COVID-19 changed the world and the impact of the ensuing pandemic has been tremendous.
Very few aspects of our day-to-day life were left untouched by the disruption that followed, and among the ever-changing rules, restrictions and lockdowns, people’s work-life balance and the way they spend their free time had been affected the most.
This, in turn, also meant an increase in overall media consumption according to previous MIDIA research data, as people now had an average of 12% extra entertainment time in their day.
So let’s focus on the category that grew the most out of this trend – a deep dive into the world of podcasts!
We’ll explore two crucial questions:
- What are the key podcast growth factors?
- How are emerging behaviors in podcast listeners (re)shaping the future of audio content consumption?
Data and Trends
There’s no doubt that audio is BOOMING! Podcasting is on quite the uptrend, with Insider Intelligence data projecting almost half a billion listeners worldwide by 2022, which would account for 20.3% of all internet users – a tremendous number, which would correlate to podcasting becoming a $95 billion industry by 2028.
The data indicates there’s a distinct trend line forming in growth where the pandemic served almost as a kind of a catalyst – a jet engine propelling the podcast industry’s take-off fueled by the extra amount of free time listeners now had at their disposal.
Podcasts were a great fit in maintaining a sense of normalcy during turbulent times, and especially during lockdowns when we were away from each other, but the need for conversations remained the same, if not higher!
This is mirrored in the huge growth of Spotify and Apple Podcasts as the leading platforms that host almost 4.5 million shows combined.
Behavior and the Audience
How has this tremendous growth then reflected on listener behavior and what does that mean for the future direction of podcast audio creation and consumption?
The answer could be simple or complex, but let’s answer it with another question – “Who doesn’t like a good story?” Exactly! That’s what podcasts are - a way for people to hear good stories and engage in them, ‘cause there’s just something simply profoundly human in storytelling that connects us all.
That curiosity and motivation to explore all the nooks and crannies of a topic that so fervently interests the listener creates an unquenchable appetite for content that simply cannot be fulfilled by any other medium out there, other than podcasts.
Neither radio nor television can come close, and the reason is that their target audience reach is just far too general which means a lack in engagement from the very start.
Engagement is what drives growth and keeps the listener coming back for more. With podcasts, whatever interest or topic comes to one’s mind, during any time of the day, there’s most certainly a podcast made about it.
In today’s connected world, it’s all there, sought-after content of our heart’s desires freely accessible at a click of a button or a swipe of a screen on our mobile devices.
Another possible reason why podcast shows tend to drive a higher level of engagement stems from the fact that natural speech, according to a study from UC Berkeley in 2016, has a profound impact on stimulating the neural pathways of the listener and releasing dopamine and serotonin – hormones that light up the reward centres in our brain.
So, can listening to a podcast make you feel good? - Most certainly!
To sum it up
At a time when the worldwide pandemic brought the world to a halt, with isolation and lockdowns turning lives upside-down, it’s no wonder the industry of the spoken audio word is on the rise.
Podcasts have evolved to become hubs for global conversations on the most various kinds of issues with voices spanning to all corners of the world and across all social strata, and it’s through those conversations and the voices of others that we can keep up that feeling of connectedness and belonging regardless of borders or boundaries, lockdowns or restrictions.
- Podcast Industry Report: Market Growth and Advertising Statistics in 2022 (2021, July 29th) https://www.insiderintelligence.com/insights/the-podcast-industry-report-statistics/
- Huth, A., de Heer, W., Griffiths, T. et al. Natural speech reveals the semantic maps that tile human cerebral cortex. Nature 532, 453–458 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature17637