2019 was a significant year for podcasting. 2020 will be even more important, despite the economic situation. Podcasting trends shaping the landscape are an effect of a vast ecosystem of creators, listeners, service providers, and advertisers working together to grow & develop the podcasting market.
Over a decade of strong, uninterrupted growth allowed for podcasts to develop into the widely popular and influential medium. Audiences trust podcasters a lot and brands are slowly starting to invest large sums in podcast advertising.
The top podcasting trends we currently recognize will have the most significant impact on shaping the podcasting scene in the next 2 years. Top podcasting trends will, in the end, increase popularity, develop more successful monetization approaches, and increase earnings for content creators.
This article is part of a more comprehensive 3 article series that allows for understanding the podcasting market fully. Click on the images to proceed and learn more about podcast listeners’ numbers and podcasting trends in the podcasting market.
1. Continuation of consistent listenership growth
Podcast listeners are a very valuable target group for marketers. It is a stable environment for creators and marketers
Over a decade of collected data shows very strong and consistent trends of growing listenership of podcasts. You can read more about podcast listeners statistics in our detailed article Number of podcast listeners in 2019 and outlook for 2022.
Alongside awareness, monthly and weekly regular listenership is also consistently growing. This adds millions of new consumers demanding new content. Also, the consumption of podcasts is consistently growing in terms of a number of shows listened per person and total hours spent listening.
Listenership podcasting trends 2020 in numbers
- Awareness – of podcasts in 2020 is at 75% of the U.S. population. It means that 212 million people had contact with podcasts by 2020. Ten years ago it was 90 million fewer than in 2020 and in 3 years awareness will reach an additional 40 million people.
- Monthly listenership – in 2020, over 37% of Americans are listening to podcasts regularly every month, which is 104 million people. Ten years ago, it was 70 million fewer than in 2020, and in 3 years, regular monthly listenership will grow by an additional 46 million people.
- Weekly listenership – in 2020, over 24% of Americans have listened to podcasts regularly every week, which is 68 million people. Ten years ago, it was 50 million fewer than in 2020, and in 3 years, regular weekly listenership will grow by an additional 20 million people.
- Podcast consumption – regular listeners listen to 6 different shows and listen to 6 hours and 39 minutes of podcasts weekly. This is a high growth since, in 2016, regular listeners listened to only 4 hours of podcasts weekly.
Podcast listeners are young, educated, and affluent and consume a lot of content. Details of podcast consumer behaviors you can read in Podcasting Demographics – Guide to Understanding Your Audience. This group is extremely valuable for advertisers as they have a lot of disposable income and trust their podcast shows and hosts.
Key demographics podcasting trends 2020
- Age – the largest age group of listeners, is between 12-35 years old (49%) also in this group listenership is growing the fastest. In the age group between 35-54 years old, 40% listens to podcasts regularly.
- Education – 60% of regular podcast listeners have a 4-year college degree, postgraduate degree, or advanced degree.
- Employment – 80% of regular monthly podcasts listeners are students, full-time, or part-time employees.
- Household income – the largest group from an income perspective, are listeners in households with annual income between $100k-150k (17%). And total listenership in households with annual income above $75k is 41%.
2. Growing understanding of podcast listeners will allow for data-driven decisions
Marketers and podcast creators can build a better user experience, and advertisers can create more targeted offers
A deep understanding of your podcast listeners will be the key to success for your show.
- In the pop culture genres of Music and TV & Movies podcasts, 61% of listeners consider themselves extremely interested in the topic. On the other hand, in the genres of Society & Cultures, Arts and Business podcasts extremely interested users are below 30% of all the listeners (respectively 28%, 29%, and 24%).
- Despite having various levels of avid fans, all the main podcasts genres have a solid listenership base, primarily in the range of 50-60 million total fans. Podcast hosts and content creators have a big role to play when working on listener engagement for its own show.
- A high diversity of shows allows every listener to find a show corresponding to their interests. Popularity also impacts the entire industry as users who start listening become quickly engaged and listen to more shows to add to their listening applications.
- Nielsen’s Marketer’s Guide to Podcasting trends tells us which categories of products are mostly consumed during the year. This is a great way to understand a better profile of your audience and create both better content and better-targeted ads.
