Why podcasts have gotten more and more widespread

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Podcasts are growing in popularity and got more time in the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic. But don’t mistake their growth for a lightning bolt in the pan.

Streaming services are picking up on demand and adapting accordingly. Both Apple Music and Spotify have introduced new subscription-based podcast services, while Spotify has also made significant changes to the search capabilities of its desktop and mobile apps.

What explains this growth? This article answers that question and examines the impact of podcasts on streaming services.

How popular have podcasts become?

In March 2021, Edison One and Triton Digital released their latest version of the annual Infinite Dial survey. The company’s research found that 41% of Americans over 12 had listened to a podcast in the past month when they were compiling their stats.

That number had increased from 37% in 2020; This year’s survey was released around the same time that COVID-19 lockdowns began worldwide. Since 2016, the number of people in the United States over the age of 12 who listened to a podcast in the past month has almost doubled.

Person listening through headphones

Weekly podcast listeners were also in attendance. 28% of Edison One and Triton Digital researchers heard a podcast in the past week. In comparison, 24% of people did this in 2020, compared with 22% in 2019.

But the growth of podcasts doesn’t seem to be over for a long time. According to an article published by Forbes in February 2021, 125 million people are expected to hear one every month through 2022. In this case, growth will increase by 25% since 2020.

One reason podcasts are becoming more popular is their convenience. Users can listen to audio episodes while running, cooking, cleaning, as well as numerous other scenarios. As such, they provide an easy way to absorb information while doing something else.

Phone screen with various podcasts

Podcasts also allow listeners to educate themselves without having to spend a lot of money. In 2020, the world moved social issues into the spotlight. Shows allowed people to learn more about these topics, or to hear a wider range of voices – or to listen to people with similar opinions.

Podcasts can also help listeners learn more about topics that interest them. They can also get information about the industry they work in, gain valuable insights for school exam subjects, or learn new skills.

Related: What is a Podcast? Getting started listening

Podcasts aren’t just for learning, however. For many listeners, they are also a form of entertainment. This is not too different from radio programs like the BBC’s popular “The Archers”.

In addition to the shows themselves, podcasts also give listeners access to a like-minded community. Hosts often engage with their listeners on social media, in newsletters, and on their websites. They provide an opportunity for people to meet others who are like them.

The impact of podcasts on streaming services

Both Apple and Spotify have responded to the growing demand for podcasts. In particular, both launch subscription-based models for shows.

Speaking at Apple’s April 2021 spring event, CEO Tim Cook said the launch of its subscription service was “the biggest change to Apple Podcasts since it debuted.” Starting May 2021, customers with Apple Podcast subscriptions will have access to premium content, ad-free listening, and much more.

Spotify has also launched a podcast subscription service. On the platform, users can subscribe to and receive exclusive content from their favorite shows.

Aside from these services, both companies have made significant updates to their platform interfaces. Apple has given Apple Podcasts a new look, while Spotify has improved how users search for shows on the platform.

Are these changes working? Well, it’s too early to tell. As reported by The Guardian, Spotify largely attributed its 24% subscriber growth and 29% increase in advertising revenue in the fourth quarter of 2020 to podcasts. In the last three months of this year, listening hours on the platform have doubled.

Podcasts are here to stay!

Although some might argue that the rise in popularity of podcasts was a fading pandemic trend, the statistics suggest otherwise. Content of this kind enables listeners to connect with interesting people and expand their knowledge of topics that are important to them.

Podcasts also provide some form of entertainment. For developers, the introduction of Apple and Spotify’s paid subscription services could also boost their income and help them develop higher quality content.

And if listening to podcasts isn’t your thing, why not try making one? You may discover a newfound passion in the process.

A podcast microphone

7 reasons why you should start your own podcast

As well as providing you with a creative medium, podcasts can help you meet new and interesting people.

Continue reading

About the author

Danny Mallorca
(78 articles published)

Danny is a freelance technology writer based in Copenhagen, Denmark who moved there from his native UK in 2020. He writes on a wide variety of topics including social media and security. Outside of writing, he’s an avid photographer.

More from Danny Maiorca

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