Alex Sanfilippo, founder of PodMatch:

“Whoa! This is not at all what I expected to learn. The data from Improve Podcast’s survey is very valuable for me to better understand the podcasters that I am helping educate! Thank you for gathering this data! What Improve Podcast put together here really reinforces what we’re doing at PodMatch. Podcasters always need great guests to appear on their shows and that’s a growing trend!”


Which types of content have you published in the past 12 months?

09. Types of episodes published in the past 12 months - podcasting statistics
  • Stories, sharing experiences, and opinion pieces are among the top 3 types of episodes published by all groups of podcasters. This reflects the personal characteristic of the podcasting medium! Higher-income podcasters are more focused on stories vs. sharing experiences and opinion pieces.
  • Product reviews, “How to” episodes, and list type episodes are among the least popular episode types. Those episodes are easiest to include product recommendations. Low popularity correlates with affiliate marketing being just the 5th most popular method of podcast monetization. 

TOP finding:

  • Higher-income podcasters publish more work demanding content like original research & analysis (30% vs. 9% of lower-income podcasters) and case studies (18% vs. 7% of lower-income podcasters).

Expert opinion:

Chris Land, founder of Improve Podcast, host of ImprovePodcast School

“Podcasting continues its storytelling, personal traditions, which will be a strong point of the medium for many years to come. It will be the industry’s core for which the medium is known, and those shows will gain the most publicity and solidify listeners’ attachment to podcasts. 

However, as more creators enter the landscape, we will continue to see a growing number of shows focused on problem-solving and delivering helpful knowledge. Those shows will, by nature, be niche, but they will start generating significant revenue, as creators will refine their monetization strategies.”


How long are your best-performing or most popular episodes?

10. How long are your best-performing episodes? - podcasting statistics

TOP findings:

  • For 57% of lower-income podcasters, the best performing episodes are shorter than 40 minutes.
  • For 56% of higher-income podcasters, the best performing episodes last between 40 and 120 minutes.

Which types of research do you use to help you decide what to discuss on your show?

11. Which types of research do you use? - podcasting statistics
  • Analyzing the news cycle is the most popular research method among higher-income podcasters (55% use it). All podcasters rely on social media research and their own judgment (or consultations with people they know personally).
  • Relying on own judgment or consulting with someone that they know personally is the most popular research/decision-making method among lower-income podcasters (62%) and is the 3rd most popular method among high-income podcasters (45%).

TOP finding:

  • Higher-income podcasters are 4 times more likely to do competitor research and 1.7 times more likely to base their show’s content on the news cycle.

Expert opinion:

Juergen Berkessel, founder of Polymash Podcasting:

“When doing podcast guesting or promo swap outreach campaigns, it is important for us to identify the right podcasts to approach, know their approximate download numbers, and find out contact information for the outreach campaign. We recommend “Podchaser Pro” as a research tool, since it offers comprehensive data about 7+ Million podcasts, and insights and research tools to identify the best podcasts to contact for guest placements. “


Target Audience

Learn more and listen @ ImprovePodcast School

Have you put time into understanding your typical listener or target audience?

12. Have you put time to understand your target audience? - podcasting statistics

TOP findings:

  • 90% of higher-income podcasters have spent time and analyzed the target audience of their shows.
  • 54% of lower-income podcasters have not put enough time into understanding their audience.

Expert opinion:

David Ciccarelli, the founder and CEO of voices.com a marketplace for voice-overs and audio production:

“Just like when you’ve started a business and you got clear on your target audience, the same principle applies when starting a new marketing channel.  Ask yourself who you are trying to reach and why they’d want to listen and better yet, subscribe to your show.  You’ll need to affirm the value you intend to deliver at the beginning of each episode.  Even saying explicitly, “this is the show for small business owners who struggle with X” or “welcome to this podcasts, the place where ___________ find the help they need to handle day to day challenges” you’ve pre-qualified your listeners and made brand promise that you’ll then proceed to deliver upon as the show transpires.”

John Lee Dumas, host of Entrepreneurs on Fire and Author of Podcast Launch and The Common Path to Uncommon Success:

“Engaging with your listeners is the key ingredient to understanding what they are struggling with. This knowledge will allow you to create the solutions to the specific problems your audience is experiencing. 

Engage with your listeners one on one at every opportunity and ask these 4 questions; How did you find out about my show? What do you like? What don’t you like? What are you struggling with? 

This time intensive strategy is the only way to truly understand your listeners and is something 99% of podcasters will never do, which makes it all the more important to implement this strategy today.”


Is your show designed for a very specific group, or a wide audience?

