There’s been a recent trend in podcast journalism where writers are declaring the official burst of the podcast bubble. Bloomberg recently published, “the podcast boom is starting to feel like a thing of the past.”. Vulture echoed the sentiment with their article, “This Could Be a Rough Year for The Podcast Industry.” Lastly, Nick Hilton, co-founder and Director of podcast production company Podot, was even willing to stick a fork in podcasting and call it done with his recent article, “2022: The Year That Podcasting Died”
In these articles, they cite layoffs at top companies, exclusive podcasts being canceled, and budgets being slashed.
In recent years, the top podcasts, advertisers, and podcasting companies have been receiving exorbitant amounts of money. Spotify paid $340 Million for Gimlet and Anchor. Amazon paid $100 million for an exclusivity window for My Favorite Murder, and $300 Million for the podcast production company Wondery.
These hefty spends have underdelivered as we now see Spotify laying off podcast employees, and Amazon reducing their $10 million buyout offer of Pushkin Industries due to spending constraints across the company.
At the same time, the Bloomberg article admits that both podcast listenership and podcast advertising spend consistently grow year over year – reaching unprecedented heights of 38 million monthly listeners and over $1 Billion in yearly ad spend.
So which is it? How can the podcast industry be both expanding and declining at the same time?
Here’s how to see the forest through the trees with all this data: The phenomenon that Bloomberg, Vulture, and Hilton are describing isn’t the end of the boom, but the end of an era. Only the upper echelons of the podcast industry are backsliding.
Hilton says that most of his clients are corporations, but independent podcasters make up the majority of the industry. What he’s seeing as the death of podcasting, is merely the decline of big money podcasting.
What’s on the rise and still sorting itself out is the podcasting middle class. Companies and creators who are benefiting from and supporting themselves via podcasting, but are not runaway successes.
Podcasts like Do By Friday, by Alex Cox and Merlin Mann. Each week, these two friends challenge each other to weekly tasks like “Watch Triangle of Sadness”, and “Set a Small Intentionality.” Each episode gets about 3,000-4,000 downloads (according to Podchaser’s estimated reach data), putting them at a modest success compared to a mega popular show like The Daily.
While Do By Friday doesn’t have the impressive downloads of some of the industries most popular shows, they are undeniably successful. Each month, their 1,107 patrons donate a combined total of $5,715. Most independent podcasters salivate at that level of consistent income.
And Do By Friday is not alone. The show’s Podchaser Power Score (our proprietary metric of a podcast’s popularity and influence) is 62. This is a respectable number, but not mind-blowing. To put that 62 score in perspective, Podchaser tracks
The Bloomberg, Vulture, and Nick Hilton articles are focused on podcasts in the 70-100 Power Score range. Huge podcasts with corporate support, backing, or exclusivity. But these 3,017 podcasts are a mere 0.07% of the 4.5 million podcasts available right now.
The few mega-popular podcasts aren’t representative of where the industry has come from, nor where it is going. While the biggest players in the podcast industry have expanded and contracted wildly over the past few years, the podcasting middle class has quietly and consistently grown.
If you are an advertiser, PR firm, or any other kind of business professional working in the podcast industry, don’t fret over these recent headlines. The podcast industry is bigger than it’s ever been. What we’ve learned from the top podcast companies restructuring is that money needs to be spent smarter.
Podcasting, more than any other medium, thrives in niches. From pens, to The Beatles, to cricket – every niche has a corresponding podcast audience. As we can see from Do By Friday, those audiences are loyal, engaged, and supportive of their favorite shows. Around a quarter of Do By Friday’s weekly listeners support them on Patreon – that’s an incredible conversion rate!
Podcasting has gotten so far from its roots that we’ve largely forgotten that independent creators have built the industry as we know it today.
At its core, podcasting is about finding like minded people. You know that one thing that you can talk about forever? Just start a podcast and you can connect with an audience who shares your passion – it’s beautiful.
Understandably, over time, this authentic connection between host and listener attracted advertisers. Once these early advertisers found success, others joined in. And then a few years ago, bigger corporations caught wind of the podcasting trend and began throwing millions of dollars at the biggest shows without understanding the medium. They assumed more money meant more sales, but they forgot about the core connection between host and audience.
We’re entering the moneyball era of podcasting. Advertisers are going to diversify their ad spend, target podcast niches more wisely using tools like Podchaser Pro, and are going to continue flocking to companies like Acast who have standardized ROI measurements.
So no, podcasting isn’t dying. It’s just changing, and we’re thrilled to be a part of its next evolution.
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