Why are Podcasts so Popular in 2020?

Let’s be honest. You probably aren’t going to read this whole article.

But what if it was read to you out loud while driving to work, working out at the gym, or completing chores around the house?

Better yet, imagine listening to a smooth, relaxing voice like Morgan Freeman’s. You’d be hanging on every word, and ready for the next episode immediately after.

That is the beauty of podcasts, and today they are more popular than ever.

Here are some of the current statistics for podcasting in 2020:

  • Over 55% of the US population have listened to a podcast
  • In 2020 over 155 million people listen to a podcast every week
  • Around 24% of the US population (68 million) listen to podcasts weekly
  • Podcast listeners consume an average of seven different shows per week
  • There are over 700,000 active podcasts and 29 million podcast episodes available
  • The most popular age group for podcasts listeners is 25-44 which make up 49% of total listeners

The History of Podcasts

Podcasts actually predate the internet. They go back to the 1980s and were initially called ‘audio blogging.’ Similar to early bloggers, this was a way for anybody to share their experiences and thoughts with other people. However, due to a lack of means to distribute the recordings, it took another 20 years before the genre took off.

In the early 2000s with the rise in popularity of portable audio devices such as the iPod, the concept of transferring these ‘audio blogs’ to an audio player as an MP3 file became mainstream.

By 2003 people were able to download audio blogs to their iPod and journalist Ben Hammersley coined the term ‘podcasting,’ hence the word ‘pod’ in podcasting.

In 2005 Apple officially added podcasting to its iTunes Music Library. In 2005 during an onstage interview at D3, Steve Jobs demonstrated how anybody could create a podcast using their Mac and share with the world.

Since 2005, more than 700,000 podcasts have been created, with over 30 million episodes of content, most of them for free.

Incredibly, about a third of those episodes have been created since June of 2018.

The most popular podcast publishers today are iHeartRadio and NPR, both with over 22 million monthly listeners. These networks offer some of the most popular podcasts, including Stuff You Should Know, Planet Money, and TED Radio Hour.

In early 2020, Joe Rogan signed a record $100 Million deal with Spotify to exclusively host his Joe Rogan Experience podcast for three years on their network. To date, this is the largest sum paid to a podcaster for distribution rights for their podcast show.

Multitasking and Podcasting

As the world becomes busier, the podcast format has become incredibly popular. Audio content allows the listener to multitask. A recent study showed that while 49% of podcast listening happens at home, 22% happens while driving, 11% at work, and 8% while exercising.

Podcast audio content gives listeners the ability to dive into topics without having to set aside time to read or watch a video. Podcasts also offer articles in smaller bite-sized chunks perfect for daily commutes or busy routines.

A Podcast For Everyone

The advantage of the podcasting format is that it offers endless variety and options. Any topic a person may be interested in can usually be found online in podcast format.

Giving listeners a large variety of content to choose from (typically updated every week or sometimes daily) keeps them engaged over a long period.

In 2020, the top five categories for podcasts are society & culture, business, comedy, health, news & politics. Podcasts offer deep dives into the minds of industry thought leaders through interviews. In less than an hour per day, listeners can become industry experts on their favorite topics.

Monetizing a Podcast

While all this free content is a massive win for the end-user, it is very time-consuming for the creators. The equipment costs, production time alone can cost a great deal.

To offset the cost, many podcasts have taken on sponsors and do small ad reads to help cover the cost.

Ad revenue for podcasting grew by over 50% from 2017 to 2018 and is expected to grow over 1,000% from 2015 to 2020.

For podcasts that have more than 5000 downloads per month, there is a growing market of companies that are willing to sponsor the podcast. Another option is crowdfunding, which through sources like Patreon enables listeners to donate.

Reaching The Perfect Audience

The large variety of podcast topics allow for advertisers to reach niche consumer markets comprised of highly engaged listeners.

Host-read advertisements garner higher trust from the listeners and do not interrupt the flow of the episode with an unfamiliar voice.

Some podcast hosts carefully curate their sponsors based on their personal use of the products or services.

Perhaps the most significant benefit for advertisers is that 80% of listeners finish almost the entire podcast episode. Drop-off rates for listeners are considerably less for podcasts than other platforms, such as YouTube.

A Bright Future for Podcasting

These characteristics of listeners combined with relatively low competition make podcasts ideal for advertisers.

The sponsored advertising trend for podcasts is encouraging for marketers and consumers alike.

More ad revenue creates more incentive to create content, which, in return, provides more topics that entice more listeners.

As the podcast trend continues to grow each year, one thing is clear: human beings love to listen to each other talk.

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