Popularity of Podcasts

As technology advances, mediums such as radio and television have become less popular, and podcasts have taken the center stage. 

Getting your dose of gossip or news is no longer limited to a specific time slot, as platforms such as Buzzsprout and iTunes have enabled podcasters to distribute their message.

One of the perks of podcasts is that listeners can download an episode and listen to it whenever they want. If you’re stuck in a meeting the whole day and can’t listen due to time and other constraints, then you can listen to it tomorrow and won’t miss the message. 

Traveling abroad doesn’t mean that you can’t get connection like one experiences with radio frequency, as podcasts only require an internet connection and a listening device such as a phone or a tablet. 

The other aspect that makes podcasts so appealing is the broad topics that listeners can choose from. Whether you’re looking to listen to music, catch up on the latest politics or hear gossip, podcast platforms provide everything.

Besides the convenience of downloading an episode worldwide, what else has made podcasts so popular? 

Anybody Can Do It

The internet is a magical place that allows anybody to practice their freedom of speech and broadcast their message to the world.

If you want millions of people to hear your message or to enjoy your music, you don’t have to own a radio station to broadcast it. 

Podcasts do that job better and cheaper.

So, how do you record a podcast?

All you need is a microphone, a recording app or software, and editing software. The best part is that you don’t need a fancy studio with a dashboard that has a thousand buttons. You can be in a small room that’s in your house with just your smartphone.

The hosts don’t have to be technological wizards to record their message nor do they have to audition or take an interview to get the job. The best part is that they can say whatever they want during the recording and don’t have to answer to a boss.

The less informal style of production has proved to be popular amongst millennials.

Podcasts create communities, allowing like-minded listeners to share interests. 

Who Listens To Podcasts?

Although millennials favor podcasts the most, statistics have revealed that 64% of Americans are aware of podcasts.

The statistics have also revealed that 44% of Americans have listened to a podcast in 2018.


That’s 124 million people - 12 million increase from the previous year. (1)

The other statistics indicate that 26% of Americans listen to podcasts monthly, and a third of Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 listen to podcasts monthly. 

Podcast listenership saw an increase of 14% from American women in 2018 from the previous year.

To put the numbers into perspective, around 24 million viewers tune into NFL Sunday Night Football, the highest-rated television program. (2) In 2018, 48 million Americans listened to podcasts weekly. 

How do podcasts compare to radio? 

Edison Research discovered that 23% of Americans listen to podcasts in their car over the radio.


What about podcasts’ comparison to TV?

Those numbers are even better. 

The study concluded that 49% of podcasts are listened to at home. 

Here’s why:

The rise in popularity of smart speakers such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home resulted in the soar of ownership. Only 7% of Americans owned smart speakers in 2017, compared to 18% in 2018.

That means around 50 million Americans own a smart speaker, which makes it easier to acces online content and listen to it at home. Those devices enable listeners to play their favorite podcast with a verbal request. (3)

The research that Edison conducted also discovered that 33% of American smart speaker owners have more than one device in their homes. That means it’s not only the teenage son or daughter who listens to podcasts, but mom and dad becoming listeners as well.

Who Is Recording Podcasts?

It seems as if there is no stopping podcasts, as listeners opt for their favorite podcaster versus listening to the radio or watching TV.

The rise in popularity of podcasts means that more than 600,000 podcasts are available worldwide. They cover just about every topic that you can imagine. (4) 

To give you an idea…

There are podcasts that cover the news, mental health issues, celebrity interviews, hobbies, and some that are even fictional so you can get a modern taste of the classic radio dramas!

The West isn’t the only part of the world that has seen a rise in podcast popularity. 

Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018 stated that South Korea has the highest global rating, with 58% of the population listening to a news podcast in a month. The U.S. compared with 33% and 18% in the U.K.  (5)

“What distinguishes radio from TV is the intimacy. What distinguishes a podcast from radio is that it’s intimacy plus because you've chosen it and it's literally in your ears,” said Olly Mann, co-host of Answer Me This. 

Mann also stated that people who listen to podcasts do so on headphones and are in their bubble when they do it. He says that the growth in podcasts has been a slow, gentle upward curve.

Although podcasts have been around for close to 20 years, many podcasters have credited one program as bringing the platform to the mainstream: 



Numerous podcasters have stated that the Serial podcast has brought the platform to the mainstream, but several podcasters had also achieved extraordinary numbers with downloads before the Serial.

Sarah Koenig and the crew of Serial at the 74th Annual Peabody Awards

Hosted by Sarah Koenig, Serial is an investigative journalism podcast narrated over multiple episodes. Season 1’s investigation entailed the murder of Hae Min Lee, an 18-year old student. Season 2 focused on an American soldier who the Taliban held for 5 years, and season 3 explored cases within the Justice Center Complex in the Cleveland area.

The team of This American Life has 2.5 million downloads a month. Serial became extremely popular due to listeners being gripped by reporter Sarah Koenig’s intriguing investigation into murders. 