For example from a genre perspective
- Comedy podcasts fans are heavy consumers of baby food, tea, pet care, beer, and carbonated beverages, while
- Health & Living podcasts fans are heavy consumers of vitamins, liquor, nuts, oral care, and tea
From a product perspective
- Vitamins are most consumed by listeners in the genres of Health & Living, Religion & Spirituality and News & Politics
- Coffee is most consumed by listeners in genres of News & Politics, Sports and Business
- Products like candy, cookies and frozen pizza are heaviest consumed by listeners in the genres of Games & Hobbies and Kids & Family
You should combine general market data we know about listeners (level of engagement, purchasing habits), with the data you get from your podcast media host analytics. Then track how successful individual episodes and your marketing actions are. Finally, you will be able to build a reliable image of your listeners and provide them with better user experience.
3. Quality is one of the main driving forces behind existing growth
Quality will also be the central area of competition for attention and listeners time
Content strategies of the past were very simple i.e. high volume, low quality. The importance of content in marketing is known for over a decade now. This allowed for many business models to be created, providing low-quality mass content for anybody willing to pay.
Podcasts, however, manage to maintain high quality over time. This is also reflected in consumer perception, as people listening to them appreciate the quality and even feel smarter after listening to podcasts.
Part of the reason for having a high quality is still small scale. Currently, globally there are estimated:
- 500 million blogs
- 25 million YouTube channels
- 0.9 million podcasts
Exact numbers are difficult to obtain, but scale matters. Podcasting is still a niche, and niches are not flooded yet by mass content creators with low-quality products.
Important Podcast Trend: Regular users recognize high quality.
Content quality will become filed for competition. Podcasts will compete with other audio sources (online radio, music streaming, etc.) but also with other content sources like YouTube. We might see the migration of more affluent users into podcasts.
Planned and built-in content quality – great content quality can be designed and improved upon by gathering data, understanding your audience, and having a good long term content plan built with an end goal in mind. Most valuable podcast listeners will continue to look for high-value shows. Production of content should take this into account and have long term plans on how to plan for value. If you want to improve the quality of your content, we recommend you to check our article on Podcast content planning – build long term value.
Audio quality is equally important – many listeners focus solely on their podcast so providing the best sound quality is extremely important as this is the only sense a podcast can be experienced. But many people also listen to podcasts in noisy environments – in cars, during a walk, at the gym, in public transportation. It is very important to provide them with great experience and pure sound quality. Without good audio, they can easily switch to music streaming.
In the past, podcasters used to buy devices that look good. This tendency came from YouTube, where people were buying devices looking good on camera. However, as the awareness grows podcast hosts and creators are investing in better and better equipment
If you are looking to improve your audio quality, invest in selected hardware. We have made a summary of our recommendations in our guide – Best Podcasting Gear – detailed guide & recommendations.
4. Podcasting niches perfectly fit the marketing mix
Audio marketing will grow as advertisers will incorporate podcasts into the mix and as voice search volume grows
Big brands use the marketing mix to reach all clients. In the past years’ brands have developed approaches and well-reached clients through online channels like:
- Email marketing
- Display/banner ads
- Video ads
However, there has been no medium allowing to deliver in high volume online audio ads. Podcasts are now filling this gap, and brands will want to include these additional channels to reach their clients.
Podcast advertising will be important to brands because:
- The nature of listeners – young, well educated and affluent
- Another source for collecting data, this time for a very valuable audience
- Currently, podcasts are delivering content to niche audiences which will improve ads targeting and have a positive impact on return on investment
Businesses will start to leverage high-quality podcast content to target niche audiences efficiently.
Voice search growth. Voice assistants improve each year in terms of voice recognition and delivering answers. Currently, it is predicted that voice search will grow and dominate in the next 5 years, surpassing the number of typed searches. Talking with your device may become the most preferred way of interacting. This is great news for podcasters who are already covering broad ranges of a topic in audio form just waiting to be found by search engines.
There are challenges to overcome in this space, but as YouTube is currently the 2nd world’s most popular search engine, we can be sure that the searchability of audio content will also be solved with proper algorithms. As voice search adoption will increase, and the content will be delivered to users in an audio form, new advertising opportunities will be opened before marketers, and new revenue streams will be available for podcasters.
5. Hosts will continue to be high trust influencers
Podcasts are highly engaging, and listeners are accepting ads from trusted hosts
Podcast hosts are influencers. Companies previously relied on celebrities to convince potential customers about the benefits of their products. Popular individuals with recognition were traditional influencers. Brands, however, are more often partnering with micro-influencers as they are closer to their target audiences. Respected micro-influencer viewed as an expert in their industry can be much more successful in convincing potential clients about making a purchasing decision.
