Podcasting by the numbers: 15 podcast stats for 2023

A line graph made out of a podcast microphone's cord

Podcasting has come a long way since its inception in the early 2000s. What started as a niche medium for tech-savvy loudmouths has now become a mainstream form of media that captures the attention of millions of listeners around the world. With the rise of smartphones and easy access to high-quality microphones and recording software, almost anyone can start a podcast — and it’s even easier to be a listener. 

Yet podcasting isn’t just for hobbyists anymore; it’s a full-fledged industry with global ad spending expected to exceed $2 billion in 2023.

But who’s driving the growth of the podcasting industry? What do we know about podcast listeners and their behavior? And what can we glean to help podcasters attract those listeners to their show? We’ve compiled some of the most interesting findings from recent podcasting reports to answer those questions — and some that are a little more fun.

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It’s official: podcasts are mainstream

Sure, there's a healthy swath of seniors who will probably stick to watching exclusively NCIS and the news on the same TV set they've had for decades, but a whooping 80% of Americans are now familiar with podcasting, according to The Infinite Dial 2021, which is up from 75% in 2020.

The study found that 41% of Americans have listened to a podcast in the past month, an increase from 37% in 2020. And 28% of Americans are weekly podcast listeners, also up four points from 24% in 2020.

More people than ever are regular podcast listeners, but some folks still won’t press play

An even more recent study, Jacobs Media's annual survey about the radio broadcasting industry Techsurvey 2023, reported an all-time high of people listening to podcasts at least once a week — going from 21% of respondents in 2019 to 33% in 2023, which is a growth of 12% over the past four years. 

So how do the percentages break down in terms of listening frequency? Daily podcast listeners came in at 18%, another 15% of people said they listen weekly, followed by 9% of monthly listeners, and 21% of respondents reported less than monthly. 

And, sadly, there are still a significant cohort of hold-outs, with 37% saying that they never listen to podcasts. We can't stop evangelizing the good word about podcasts until all those non-listeners are converted!

What are Americans listening to anyway?

No surprise, The Joe Rogan Experience is the most listened-to show in the U.S., according to Edison Research's latest quarterly update of the Top 50 most-listened-to podcasts in the U.S. JRE is followed by perennial favorites Crime Junkie, The Daily, This American Life, and Morbid: A True Crime Podcast, respectively. 

But they might want to watch their backs: This Past Weekend with Theo Von was the biggest mover between Q4 and Q1. It ascended 22 spots on the charts, jumping from 49 to 27. 

This Past Weekend with Theo Von

Podcasts are going global

The average monthly downloads for podcasts globally went from 110.9 million to 125.2 million quarter-over-quarter, an increase of 13%, according to Audioboom’s Q1 Trading Update.

Men and women listen equally

Perhaps podcasting isn't the most important area to achieve gender equality, but hey, we'll take it where we can get it! The Women’s Podcast Report from Edison Research and SXM Media found that podcast listenership is split almost evenly between men and women. 52% of podcast listeners are male, and 48% are female as of 2022, which is edging closer than the 8-point spread in 2017.

Most people listen to podcasts for fun

The Pew Research Center survey asked respondents their "major reason" for listening to podcasts. "For entertainment" came in first, "To learn" came in second, and rounding out the top three was "To have something to listen to while you're doing something else." 

Audio is heating up for the summer

Sunny summer days aren’t just for catching rays, they’re also for catching waveforms. Veritonic's latest survey reported that 63% of respondents listen to podcasts on road trips and 78% listen to podcasts and streaming audio when they're outside for the summer.

The most popular podcast platform is the original podcast platform

Apple Podcasts (formerly known as iTunes) is the OG podcast platform, and it's still the most popular among weekly podcast listeners in the United States, according to The Infinite Dial 2021 report, with 41% of respondents using the app to listen to podcasts.

But the report also found that Spotify had made significant gains in the market, becoming the second most popular podcast platform, with 25% of weekly podcast listeners using the app to listen to podcasts.