13. For whom is your podcast designed? - podcasting statistics
  • 100% of higher-income podcasters know for whom their show is designed for, while 6% of lower-income podcasters don’t know that

TOP findings:

  • Higher-income podcasters are 1.7 times more likely to have a show addressed to a very specific group of people.

Expert opinion:

Mark Asquith, CEO and co-founder of Captivate:

“Podcasting is and always has been a personal medium. With the ability to connect creator voices to niche and focused listeners anywhere in the world, the medium is unrivaled when it comes to the intimacy of connection. However, the rise of podcasting as a mainstream entertainment media brings a level of perceived threat to those independent producers that have thrived on a captive audience for years. Now, more than ever, it’s vital that indies spend time developing processes and methods to connect with their audience more directly and to step into a detailed understanding of the (potentially many) audience segments that make up their listenership. By doing so, creators will find themselves in a much stronger position to monetise their audience through more direct means than a CPM-based sponsorship deal and that, to a large degree, can help to “protect” their audience revenue from “big” podcasting’s hard push.”


Marketing

Learn more and listen @ ImprovePodcast School

How active are you in promoting your podcast?

14. How active are you in promoting your podcast? - podcasting statistics
  • Higher-income podcasters are 1.7 times more likely to be active or very active in promoting their shows.
  • 43% of lower-income podcasters are minimally active or not active at all in promoting their shows.

Expert opinion:

Juergen Berkessel, founder of Polymash Podcasting:

“As a podcast marketing agency, most of our clients focus on “podcasting as content strategy”. As such, much goes into the planning process, including extensive SEO research on each episode topic. “We view SEO optimized podcast show notes as a long term business asset.” 

All subsequent marketing activity then focuses on promoting these SEO and conversion optimized show notes pages, and drives traffic to them. So for us the critical question is to fist ensure that the show notes articles we are promoting are “conversion optimized” set up to convert listeners and website visitors into email subscribers in our client’s podcast content funnel. Only then do we get super active in promoting our client podcasts. “


Which of these marketing channels do you use?

15. Used marketing channels - podcasting statistics
  • The most popular marketing channel among all podcasters is a website with additional content (done by 73% of higher-income podcasters, and by 51% of lower-income podcasters).
  • Compared to lower-income podcaster, podcasters who earn over $50,000 per year are:
    • 2.1 times more likely to create episode transcripts and use paid promotion,
    • 2.0 times more likely to engage in partnerships and collaboration,
    • 1.8 times more likely to make a live video,
    • 1.7 times more likely to publish non-live video,
    • 1.4 times more likely to have a website with additional content,
    • 1.2 more likely to produce additional, surprise episodes.

Expert opinion:

Jason Chicola, CEO, Rev.com

“It’s not surprising that nearly half of the most successful podcasters find success in using episode transcripts as part of their marketing plan. Search engines aren’t able to decipher raw audio or video; using tools like Rev.com to generate episode transcripts is an easy and affordable way to improve SEO. In addition to publishing episode transcripts, this content can be broken down even further and used as pull quotes in articles or on social media. Transcripts are a versatile and practical tool to make content accessible to broader audiences.”

Juergen Berkessel, founder of Polymash Podcasting:

“Since we are a podcasting agency, we have several types of clients, and differentiate marketing channels depending on the podcast: For large organizations with solid existing social media platform we often focus on guesting and paid channels. Outreach campaigns to get booked on related podcasts are an effective way to directly increase listenership. We also use Facebook ads, though they generally do not directly increase podcast listenership, but can target the most relevant audience effectively, as well as become ROI positive. FB Ads grow email lists and raise podcast awareness indirectly through the email welcome sequence that is part of a Facebook ad campaign. I would rather send Facebook ad traffic to a landing page with an email sign up, than to Apple or Spotify where listeners remain anonymous to me and I cannot measure lift. “I will gladly trade 100 email sign ups for 1,000 Apple Podcast listens“.”

Alex Sanfilippo, founder of PodMatch:

“I am shocked by the separation podcast marketing best practices among income levels. Improve Podcast has made it clear that more education is needed around the cost to value points of particular podcast marketing best practices.”


The average number of marketing channels

16. Average number of marketing channels - podcasting statistics
  • The number of used marketing channels is highly correlated with financial success.
  • Higher-income podcasters use on average 3.6 marketing channels. This is 157% more than lower-income podcasters.
  • 53% of higher-income podcasters use more than 4 marketing channels. Higher-income podcasters are 2.8 times more likely to use 4 or more marketing channels.
  • Lower-income podcasters are 6 times more likely to use only 1 marketing channel. 36% of them use only 1 marketing channel.

