Defining The Size Of The Podcast Market
This question was one of my favorites that came from Quora and while I answered it there, it’s probably better that I take a deeper dive into this. My goal with my content is to give the deeper dives here while the other places I write get the abbreviated submissions.I need a reason for people to want to visit my site, listen to my podcast, or watch my videos. Now let’s get into this topic of how many stars are in the galax….wait, I mean podcasts are on the internet!
Podcasting is fairly old in internet years (1 normal offline year = 20 online years), and often approached under a misguided premise that if you have a mic and you take a class you will be the next rock star. This issue becomes the start of the larger issue in finding the actual scope of shows. See, too many podcast shows fail out of listenership depression. Which happens when week after week the episodes of the large majority of shows are often ignored by netizens. You might be trying to figure out where I am going with failed shows or what does this have to do with the size of the podcast market? Everything.
The podcasting industry is so fractured that I think the only platform that could give a reasonable picture of how many podcasts exist or the growth rate would be Apple’s iTunes service (at the moment). Even then, there are so many shows that don’t list in iTunes for different reasons. Personally speaking, I don’t see iTunes as a “gotta have” like most people think it is. Sure, it’s awesome to be in the directory and learn how to get into the News & Noteworthy section…but then what? The people that iTunes is the most important to are the ones that have very little beyond audio to offer the world. Most podcasters don’t think about anything beyond the audio which is something I didn’t get until January, 2016. I completely missed it for 2-3 years.
Google Play has now joined in with their own podcast directory which is probably even bigger news than iTunes can ever achieve. The market share that Android has is already a tremendous saturation compared to other mobile operating systems. This means that every podcaster is about to be going crazy asking about how to get into Google Play and how to rank in it. I am not looking forward to the flow of questions, but I will try to add a good write up on the process and a Q & A list for people to point to. My biggest goal is to bring a bigger picture into podcasting so we can start separating the good podcast shows to the great ones and where that line is hasn’t yet been determined.
Okay, How Many Are There?
I am going through this to demonstrate that the answer to this question is almost impossible to even guess at. The only way I could plausibly come up with an estimate is to have an internet spider with a smart algorithm to go out and read the internet (to include the dark net…good luck there) to find shows that have existed previously and the ones that are active presently. I can’t do it, but maybe someone else can. You might try to tell me that all I have to do is ask Apple how many RSS feeds they have and we would be done with it. As I mentioned up top, iTunes it not the entire scope and I would say that non-U.S. podcasts probably don’t use iTunes the same as the U.S. based ones do. ITumes has a lot of information along with companies like Stitcher, but it’s not the whole picture.
Anyone that professes to know the total shows that are out there would be questionable to say the least. There is no “one place” for podcasting as many creators hope for one day to solve this huge issue. Some are self-hosted, others are on Soundcloud, Libsyn, Blubrry, Podbean, and any where else that takes in audio for a fee. I know who the self-proclaimed guru’s are and they do not know either. They would be guessing at best regardless of how many surveys they have done. There is no way to know how many shows are out there. That is the only correct answer beyond “a shit ton”. So what’s the point of the post then? To discuss the limited view that anyone from any position has in answering this truthfully. The larger answer is that it actually doesn’t matter either.
I would love to know this answer just so I can say it and we move on. The truth is that there is more mystery than answers in the medium anyways. Not many share the revenue, reach, or much of anything other than a link to their show.
When Will We See Consolidation?
You won’t see consolidation anytime soon to say the very least. There are so many people vying for the crowd that fractures the entire pool of shows each day. I have even played a part in that by launching my own network at the end of 2013. Consolidation can’t and won’t happen unless some billionaire starts buying the rights to shows and locking people into contracts and purchasing all the platforms that play, host, or discuss podcasting. In other words we won’t. The closest true numbers we will ever get is if Google Play releases numbers in a year or two from now. They will have a more accurate view than Apple due to market reach.
Every platform is hoping to be “the one” and even with Spotify and Stitcher among the others, it still hasn’t happened. We will continue to see new players on the field every day as well as new faces in the social media groups. There is something to be had here, but it’s not advertising dollars. It’s the marketing machine that most podcasters don’t understand and are unaware of the major opportunities they are missing. We don’t need consolidation just as much as we don’t need to know the size of the expanding podcast universe. We need more education towards people who want to do this. We need to discuss the benefits, what tools to use, and how to market something bigger than an audio show. I always say “Be More Than a Podcast”.
I don’t see anyone divulging how much revenue their podcast makes or true numbers of their fan base unless they are really good. Not many brag about being unsuccessful, and it’s especially true in this world of audio. I also don’t see anyone figuring out the numbers. The biggest reason is because it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that you create content that is riveting and better than the competing shows. Put your blinders on and just start killing it on the mic. Love your audio, give it a home, and be social.
It was a long read to say “I don’t know”, but it’s something that is out there and people want to hear more about. I figured I would at least chime in and offer my thoughts at least. There are many who love listening to podcasts and there are a tiny segment of hosts seeing success in the sea of saturation, but no one can answer this question.