New podcasts are getting lost under the sheer volume of shows being produced, and podcast creators need to work a lot harder to break through.
This seems to be the reason why none of the top 25 podcasts in the US last year debuted in 2021 or in 2020, according to Edison Research. They are all older podcasts. Three of the top five (The Joe Rogan Experience, This American Life and Stuff You Should Know) were released a decade ago.
While the overall audience for podcasting expands, the audience for individual new shows is shrinking across the board.
That’s a worry for executives and producers at Spotify, Amazon, SiriusXM, iHeartMedia and others that have spent billions of dollars on production. Spotify alone has spent $500 million for three studios.
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The reasons for the dearth of hits may be simply that new podcasts have to fight harder to be heard.
Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw explores the issue. “Spotify hosts more than three million podcasts, up from a few hundred thousand just a few years ago,” he writes. “While the vast majority of those new shows are either defunct or have minuscule audiences, there are still way more podcasts than there were just a few years ago.”
Podcasting continues to be one of the fastest growing channels in digital media. Advertising revenue attained a new high in 2021, racing past the $1 billion mark for the first time ever to reach $1.4 billion. Revenues are expected to almost triple by 2024 to more than $4 billion, making it clear that podcasting and digital audio aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Gain insights into this burgeoning medium with a selection of articles hand-curated from the NAB Amplify archives:
- The Podcast Advertising Market Tops $1 Billion for the First Time
- Why the Podcast Medium Keeps Shapeshifting
- Understanding the Podcast to TV Pipeline
- Has the US Hit Peak Podcasting?
- When Podcasting Collides with Commercialization
Meanwhile, podcasts that launched years ago have a big advantage over brand new productions. “They had years to build up an audience, gather word of mouth and appear in search results,” notes Shaw. “Podcast listeners develop attachments to individual stations, shows and hosts. Listening to The Daily or Alex Cooper is comfort food for a lot of people. They’d rather listen to their take on a subject, even if it isn’t good, than the savvy take of a newcomer. Faced with an onslaught of new podcasts, people are retreating to the familiar.”
The solution is to investment more in marketing, innovate formats and use these familiar existing hits to promote new shows. Hiring a celebrity to host the show is a novelty that has faded.
Shaw says podcasting executives are looking for niches and underserved audiences and taking a page out of the SVOD book by searching overseas for fresh content.
Spotify, for example, is investing “a ton of money” into podcasts in Latin America, Europe and Asia. It is adapting its hit Chilean show Caso 63 into multiple languages. “It may have more room to grow in some of those markets, at least as a podcaster, than it does in the US,” says Shaw, who adds, “It’s not that new podcasts can’t be hits. But the bar for being a hit is higher, which means it’s going to take longer (and a lot more work) to get there.”