Expert opinion:

Chris Land, founder of Improve Podcast, host of ImprovePodcast School

“It is paramount for new creators to understand how promoting podcasts’ is different. 

Long-term audience growth depends highly on choosing the proper channels and executing a well-thought marketing strategy over a long time.

New creators often invest their time in channels that do not yield good results and are not a good value.”


How do you get email subscribers for your podcast?

17. How do you get email subscribers for your podcast? - podcasting statistics
  • Email marketing is not widely adopted by podcasters, despite being one of the most effective marketing channels,
  • Only 53% of higher-income podcasters and 36% of lower-income podcasters engage in list building.
  • Compared to lower-income podcaster, podcasters who earn over $50,000 per year are:
    • 2.1 times more likely to use static forms,
    • 2.0 times more likely to offer lead magnets (free downloads),
    • 1.5 times more likely to use floating or “sticky” forms.

Expert opinion:

Chris Land, founder of Improve Podcast, host of ImprovePodcast School

“Email marketing in podcasting holds huge untapped potential.

If you are not mailing to your listeners, your competition will.”


Marketing Channels

Learn more and listen @ ImprovePodcast School

How important are these marketing channels for you?

18. How important are these marketing channels for you? - podcasting statistics
  • Traditional podcasting marketing channels, like presence in multiple directories and appearing as a guest, are valued highly by all podcasters. All podcasters recognize their presence in all directories as their main marketing channel. Podcasting cross-promotion thanks to appearing on other shows is also unanimously voted very high. 
  • Higher-income podcasters recognize more the value of traditional online marketing channels. They value their email list 1.4 times higher than lower-income podcasters. They also are more in favor of websites with transcripts (1.2 times more) and Google organic traffic (1.1 times more).
  • Twitter and Facebook are important for all podcasters.
  • Lower-income podcasters value Instagram and Reddit 1.3 times higher, and YouTube 1.1 times higher than podcasters earning over $50,000 per year from their shows.

Expert opinion:

Chris Land, founder of Improve Podcast, host of ImprovePodcast School

“It is paramount for new creators to understand how promoting podcasts’ is different. 

Long-term audience growth depends highly on choosing the proper channels and executing a well-thought marketing strategy over a long time.

New creators often invest their time in channels that do not yield good results and are not a good value.”


Are these marketing channels more or less important for you now compared to a year or two ago?

19. Marketing channel - website : blog - podcasting statistics
  • The importance of a website/blog as a marketing channel increases significantly in both groups.
  • Investing time and resources into a dedicated website is more important for 58% of higher-income podcasters. This is in line with a website being the second most important marketing channel (grade 7.4 out of 10) for podcasters earning over $50,000 per year.

20. Marketing channel - YouTube - podcasting statistics
  • The importance of YouTube’s (unpaid/organic) traffic increases significantly, despite the previously declared medium importance of this marketing channel (4.5 out of 10 for higher-income podcasters and 5 out of 10 for lower-income podcasters).
  • Promoting podcasts with a YouTube channel is more important for 47% of higher-income and 38% lower-income podcasters.

21. Marketing channel - other paid - podcasting statistics
  • The importance of social media organic traffic grows more for the lower-income than higher-income podcasters.
  • 15% of higher-income podcasters said that organic social media is less important for them, and this channel lost the most significant out of all organic marketing traffic channels.
  • The majority of lower-income podcasters answered “about the same/don’t know” for every marketing channel, except the organic social media. In general, this supports the previous findings that 64% of them are not active in promoting their shows.

Challenges

Learn more and listen @ ImprovePodcast School

What are your biggest challenges with podcasting?

22. What are your biggest challenges with podcasting? - podcasting statistics
  • The top 3 challenges for lower-income podcasters are getting listeners and growing their audience (82%), finding the right marketing strategy (49%), and effective monetization (44%).
  • Finding the time and staying disciplined or motivated is a challenge for over 30% of all podcasters.
  • Twice as many higher-income podcasters (16% vs. 8%) see increased competition as a big challenge in podcasting.

Expert opinion:

Wenbin Fang, founder and CEO of Listen Notes (the best podcast search engine):

“From our interactions with many podcasters (e.g,. podcaster interviews, classified ads…), the biggest challenge for podcasters is building audience. Once you get a lot of listeners, money will follow.

People’s attention is limited. There are so many things competing for our screen time and ear time. 

For ear time, let’s not talk about music, audiobooks, radio… Just focus on RSS-based podcasts – There are over 2.2 million RSS-based podcasts on the open web, not including exclusive content from Spotify / Audible / Amazon Music (and more). 