Podcast hosts as those micro-influencers can have good contact with their listeners. Are considered trusted advisors and are successful at promoting products. This brings back sincerity into marketing, which can be lost in mass B2C influencer marketing.
Podcasting trend working in creators favor is that there is a high consumers acceptance of advertising on podcasts
- Podcasts on average have fewer commercials than traditional channels like radio or TV
- Smaller clutter is already more customer friendly
- Loyal podcast listeners will accept advertisements to support their favorite shows
- People find most of the ads on their podcasts engaging, enjoyable and relevant
Known, likable host, familiar show, the good user experience of host read ads creates an overall good situation to present ads, and users are responding well. 50-60% of the respondents respond positively to brands presented in ads and are willing to support their show this way.
Ads are recognized as non-intrusive and potentially interesting and useful. Brands being promoted on a liked podcast can count on more favorable purchasing decisions for their products.
Almost 50% of listeners are positive towards supporting brands. Ads on podcasts lift purchasing intent. This podcasting trend allows for ads on podcasts to have a very high CPM.
Podcasts are highly engaging – listeners are highly focused on podcasts, which makes ads very competitive. Researches show that people listening to podcasts are more focused on the content than when interacting with other social media content and video content. People are only more focused when engaging with news or weather information. This additionally improves the attractiveness of podcasts as an advertising platform.
6. Marketing budgets will continue growing for podcast advertising
High podcast content consumption and recognition for brands audio identity drive the growth of ads budgets
The vast majority of new podcast episodes are downloaded and listened to within 48 hours.
Also, above 80% of users listeners to the entire episode, they download. Close to 50% of users strongly agree they listen more carefully to podcast ads than to broadcast radio ads. Those podcasting trends allow creators to have high-quality ads and charge a premium from sponsors.
The podcasting industry is overall in a very favorable situation:
- The podcast audience is rapidly growing and represents a valuable market for advertisers,
- Niche markets are heavily engaged with shows which offer higher ROI,
- Podcast shows and content is highly engaging,
- Podcast listeners accept ads and brand messaging.
Despite what seems like a perfect situation for advertisers, revenue hasn’t reached its full potential yet. Advertising revenue is growing. It reached over $600 million in 2019, while ad-supported music streams broke the $2 billion revenue threshold.
With the current podcasting trends and growth rate, podcasting by 2021 will just slightly break a $1 billion revenue threshold, despite the economic crisis.
Audio identity is becoming essential for brands. Due to trends in mobile content consumptions, users will be exposed more often to brands through their theme songs, audio logos, app notifications, podcast episodes, audiobooks, and voice search results. Audio strategies and coherent audio identities will be introduced to match efforts in visual channels (display and video). With audio strategies being developed for brands, there is a chance that podcasting ad revenue growth will be stronger.
7. Challenges to resolve – user education and improve searchability
The tech industry needs to solve those challenges to overcome the main reasons people have for not listening
With podcast awareness at 75% of the U.S population (212 million people) and a number of people who have ever listened to a podcast at 55% (155 million people), it means that there are 57 million people who have decided not to try out podcasts.
he below graph shows responses those people have indicated as reasons why they do not listen to podcasts.
When we analyze the replies, we can define the biggest challenges the podcasting industry has to face to encourage higher listenership.
- Basic user education – with growing consumption of major popular content types (social media, games, video, blogs), users definitely have time to consume also podcasts, which are easily available through free apps. Those apps, in most cases, are already pre-installed on phones. We also know that podcasts are optimized for easy and fast downloads, and creators record content in accordance with the preferable length by the users. Because of that, we can clearly see that many answers provided by non-listeners come clearly from not being familiar with podcasts and making wrong assumptions. This can be easily overcome by educating users about the basic characteristics of podcasts and ease of access.
- Improve discovery experience and searchability – with a rich offer of around 900,000 podcasts, most listeners will be able to find at least a few shows covering the topics of their interest. However, the abundance of applications to download and listen to episodes may be confusing to users. Potential listeners may be uncertain, which shows are available on which apps and if there are any differences. To overcome this podcasting trend, a mix of education, marketing efforts, and improvement of user experience improving searchability, will be needed to introduce shows targeting users’ interest.
8. The Emergence of Growth Engines
Podcasts will develop and refine growth strategies allowing to build massive audiences within months of start
Podcast marketers will need to review their marketing mix, analyze which platforms bring the best return on investments and which show the most promise for the future.