Serial has had more than 420 million downloads. The podcast became so popular that it was the first podcast to win a Peabody Award in 2014.(4)

One of the early comers to the podcast scene was Ricky Gervais. His podcast had around 4.5 million downloads after two months of starting the program.

PodcastOne, has more than 2.1 billion downloads annually, across 350 programs produced weekly. (6) One of the shows that feature on PodcastOne is The Adam Carolla Show. When Carolla debuted the show in 2009, he couldn’t have expected the show to become so popular. Two years after he launched the show, around 60 million podcasts of the show had been downloaded.

The Most Popular

The download numbers of podcasts change every year. Although the same suspects appear in the best rankings almost every year, the expansion of podcasts means that new programs have also gained prominence.

One of the major appeals of podcasts is that the average Joe is capable of reaching millions of viewers, though he or she is not a celebrity and doesn’t invest a tremendous amount of money into marketing their podcast.

According to Podtrac, the following are the top publishers in June 2019 in the U.S.: 

  1. 1
      NPR - 20,430,000
  2. 2
      iHeart Radio - 19,080,000
  3. 3
      PRX - 9, 280,00
  4. 4
      Wondery - 8,525,000
  5. 5
      New York Times - 7,794,000
  6. 6
      Barstool Sports - 6,999,000
  7. 7
      ESPN - 5,761,000
  8. 8
      WNYC Studios - 5,517,000
  9. 9
      This American Life - 5,074,000
  10. 10
      Daily Wire - 3,682,000 (7)

How To Make Money

Sure, having millions of people hear your message or music gives one bragging rights, but not everybody does it for fun and games.

Making money from delivering a product is what most podcasters expect. Fortunately for them, podcasting has become an industry that generates large amounts of money.

One of the ways that podcasters make money is through the traditional channel that radio and television stations do - advertising. 

Although radio and television stations generate billions of dollars in advertising revenue, podcasts have generated $479 million in 2018 from podcasting advertising in the U.S.(8)

That figure pales in comparison to mediums such as radio and television, but the podcast industry saw an increase from $314 million in 2017. 

That is an increase of 53% in one year. 

According to the market trend survey, the podcast industry is poised for revenue that will top $1 billion in 2021.

“The tremendous growth in podcast ad spending is further evidence that podcasts continue to deliver strong results for both brand and direct response advertisers,” said Mark McCrery, CEO of Authentic and Podtrac. 

“Spending by content category also maps closely to the podcast categories with the largest audiences, and with more and more places to discover podcasts, the medium is on a strong growth path.” (9)

The more downloads a podcast gets, the more likely the advertiser will jump on board and pay a significant amount of money to feature on the podcast.

What if your podcast doesn’t have millions of downloads? Is it still possible to make money off of it or will it be a hobby until the podcaster reaches high download numbers?

Besides advertising, how else do podcasters make money?

The beauty of having a podcast is that the host, usually, talks about a topic that they have in-depth knowledge about. Although some podcasters might not make money from advertising, they use their platform for advertising courses that they offer, whether taught live or online.

The other way to make money with a podcast is unintentional advertising. 

Here’s what that means:

If you provide intriguing facts about a popular topic, companies could hire your services as a keynote speaker or a consultant.

Setting up a podcast isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, as it takes time to build up a following. 

During the fledgling stages, the podcaster can set up a crowdfunding or donations account. Those accounts can be active even when the podcast gets more prominent and earns from other streams.

Some podcasters also offer merchandise such as t-shirts, caps and mugs to their listeners to generate an income. 

Another income-generating strategy that has proven to be popular is using the podcast to advertise the books you have written to audiences. Not only do listeners get enjoyment from your show, but they can also enjoy your book. That exchange benefits both parties.

Should You Or Shouldn’t You?

Many people have self-debated about starting a podcast. Podcasts aren’t going anywhere, and judging by the market trends, they’re only going to become more prominent. 

In many ways, podcasts are more popular than some radio and television programs.

What do you have to lose?

Sure, your podcast might never take off, and you might not become rich from it. Look at the bright side. With a minimal investment for a microphone, a recording device and editing software, anybody in the world can be a podcaster.

Before Serial started their podcast, they contemplated what they might lose if the gig didn’t work out. Their answer was that their investment loss wouldn’t hurt them financially. 

For all you know, your podcast could take off. It might take time, but it could reach millions of listeners. It could launch your career as a podcaster and make you millions of dollars. That might sound like a pipe dream, but that’s what many millionaire podcasters also thought, and they started when most people didn’t know what a podcast was.

These days, not only do people make podcasts from their homes, but big corporations such as the New York Times have seen the impact that podcasts have on communities and cashflow. They have made podcasting a business, thereby generated millions of dollars in revenue.

Many podcasters also record their podcast recordings onto video and post it on YouTube to leverage the episode. Some have become worldwide stars. They have attained the unthinkable.

The internet has provided all of us a platform that most people couldn’t fathom about twenty years ago. These days, the average Joe can become an internet sensation. Podcasts might be your ticket to the spotlight. 

You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. By starting your podcast and dispensing knowledge, you could do yourself and many other people a favor. 

Go for it.

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