Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

State of the News Media 2015

Podcasting: Fact Sheet

Last updated April 2015

In the fall of 2014, the medium of podcasting achieved a milestone moment. The podcast Serial – which reinvestigated the 1999 murder of Maryland high school student Hae Min Lee – became the fastest podcast to reach 5 million streams or downloads in iTunes history. Although the success of Serial – a spinoff of WBEZ’s This American Life – clearly represented a new peak in the popularity of podcasts, Pew Research Center data show that the medium has, in fact, been steadily growing its audience over the past two years. Advances in technology – in particular, the rapid growth in use of smartphones and mobile devices in addition to the increased ease of in-car listening – have contributed to the uptick of interest in podcasts.

The increased reach and upward trend line of podcast consumption is evident in every available measure – the percentage of Americans who are listening to podcasts, the level of public awareness, and how many podcasts are being hosted and downloaded. An additional indicator of the strong growth of podcasts in 2014 is reflected in the launch of three new podcast networks by public radio alone: Radiotopia by PRX (February), SoundWorks by PRI (May) and Infinite Guest by APM (August).

Podcast Listenership

The percentage of Americans who have listened to a podcast in the past month has almost doubled since 2008, from 9% to 17% by January of 2015. The percentage listening in 2015 was up two points over 2014 levels (15%).

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Edison Research also reported that fully one-third (33%) of all Americans 12 years of age or older now say they have listened to at least one podcast.

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Podcast Awareness

Awareness of podcasting among Americans 12 years of age and older has more than doubled since 2006, when Nielsen measured it at 22%. Overall awareness of podcasting is increasing at a modest pace, with roughly half (49%) of Americans ages 12 and up aware of podcasting by early 2015, up only slightly since 2010 (45%).

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Podcast Hosting and Downloads

Although a total number of podcasts produced on an annual basis is not available from the industry, publicly available data from one of the largest commercial podcast hosting companies, Libsyn, indicate a steady rise in both the number of podcasts actively hosted and the number of download requests over the past three years.

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Mobile devices are increasingly the preferred way to listen to podcasts. Libsyn also recorded that, of their 2.6 billion podcast downloads in 2014, 63% were requested from mobile devices – up from 43% in 2012.

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More data

Number of podcasts produced (through 2013)

NPR podcast downloads (2013-2014)

Related links

Audio Fact Sheet

Public Broadcasting Fact Sheet

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