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Podcast Growth Is Popping in the U.S., Survey Shows

Category: Business,Finance

The number of podcast listeners has increased sharply this year, according to a new report.

More than half the people in the United States have listened to one, and nearly one out of three people listen to at least one podcast every month. Last year, it was more like one in four.

“That’s the biggest growth we’ve seen, and we’ve been covering podcasts since 2006,” said Tom Webster, a senior vice president at Edison Research, a company that tracks business trends.

The latest facts and figures on the rise of podcasting come courtesy of the just-published 2019 edition of The Infinite Dial, an annual survey conducted this January and February put together by Edison Research and Triton Digital, an audio technology and advertising company.

In addition to identifying broader trends, the survey’s researchers dug into different age groups and found that listeners over age 55, who were slower to adopt podcasts, are finally catching up. In 2018, 13 percent of people in that age group identified themselves as monthly podcast listeners; this year, 17 percent of those in that demographic have taken up the habit.

The number of young podcast listeners is also on the rise. Forty percent of people between the ages of 12 and 24 listened to a podcast last month — a 10 percent jump from 2018.

“What moved the needle is Spotify adding podcasts,” Mr. Webster said of the music streaming service, which increased its podcast offerings last year and recently acquired Gimlet Media, the studio behind the popular podcasts “Crimetown” and “Reply All,” and Anchor, which makes tools for recording and distributing podcasts.

Past reports from The Infinite Dial showed a creeping increase in podcasts from year to year. That has changed in 2019, when there was a dramatic jump. Compared with 2018 figures, the number of people who have listened to at least one podcast in their lives increased by 20 million, and an additional 14 million people described themselves as weekly listeners.

“I think we hit a tipping point,” Mr. Webster said.

He gave some credit to podcasts that have drawn interest from the entertainment industry.

“Shows like ‘Homecoming’ and ‘Dr. Death’ — they’ve really become Hollywood properties, too,” Mr. Webster said. “That’s brought attention to it. There are also new forms happening. Companies like NPR and The New York Times are doing short, topical news podcasts. Those are really easy for people to add to their media diets.”

Since The Times introduced “The Daily” in 2017, the number of daily podcasts has more than tripled. They include news-oriented programs like “Post Reports” from The Washington Post, “What Next” from Slate and “Start Here” from ABC News.

Hernan Lopez, the founder and chief executive of Wondery, the podcast network behind “Dirty John” and “Dr. Death,” said he had also noticed a recent jump. “Casual listeners became monthly listeners, and the monthly listeners became weekly listeners,” Mr. Lopez said.

He said Wondery estimated advertising revenue across the industry rose, exceeding $500 million in 2018.

“For many years, people from inside and outside the industry have talked about the ‘slow and steady’ growth,” Mr. Lopez said. “They can’t say ‘slow and steady’ anymore.”


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