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Podcast Industry Market Research Results

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Over the past year, we’ve been growing the business here in all sorts of ways. As a part of that, The Podcast Host has really ‘grown up’ as a company. We’ve transitioned from what was originally a small lifestyle business for me, into a fully fledged business, with employees, clients, balance sheets and board meetings. Even more grown up than that, we’ve been diving into podcast market research. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

Straight to the data? Click: 1. Market Growth, 2. Awareness, 3. Business Investment.

I’m sure you know, as a business grows, so does the risk. More income means more spending, and so it’s suddenly a whole lot more important that I know as much as I can about the podcast industry. I’m talking about legit market and industry data that’s required for us to apply for support, funding or investment.

It turns out that there’s quite a lot of this data out there, specifically relating to podcasting. The problem is, it’s hugely spread around, badly collated, and often buried deep within another report on the wider area of new media or radio.

So, since I’ve spent a few days of my life bringing all of this data together, I thought I might as well share it. After all, one of our company missions for 2016 is to grow the podcasting industry, not just our own company. That means more awareness, more listeners and more podcasting companies, all of which are easier with more funding. And funding requires data…

The data I provide below should justify more company spending on podcasting, and more investment into the industry by outside funders. That can only be a good thing for us all.

The Most Surprising Thing?

I knew this, and I know YOU knew this. But I’ve got to admit, I was secretly a little surprised that the data backed it up. It turns out that podcasting is all grown up and has taken its rightful place in the collective consciousness.  Seriously, that thing we’re all waiting for has already happened.

Not later this year, not maybe next year.  We’re living in that future already.  The evidence all adds up.  We don’t ask each other any more if we know what a podcast is and soon we’ll even stop asking if a new acquaintance listens to them.  We’ll just assume we all do, and with good reason.

Podcasters – welcome to mainstream!

Methodology (Or How Did I Do This?)

I went about this as a secondary market research activity. That just means that I was bringing together data from other sources, already available around the web. It’s a common way to do market research, because ‘primary market research’ (otherwise known as actually getting off your swivel chair and asking real-life customers real-life questions) consumes a lot of time and money.

Secondary research draws together primary research that’s already been done by huge market research companies, creating something much more specific to a niche area. So, everything in this article was reported by a professional market research company, collected during primary market research, and collated here, by me.

Er… Do You Know What You’re Doing?

By the way, you’re probably wondering whether I’ve got the credentials to carry this out in a legitimate way. It’s a good question. Always query your sources, going into everything with a critical eye. That’s what I was taught to do during my ridiculously strung-out education. I’ve got a BSc, an MSc and a PhD, and the latter particularly taught me how to be a professional researcher. So, I’m not claiming I’m perfect in any way, but I know how to do this stuff.

Anyway, enough of that – let’s get to the numbers.

1. Podcast Market Growth

When we consider how the podcast market grows, the main driver is demand for content. Listeners create this demand, and so they’re the best measure of market growth and potential. In 2016, the size of the podcasting audience continues to grow.

In 2013, the number of subscriptions held in iTunes passed 1 billion for the first time. Top shows now routinely gather over 1 million listens per month.

For instance, the 99% Invisible podcast gets about 1.5 million per month, whereas ‘Reply All’ from Gimlet media averages around 2 million per month at time of writing.

Serial, the most downloaded podcast in history, topped 100 million listens when it aired it’s first series. The Tim Ferriss podcast, one of the top rated business shows in the world, passed 60million downloads in early 2016.

Two major players in the podcast industry emphasize the growth we’re seeing within their own stats. RawVoice reports that, within the 20,000 shows that are delivered via their hosting service, listener numbers have tripled since 2010.  Furthermore, Matt Turck from Panoply has stated that, within 2014 alone, their monthly listens tripled from 2 million to 6 million.

This trend is equally reflected in the UK, with BBC podcast downloads currently totalling 1.1 billion. Their podcast catalogue attracted 24 million listens per month in August 2014, which was up 36% on the previous year.

2. Awareness of the Medium

Stats show that 49% of the public know what a podcast is, while 36% (Mar 2016) have listened to one in the last month (up 3% each year, since 2013).

Regular listening has grown more sharply this year than any year previously: 21% of respondents listen on a monthly basis (up from 17% last year) and 13% listen on a weekly basis (up from 10% last year).

27% of people aged 12 to 24 listen monthly, as do 24% of people aged 25 to 54.  This accelerating penetration is evidence of the fact that podcasting is increasingly moving into the mainstream.

The trend is being propelled by the appearance of hit shows in the mainstream media – for example, the very wide coverage generated by the success of Serial.

Global non-technology brands also evidence growing popularity: Ford have sponsored a number of shows, and General Electric have produced their own show for marketing purposes.

Celebrities are increasingly using Podcasting as a platform to successfully grow their audience.  For example, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi from Jersey Shore now attracts 1.5 million downloads per episode.

Finally, there is increasing evidence of successful podcasting-specific companies in the market. Gimlet Media, the producer of the Startup Podcast, raised $6 million worth of funding in a recent investment round, and Midroll – a podcast sponsorship agency – were listed amongst Fast Company’s 50 most innovative companies.

3. Business Investment in Podcasting

Many businesses are already investing in Podcasting as a marketing method, but it competes with techniques such as blogging, video, social media and pay-per-click advertising for budget.

As the audience grows, it will become more obvious that businesses can justify allocating funds towards podcasting as a marketing activity. This is justified even further by the characteristics of the average podcast listener.

The Potential Podcast Customer

Stats show that the average podcast listener is educated (56% have an honours degree) and affluent (36% earn £50k+), and highly likely to take action due to the host/listener relationship (61% of podcast listeners have bought something they heard mentioned on a show).

Stats taken from the late 2015 period show that 88% of in-house marketers are using content marketing to promote their business, and 76% want to increase their content output in the coming year. Currently, Social media (93%), blogs (81%) and video (79%) are well used, while 23% of companies use a podcast as part of their marketing mix.

The Average Content Marketing Budget

The average micro-company in the UK (1 – 9 employees) has a turnover of £410k and a content marketing spend of £9.6k per year (from 43k total on marketing). The average small business (10 to 49 employees) has a turnover of £2.7 million and a content marketing spend of £63k (from 275k total on marketing). The total content marketing spend for these two sectors (1.3 million businesses) is £22.7 billion.

Therefore, the budget exists for businesses to invest in podcasting, assuming we can convince them that podcasting is as important as other mediums.


I hope this article has been useful to you, and that it helps to justify your investment of time and money in the industry. I also hope that it makes you as excited as I am about the future of podcasting.

The growth we’re experiencing is clear, and it’s only a matter of time before the medium becomes truly mainstream. When that happens, we plan to be there to see it in. As always, we’ll be there to help as many people as we can to craft their own life-changing audio show.


I drew inspiration from a large number of sources during the creation of this article, but the following were the main sources of hard data:






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