Promoting and growing your podcast will require a coherent approach where all the used channels will work together and support each other efforts to maximize results.
Carefully coordinated strategy, content, and plan for promotion will enable faster growth rates for podcasts when comparing to what was achievable in the past.
- Podcasting website. Podcast creators need to build and focus on their websites, which should be key to long term success. Having a website, you can better control communication with your users around your show, through posts, mailing lists, and SEO efforts. Posting transcripts of your episode will get you additional organic traffic from search engines. Also, with a website, you will have more options to monetize and promote your podcast. We have a detailed guide on making podcast dedicated website – find out details in this article Podcast Website Marketing Guide – increase the number of listeners and improve monetization.
- Google and YouTube as the world’s two largest search engines. A considerable amount of effort needs to be focused on the largest search engines. Episodes’ transcripts and written word are still what search engines are best at analyzing. Video is the second most popular content type, so having promotion videos accompanying your podcast is a great way to reach over 70% of Americans who watch YouTube videos. Armed with very accurate and valuable user metrics, video marketing, provides useful data and enables excellent performance. Podcasters need to improve their SEO.
- Facebook’s growth is slowing down, and the average user age is growing. Facebook is still the biggest social media platform in the U.S., but over 40% of users are over the age of 65. While social media is still one of the main ways people find out about new podcasts, the older generation is not currently the biggest group of podcast listeners. Podcast creators need to monitor their audiences and recognize if it is similar to Facebook users or not. Also, as podcasts will become more popular, the gap in listeners from older generations can decrease. However, Facebook is still an extremely massive player and offers a lot of targeting options for ads. With precise targeting, great marketing results are still possible.
- Instagram as a platform for young people. Distribution of Instagram users in the U.S. shows that the 3 largest age groups are:
- 23% of users are between 18-24 years old and additional
- 33% of users are between 25-34 years old and additional
- 18% of users are between 35-44 years old and additional
Instagram is well optimized to make it easy and encourage people to share photos and videos on mobile devices, which is the primary device type for listening podcasts. With the right ad format, targeting, and directing traffic to your podcast’s website, Instagram can be an excellent way to find new younger listeners.
If you are looking for a comprehensive podcast marketing guide, please visit our article How to drive traffic and promote your podcast – detailed Podcast Marketing Guide.
UPDATE: COVID-19, Pandemic & Financial Crisis impact on podcasting trends
Here is our full assessment of crisis impact on podcasting and our recommendation if you should start and grow your podcast during a crisis.
Early signals regarding podcasting according to Podtrac told us that:
- each main podcast topic (news, sports, comedy, society and culture and true crime) saw a decrease in listeners since early March
- the news category saw a dip of 10%,
- sports has fallen far as well, by about 13%,
- true crime has fallen by almost 30%.
According to Nielsen, people are glued to the cable news networks. Their year-over-year daily ratings climb for CNN up 193%, Fox News up 89%, and MSNBC up 56%, according to data.
The number of TV viewers has also increased during other situations of crisis so that spike will go away eventually.
Facebook and Twitter have lowered their expectations for advertising revenues, and audio and podcast advertising will also experience a temporary decrease.
- Podcasting trends of growing listenership are consistent for years now. The audience will still grow, which means there are a lot of great opportunities for creators and marketers to reach an audience in this stable environment.
- There is an abundance of data available on podcasts users – from marketing research, podcast media host analytics, and from social media and search engine users behaviors
- Collected data will be used more to drive decision making when it comes to a growing target audience, delivering ads and for monetization efforts
- Rising quality is one of the factors more people listen to podcasts.
- Quality will be one of the main factors distinguishing great podcasts from mediocre ones.
- More efforts need to be put into content planning and improving audio quality.
- Audio strategies for brands will need to be delivered to accompany display and video
- Podcast host is high trust influencers for niche, valuable audiences
- Listeners are favorable towards ads in podcasts as they are less intrusive and more relevant
- In next years we will experience growing revenue from podcast ads although revenue will be still behind revenue from ad-supported music streaming
- Key challenges to overcome to attract more listeners will have to be solved by educating users and improving user experience in terms of discovering podcasts
- Podcast marketing strategies will have to be developed to include key sources of traffic, and dedicated websites will be in the center of marketing efforts
Finally, if you are thinking about joining the podcasting game and starting your own show get the checklist we have prepared. It will save you a lot of time and money!
Edison Research & Triton Digital – The Infinite Dial & The Podcast Consumer
Nielsen Company – A marketer’s guide to podcasting