How to convince a listener to subscribe to a specific podcast out of those 2.2+ million shows? How to get people to spend 30 to 60 minutes out of 16 waking hours in a day to listen to just one podcast episode? There are over 102 million podcast episodes in our database. For comparison, when Google was incorporated in 1998, there were 25 million web pages in Google’s index. It’s easier to create content now, but it’s harder to get people’s attention.”


Which of these trends have you noticed in the last 2 years?

23. Which of these have you noticed in the last 2 years? - podcasting statistics
  • Increased competition is the biggest challenge and biggest trend – 53% of higher-income podcasters notice an increased competition as the biggest trend. This is in line with the previous finding, where twice as many higher-income podcasters (16% vs. 8%) see increased competition as a big challenge in podcasting.
  • High-quality content – all podcasters recognize the trend that listeners expect higher-quality content. This is the biggest trend lower-income podcasters see (59%), and at the same time, this creates challenges for them as 21% of them struggle with episode ideas, and 28% of them have problems coming up with episode ideas.
  • Difficulty in monetizing – both podcasters recognize as the 3rd biggest trend that it is more difficult to monetize podcasts. 22% of higher-income podcasters find it more difficult to monetize, and 32% of lower-income podcasters face the same problem.

Monetization

Learn more and listen @ ImprovePodcast School

What are your main motivations for podcasting?

24. Main motivations for podcasting - podcasting statistics
  • All podcasters are highly motivated by a combination of personal passion (interest in the topic, passion for podcasting in general) and social factors (making an impact, helping others, connecting with an audience).
  • 53% higher income-podcasters are strongly motivated to build a personal brand through their podcast. 35% of them are motivated by making money, while only 17% of lower-income podcasters point to this motivation.
  • Compared to lower-income podcaster, podcasters who earn over $50,000 per year are:
    • 2.1 times more likely to be motivated by making money,
    • 1.5 times more likely to be motivated to build a personal brand.

Expert opinion:

Chris Land, founder of Improve Podcast, host of ImprovePodcast School

“The relatively low motivation for making money from podcasting is still a result of a lack of easy-to-replicate business models besides advertising. 

As the advertising landscape is fragmented and it requires a large audience to monetize successfully, this discourages creators focused primarily on discovering new revenue streams.”


What monetization channels do you use?

25. Used monetization channels - podcasting statistics
  • Compared to lower-income podcaster, podcasters who earn over $50,000 per year are:
    • 2.6 times more likely to monetize with meetings with their audience,
    • 2.4 times more likely to monetize with sponsors and host-read ads,
    • 2.2 times more likely to sell their own info-products,
    • 2.0 times more likely to sell their own service,
    • 1.7 times more likely to engage in affiliate marketing,
    • 1.5 times more likely to monetize with Patreon or direct contributions,
    • 1.4 times more likely to sell their own physical products,
    • 1.3 times more likely to do paid or live speaking.

Expert opinion:

John Kiernan, head of marketing at Podbean:

“While sponsorship is a big part of monetizing a podcast, these stats ring an even truer message: podcasters of all shapes and sizes can create a solid financial backing through their audience’s participation in patron programs and purchases. This means that a podcaster doesn’t only need to have huge sponsors to be financially successful and can successfully monetize, even with a smaller listener base, through their most dedicated fans. Podcasters have never been in a better spot for monetization at all stages of life.”


The average number of monetization channels

26. Average number of monetization channels - podcasting statistics
  • The number of used monetization channels is correlated with financial success.
  • Higher-income podcasters use on average 2.5 monetization channels. This is 147% more than lower-income podcasters.
  • 48% of higher-income podcasters use more than 2 monetization channels. Higher-income podcasters are 1.9 times more likely to use 3 monetization channels and 1.6 times more likely to use 4 or more monetization channels.
  • Lower-income podcasters are 2.5 times more likely to use only 1 monetization channel. 45% of them use only 1 monetization channel.

The rich mix of monetization channels used by most successful podcasters clearly indicates an untapped and vast monetization opportunity hidden in podcasting.”

Expert opinion:

Chris Land, founder of Improve Podcast, host of ImprovePodcast School

“The rich mix of monetization channels used by most successful podcasters clearly indicates an untapped and vast monetization opportunity hidden in podcasting.”


What is your main monetization channel that brings the most revenue?

