Sounds Profitable’s “The Creators” Report & the Future of Podcasting

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The creator economy is the convergence of software platforms and content to help content creators make money. Think YouTube, Instagram, and of course, podcasting. This economy enables anyone with an internet-connected device to make money more easily than ever before. It allows us to start a business without capital, inventory, or a physical location.

In our case, “the creator” is anyone who creates a podcast — not just hosts but producers, editors, etc. And thanks to Sounds Profitable’s first major research project, we now know a lot more about them. 

Title slide from The Creators study by Sounds Profitable and Edison Research.
Source: The Creators by Sounds Profitable

The Creators Report

Published in late June, The Creators is a research study from Sounds Profitable, in partnership with Edison Research, that sampled data from 617 U.S.-based weekly podcaster listeners who currently produce, or have ever produced, a podcast. They are all age 18 or older and are a subset from Edison Podcast Metrics, which gathers data from 8,000 podcast consumers per year. Here’s part of the abstract: 

This report looks at the characteristics and behaviors of the persons creating podcasts in America and includes demographic information as well as behavioral data, content preferences, and attitudes about monetization and advertising.

In other words, it’s the first credible study that gives us a good look at who podcast creators are and how they work. 

Highlights From the Study

A slide from The Creators study showing the gender percentages of the U.S. Population vs. Podcast Creators
Source: The Creators by Sounds Profitable

I’d encourage you to review the slide deck and accompanying video, but here are some data points worth highlighting: 

  • Men make up 69% of the podcast creator population, vs. 49% of the U.S. population
  • 40% of survey respondents have an advanced degree (something beyond 4-year college/university). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 3% of the general U.S. population have an advanced degree. 42% have a high school degree or less.
  • The 45+ age group makes up 13% of survey respondents, vs. 51% of the US population. 
  • Spotify is the platform “most often used” by survey participants to listen to podcasts at 30%, vs. YouTube at 21% and 11% using the Apple Podcasts app. 
  • 28% of podcast creators have been listening to podcasts for under a year!
  • 52% of podcast creators are interested in ads or often find them useful. 
  • 68% have given money to a podcast in the past 12 months.

There’s also a stat that 73% are employed full time but there doesn’t appear to be a distinction between having an employer and being self-employed.

Takeaways From the Study

It’s clear from the data that there are certain discrepancies in the creator population vs the general U.S. population. Participants in this study skew more towards younger, well-educated men who consider themselves Democrats and tend to earn more. 

And as the study observes, starting a podcast often turns the creator into a more avid podcast listener. 

Finally, when looking at employment, of those who consider themselves employed full- or part-time, 80% participate in purchasing decisions as part of their job function. 86% state that the financial responsibility for making workplace purchase decisions lie with them.

A slide from The Creators study showing Spotify, YouTube and the Apple Podcasts app as the services most often used to listen to podcasts.
Source: The Creators by Sounds Profitable

The last takeaway to mention is the surprising adoption of both Spotify and YouTube. Understanding this should help podcasters determine how and where to publish their content.

What Does This Mean for the Future of Podcasting? 

Ultimately, this data allows us to see where the creator population is lacking, and work to fix it. It allows us to see that respondents also support fellow podcast creators both directly with donations and indirectly by supporting podcast advertisers. We can put systems in place to increase revenue for all podcast creators. Systems that make direct donations easier and ad conversion smarter.

If we want the future to be vibrant for podcasting, we need to make the podcast creator landscape more diverse, in every sense of the word. From gender to ethnicity, to income and education, more voices means more listeners.

As the report puts it, “If every new podcast only brings with it a literal handful of new listeners, the space is enriched.”

The additional benefit here is that creators support other creators through direct support and podcast advertising. A bigger audience of supportive listeners improves and builds the creator economy. 

Finally, it seems the future of podcasting exists on many platforms, and the big players want in. Spotify and YouTube will continue to increase podcast engagement, and leveraging these platforms will be key to growth.

A Respectful Profession

Tom Webster, Partner at Sounds Profitable and all-around data guy, said that he wants to live in a world where his teenage son can say, “I want to be a podcaster,” and people greet him with respect. 

The Creators Study brings us one step closer to that. It allows us to help build a brighter future for current and aspiring podcasters.