Most people listen to the whole episode

Ever wondered how much of an episode the average listener makes it through?

Edison Research has a reassuring answer for podcasters: 93% percent of people who start a podcast listen to most or all of the episode, according to their 2019 data.

Podcasts rival the population of LA

In June 2022, Spotify announced that there were over 4 million podcasts on its platform, which is indeed a very impressive number. However, that inspired Amplifi Media and Podnews to determine the total number of active podcasts across platforms. Their perimeters for what constitutes an active podcast included those with more than 10 episodes, updated in the last ten days — and their number-crunching determined that there were 155,000 regularly-updated podcasts for listeners to enjoy at the time.

Podcast ads sell better than traditional ads

Podcasts are more effective in eliciting a purchase intent from potential customers than other forms of media, according to 58% of respondents of the Sonic Boom study by WARC and Spotify Advertising. Fifty-two percent also found brand engagement and consideration to be better than with other media.

And brands are taking advantage of that listener affinity. In 2022, podcasting ad revenues increased by 26%, at more than twice the rate of the total internet ad market. Podcast advertising revenue is projected to hit $4 billion by 2025, up from $1.8 billion last year, as reported by MarTech.

Podcasting advertising is growing fast 

While total advertising expenditure for Q1 2023 saw a 0.8% decrease on the same quarter last year, that's not a reflection on the current state of podcast advertising. In fact, there’s good reason to be bullish. 

According to the IAB Australia Online Advertising Expenditure Report (OAER) prepared by PwC Australia, audio was the fastest-growing category of general display advertising with a 13% increase on the comparative quarter, and, within audio, podcasts increased their share of total audio expenditure by 2%, for 20.7% year-on-year growth.

The recent shift from traditional to digital media advertising is further illustrated by Standard Media Index's estimates that $2 billion U.S. ad dollars were spent on digital audio during Q1 2023 versus $1.8 billion for broadcast radio. I guess it turns out tales of the podcast industry’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

There’s a sweet spot for episode length

The average length of a podcast episode is 43 minutes, as reported by The Infinite Dial 2021.

However, Market.us Scoop found a slightly shorter episode between 20 and 40 minutes is the most common duration — 30% of published episodes are within that range.

The phones have it

The Infinite Dial 2021 found that 75% of podcast listeners use their smartphones to listen to podcasts, up from 71% in 2020.

The most popular podcast categories are up for debate

News, Comedy, and Society and Culture, respectively, were the most popular podcast categories based on Omny Studio’s data published in 2021.

Statista's findings confirmed the popularity of the Comedy and Social and Cultural genres within the United States. But News wasn't in their top five, instead, they found Health and Fitness, Arts and Entertainment, and Education among the most popular. 

Podcasters won’t shut up about AI

In May 2023, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek tweeted “The number of daily podcast episodes created about AI is up nearly 400% since the start of the year and almost 500% in the last 30 days,” perhaps indicating that the Technology category is on the rise.

Just me and my 9 (or 11) closest podcasts

The Infinite Dial 2023 has reported that the average weekly podcast listener subscribes to nine shows, while the most prolific 19% of listeners subscribe to 11 shows or more.

Word of mouth is the best podcast discovery tool

Podcast discovery often seems mystical to podcasters, but when you look at the numbers, it’s pretty straightforward:

According to The Infinite Dial 2021 report, the most common ways people discover new podcasts are:

  1. Recommendations from friends and family (53%)
  2. Searching in an app or website (48%)
  3. Social media (24%)
  4. Recommendations from other podcasts (22%)
  5. Paid promotion or advertising (15%)

The best release day and time

Tuesday at 5am is the time slot with the most downloads per average episode, followed by 5am on Friday and 5am on Thursday, based on Megaphone data for episodes on their platform published between April 2018 and March 2019 within the East Coast time zone.

Is this data in line with your listening experience? Did it give you insight as a podcaster? It will be fun to see how these numbers evolve as podcasting continues to grow up. But one thing’s for sure: podcasts are here to stay.

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