[Free Innovation Report chapter] Podcasts: The latest (and perhaps greatest) new revenue and subscriptions tool

You don’t have a stable of podcasts? You’re leaving money on the table and forfeiting subscription revenue.

By now, your head must still be spinning after a decade of endless sure-fire revenue solutions you’ve been told you absolutely must have right away:

  • A website
  • An app
  • A tablet edition
  • A responsive mobile site
  • A bazillion page views
  • A pivot to video
  • An ad studio
  • A pop-up shop
  • A native ad team
  • An in-house events team
  • A hard paywall (or flexible wall or registration wall)

Aside from the proven value of responsive mobile sites and paywalls, all of the above have, well, underwhelmed. Even websites nearly bankrupted us as we used them to commit the original sin of media: We gave our content away for free!

So, while we hate to add yet another sure-fire silver bullet, this one might actually be the real thing.


Podcasts are not the be-all and end-all solution, but they could be a very important arrow in your quiver of revenue models.

If you go by statistics alone, the arguments for podcasts as a fast-growing, relatively inexpensive, extremely effective, lucrative revenue source and subscription-driver are hard to dispute.

“Podcasting shows explosive year-over-year growth,” stated the authors of the 2019 Edison Research study. In the US alone, the number of individuals (over the age of 12) who have ever listened to a podcast crossed 50 per cent for the first time. The study found that 32 per cent listen monthly, compared to 26 per cent last year.

That increase is the largest since the data has been tracked.

Another study by podcast measurement company Chartable found 23-25 per cent of US adults listen to podcasts daily or a few times a week. Using
the latest US Census data, Chartable concluded that translates into roughly 60 million people listening a few times a week or more, and 91 million people listen at least once a week.

Globally, podcasts are also rapidly gaining traction, in some cases more dramatically than in the US. In the first quarter of 2019, the percent of respondents to a Reuters Digital News Report study who had listened to a podcast in the past month showed four countries surpassing the US podcast audience at the time, and seven other countries with rates over 20 per cent:

  • 58% – South Korea
  • 40% – Spain
  • 37% – Ireland
  • 35% – Sweden
  • 35% – United States
  • 30% – Italy
  • 29% – Canada
  • 27% – Australia
  • 25% – France
  • 23% – Japan
  • 21% – Germany
  • 21% – United Kingdom

In March 2019, of the five fastest growing countries in terms of podcast use, four were Spanish speaking. Chile leads the group with a growth rate of 83.95 per cent, followed by Argentina (55.28 per cent), Peru (49.1 per cent), Mexico (47.84 per cent) and lastly China (43.62 per cent), according to audio tech company VoxNest.

Not only are vast numbers of podcast fans listening, but they are also listening A LOT, consuming multiple episodes in one sitting and listening
for previously unheard of lengths of time!

The Edison Share of the Ear report found that the average listener consumes seven podcast episodes a week, which is also increasing
over time.

Beyond their voracious appetite, listeners are also committed. We’ve all heard the witticism that the human attention span has shrunk to less than that of a goldfish (reputed to be eight seconds).

Not the podcast listener.

According to the 2018 Infinite Dial Report, the average podcast listener finishes 80 per cent of a podcast episode (which average nearly
39 minutes, according to podcast.co). Contrast that with a “good” YouTube finishing rate of 50 per cent and viewing time of one to eight minutes, according to Chartable. The average Facebook Watching time is just 23 seconds, according to a study by digital agency Uhuru.

To keep reading, download the full Podcasting chapter from the Innovation in Media 2020-21 World Report.


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