27. Main monetization channel - podcasting statistics
  • The number 1 monetization channel used by 55% of higher-income podcasters is sponsors and host-read ads.
  • The number 1 monetization channel used by 30% of lower-income podcasters is Pateron or direct contributions. Direct contributions are also used more successfully by 14% of higher-income podcasters, proving the right strategy is necessary to make it work.
  • Compared to lower-income podcaster, podcasters who earn over $50,000 per year are:
    • 2.8 times more likely to have sponsorships as the main monetization channel,
    • 1.6 times more likely to sell their own services as their main monetization channel.
  • Only 2% of higher-income podcasters use ads-inserted automatically as their main monetization channel. Auto inserted ads are 6.5 times more likely to be the main monetization channel for lower-income podcasters.

Expert opinion:

Trevr Smithlin, founder of AdvertiseCast:

“I know some find Patreon to be very beneficial and believe Patreon transacts over $1b to just the podcasters on their platform — which is pretty interesting.  But now the IAB is projecting podcast advertising to exceed $2B by 2023, so this will still be the primary way podcasters monetize. The giants have now moved into space and will continue to acquire content and improve their ad tech solutions.  This may even help more shows be able to monetize in the future.  Consolidation should only make it easier for podcasters to monetize and buyers to purchase inventory.  What was once a very fragmented space (hundreds of different podcast networks), will now be consolidated in 5-6 different platforms.  This should make it easier for buyers thus increasing ad spend/revenue.   Something we see being a win-win for the industry.”


What is the most important factor in your monetization?

28. What is the most important factor in your monetization? - podcasting statistics
  • 45% of higher-income podcasters recognize well targeted marketing as the key to their monetization success. This is twice as many podcasters as in the lower-income group.
  • Compared to higher-income podcaster, podcasters who earn less than $50,000 per year are 1.4 times more likely to focus their monetization efforts on the size of the audience or a unique product or an offer.

Expert opinion:

Mark Asquith, CEO and co-founder of Captivate:

“It’s not surprising to see a correlation between the belief that a large audience is required and the belief that a unique product or offer is needed amongst lower-income podcasters. Those who have successfully monetised to a higher level understand that the connection between the creator and the host – and the trust that exists deeply there – is the main driving force of longer-term monetisation. A unique offer and a large audience can often be challenging as opposed to beneficial because of the specificity of something unique: how can one, specific and unique offer target such a large, broad audience. Rather, highly targeted marketing, a niche, tight audience and a very deep understanding of the range of things that audience needs/wants leads to longer term creator support and revenue.”


Final Words

Learn more and listen @ ImprovePodcast School

Final Words and How to Use this Research

The results and findings of this study in some cases confirmed what we have assumed to be true and in many cases, completely surprised us.

As with any online business, there is no one blueprint you can use to make a podcast successful, but we hope this study will give you a lot of confidence, that the right amount of focused effort will bring the necessary results.


Learn more insights from this study:

Listen also deep dive of those stats and more actionable information on our podcast:


Download the full presentation with bonus commentary and bonus slides:


Study Details, Method and Contributions

Thanks to our supporters, Podbean podcast hosting, HookSounds royalty-free music provider, Hindenburg Systems creators of amazing Hindenburg Journalist, Podkite analytics tools, and PodMatch guest matching, who helped to attract all the survey respondents that made this podcasting study possible.

We conducted this study as an online survey in Q1 2021 and received responses from 1,076 people who self-identified as podcasters, the majority of whom were located in the U.S.

The results published here have a 2.99% margin of error with 95% confidence, based on an estimated global population of between 0.6 million and 2 million active podcasters (population estimate for Q1 2021).

At the moment of publishing this study, there were about 2.2 million podcasts available publicly (c.a. 67% of them in the English language).

A special thank you goes to Kyle Buyers, for inspiration, and for describing his survey method, which I adopted, modified, and perfected for my needs.

About the Author

Chris Land

I'm the owner and creator of ImprovePodcast.com, the site dedicated to providing actionable solutions for podcast creators. My goal is helping people to develop their podcasts into effective marketing and sales tools.


Comments 2

  1. I saw this study, on podnews

    which has a lot of very interesting data and information in it. But of all the experts quotes, none of them are women in podcasting.

    This is not okay. I’d love to help recommend people you could quote, interview, etc to balance out this male dominated report.

    Thanks,
    Stephanie Fuccio
    Podcast Editor, Community Leader, Podcast Writer, and more

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Stephanie,
      Thanks for the valuable feedback.

      I initially reached out to a few women within the industry for quotes, but unfortunately, I didn’t hear back from them before publishing.

      I’m interested to hear your recommendations. I’ll reach out to you via mail.

      Anyway, I hope the report is still valuable 🙂

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