Podcasting is Maturing
A decline in new shows after a pandemic-fuelled boom may not spell disaster.
An interesting piece of research has been causing something of a stir among media watchers, particularly those of us interested in podcasting. A week ago, Hot Pod reported that, according to data compiled by podcast search engine Listen Notes, “the number of new shows created dropped by nearly 80 percent between 2020 and 2022.”
Eighty percent! That’s pretty jaw-dropping. So much so, in fact, that Nieman Lab decided to break down the numbers:
In 2020, 1,109,000 new podcasts were launched. In 2021, that number dropped to 729,000. And in 2022, it cratered to just 219,000.
There can be little doubt that a large amount of that drop-off is linked to the pandemic/people being allowed to leave their houses again.
Commenting in today’s Media Voices newsletter, Esther Webber noted that the annual Publisher Podcast Awards that the team runs still has a “formidable” longlist and she hasn’t “noticed much of a slowdown in publishers launching new shows.”
Nieman Lab explained that, while the number of new podcasts might have dropped, “Listen Notes’ numbers show new episodes hasn’t to the same degree. New episodes were down between 2020 and 2022, but only by 13%.” That suggests a market maturing, in my opinion - fewer brand-new shows, many of which would be unlikely to last, but the shows that exist are mostly established and continue to regularly bring out new episodes. We can also hope that new shows still being launched are high quality and coming from creators really trying to build something.
That research also noted that one meaningful drop is likely in the Serial-style short-run podcast. There have been some excellent recent examples of this format. Apple TV+ broke news with its short-run original podcast “The Line” back in April and May 2021. It also launched “Missed Fortune” in August 2022. Rachel Maddow and MSNBC followed up the brilliant “Bag Man” with “Ultra” in October and November last year. So there is still space for it, but such shows require more resources than more standard format “chatcasts”. It is probably not all that surprising that in strained financial times for the media we’re less likely to see such shows being produced.
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