Analyzing the global Podcast growth

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

The term podcast stemmed from Apple’s “iPod" and “broadcast”, typically an episodic series of digital audio files which users download to listen on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Soundcloud or in China, Ximalaya. Rapid user and revenue growth is observed in the US and is showing no signs of stopping. In this post, we'll dig a little deeper with podcast market reports about the US and China. Plus, an overview of some of Asia’s emerging podcast markets.

Podcasts aren’t an unfamiliar medium especially in the United States as you’ll find a podcast for every topic imagined upon briefly searching on iTunes. The podcast medium isn’t only a content marketing channel, they generate revenues too. According to PwC’s Perspectives from the Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2018-2022 report, podcast ad sales were a mere US$45 million compared to radio’s $40.2 billion ad sales market. Increasing exponentially over the years, it is projected that podcast ad revenues will hit US$1.6 billion by 2022. PwC and IAB combined efforts, releasing a Podcast Ad Revenue Study for FY 2018, found that in the US, host read ads account for more than two thirds of podcast ad revenues, indicating strong engagement between podcast ads and direct sales. Nielsen’s Podcast Insights: A Marketer’s Guide to Podcasting (Q1 2018) extensively studied avid podcast listeners in the US, their consumer habits and found lifts in purchase intent after listening to a podcast ad. 69% agreed podcast ads made them aware of new products and services. The Q3 2018 report released later, broke down consumer habits by podcast content genres.

In Ovum’s Global Podcast Market Forecast 2017-22, Senior Analyst, Liam Deane also states, "The growth of podcasts is part of the wider trend towards on-demand, personalized content. More and more people are choosing to listen to the specific content they want at a time convenient to them.” In the US, podcast audience in the 18-34 year old age range have a higher likelihood of being monthly listeners and have an average household income of US$150,000 and above. Top content genres capturing more than 65.7% of ad revenues, according to the PwC & IAB report, include: News/Politics/Current Affairs, Comedy and Business, Education and Arts & Entertainment . Not only has this resulted in higher advertising investments to this medium, it has also led to the growth of several podcast networks, with the likes of The Ringer, Wondery and Gimlet Media, each releasing more than 25 shows, covering diverse content genres and featuring well known personalities, with new episodes published on a weekly basis.

US Podcast Ad revenue by program genre

According to iiMedia Research 2019 report, it was found the top 3 Internet audio streaming platforms namely Ximalaya, Lizhi FM and Qingting FM have reportedly reached 89.1M, 34.4M and 30.2M active users in Q4 of 2018. Majority of podcast listeners in China tend to the younger side, with 33.7% accounting for those below 24 years old. Chinese podcast listeners are almost evenly distributed by gender, with males at 51.8% and females at 48.2%. The research also shows podcast listeners are amongst high salaried workers with more than 22.0% earning 10,000RMB (US$1,400) and above per month. For reference, the average monthly salary for white collar workers according to PR Newswire is 7,850RMB (US$1,130), last recorded in Q3 of 2018. iiMedia’s expert researcher cited Internet audio streaming platforms create an environment making bite-sized information readily available, playing to the demands of busy mid to high salaried workers. Similar to the US, podcast listeners typically stream audio while exercising, driving, doing house chores and the like, or during commute. This is probably due to the accompaniment nature of podcasts, listening in midst of doing another activity. As to factors that make Chinese podcast listeners tick, iiMedia Research added 53.8% of listeners cite the diversity of interesting content available on the platform as most important. Audio quality and podcast content ranked second at 46.2% and third at 45.2% respectively. However, a handful of users wished for a decrease in podcast advertising (38.8%) and a better user experience on the platforms (34.1%).

Top Podcast platforms in China - Ximalaya, Lizhi FM and Qingting FM

The notoriously immense number of ads on Chinese platforms resulted in users wanting a better user experience with reduced ads possibly led to paid subscriptions being a norm in China, compared to the Western podcast markets, inferred by TechCrunch’s article,”What’s next for podcasting?”. The article also states the definition of podcasts in China includes audio educational courses, and the Chinese government estimated the paid podcast market to amount up to US$7.3 billion in 2017. PwC’s Perspectives from the Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2019-2023 report states that China’s absolute growth in entertainment and media will surpass that of the US for the first time. In that period, the US will add US$71 billion (2.5% CAGR), while China will add US$84 billion (a 7.7% CAGR).

In Asia, while China is way ahead in the podcast game, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan are showing potential for high growth. In a 2018 report by Digital News Report, high reach observed in Korea and Taiwan is due to strong smartphone penetration and high levels of social sharing that led to rapid podcast growth. In a survey conducted amongst 22 selected markets, Korea (58%), Hong Kong (55%) and Taiwan (47%) were ranked top 3 on proportion who accessed a podcast in the last month, higher than US (33%), France (28%) and UK (18%). Currently, most podcasts from Asia are centered around the tech, news, business and/or entrepreneurship space. Some examples include: Podcasts by South China Morning Post, Analyse Asia, Inside Asia, CogitAsia, Asia Tech Podcast, Pitch Media Asia and the Jay Kim Show.

However, we’ve seen more shows created around an entertainment and lifestyle angle, such as The Purposeful Creative and The Bite by Esquire Singapore, and K-pop, in K-pop Daebak w/ Eric Nam.

Evidently, this is an exciting growth phase for podcasts in Asia. Stay tuned for more as we’ll take a closer look at podcasts in the entertainment and lifestyle space in the next post.

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