Insights on podcasting from The Podcast Show 2024

The Podcast Show 2024, Business Design Centre, London.

Last week, I joined thousands of others for the first day of The Podcast Show 2024 at the Business Design Centre in London. This third annual consumer event is a major gathering for the podcasting industry, probably the most significant such event outside the US. It’s a showcase not only for the industry but also for individual podcasters, the mainstream media, equipment vendors, hosting services, advertising and monetization promoters, and more.

It was a great place to connect with other podcasters, including the podcasting OG – the first person I saw when I arrived at the venue was Todd Cochrane, one of the most influential podcasters from the early days, who wrote the first book about podcasting in 2005. He was there representing Blubrry, the podcasting business he started, with a stand in the exhibitor hall, and leading a session on Day 2.

Todd still hosts Geek News Central, one of the first shows I started listening to in 2004. We took a selfie!

The Podcast Show 2024 1-day visitor badge.

The Business Design Centre is a good venue. It’s in Islington, easy to get to by public transport, and there’s underground parking right there for car drivers like me. The venue was busy and, according to some post-event reports, attracted over 10,000 visitors during the event’s two days. I was there on the first day, 22 May, as an attendee, mainly to listen and learn.

Some great sessions and presentations offered opportunities to do just that. There were so many to choose from on a whirlwind visit that, undoubtedly, I missed some good ones. But here are some takeaways from the stand-out Day 1 sessions I attended.

Podcasting By the Numbers

One of the reasons I went to the event was to hear firsthand about the state of the industry and how things are going. The first speaker I tuned in to, James Cridland, editor of Podnews, did not disappoint.

Popular apps per country.

Apple Podcasts is strong in the US and UK, but Spotify dominates globally

Apple Podcasts and Spotify are the two podcast platforms that are in constant battle in the popularity stakes for podcast consumers. James Cridland shared information that showed how the land lies in ten countries for these two platforms.

While Apple Podcasts is the clear leader in two of them (the US and UK), Spotify is streets ahead in at least eight other markets around the world.

Apps in the UK by listeners.

The long tail of podcast apps in the UK

I found the picture in the UK most interesting. It reinforces the fact that there is a huge long tail of podcast apps that consumers use to get their podcasts (a picture repeated elsewhere, as the previous slide suggests). So while Apple and Spotify dominate with their combined UK share at 58 per cent of the total, the remaining 42 per cent share is split among at least 23 other apps, with tiny numbers individually. James points out in the slide that the numbers do not include YouTube, BBC Sounds or Global Player, three heavyweights in the industry.

The data shows that the UK is a highly fragmented market where control rests with the consumer, not the creator or the publisher – a picture that’s also reflected in other major markets.

Next, big listener numbers came from Will Pearson, president of iHeart Podcasts, in his Day 1 keynote presentation. He shared metrics about shows published by the iHeart Podcast Network, which gets more than 200 million downloads a month, making iHeart the top podcast publisher globally.

There are more podcast listeners than every before

Listener numbers are increasing globally

Will’s presentation included much about growth in podcast advertising and how big brands are driving a changing trend in advertising buys: now, it’s more from advertisers looking for audiences instead of direct buys.

Time spent listening to podcasts is more than any other social media platform.

Podcasts appeal to 18+ listeners, much more than other social channels

One significant trend to note is that US podcast listeners aged 18+ spend more time per day listening to podcasts than they do using any other social media platform, a trend likely to grow in other major markets like the UK. We also heard that Black and Hispanic podcast listening is growing twice as fast as listening in the general population.

Will told us that, since 2021, there has been impressive growth in daily podcast listening in three distinct areas: Super Listeners who listen every day, up 60 per cent; Heavy Listeners who listen 8 times a month, up 50 per cent; and Medium Listeners who listen 4 to 7 times a month, up 6 per cent.

The global listening picture shows that other countries are catching up to US levels, especially China, which is far ahead of all other countries.

Global podcast listening catching up.

Significant growth in global podcast listening per month since 2019

We heard about developments in the US in areas we’re not seeing so much in the UK, not yet. For example, sports podcasts are huge in the US, with celebrity football players, athletes, and others hosting shows that attract very large audiences. Women are driving overall podcast audience growth, and women’s sports podcasts have the fastest-growing fan base in the US.

The wide landscape view of podcasting shows a picture of healthy growth and monetisation opportunities for creators and marketers, reasons why brands are becoming increasingly interested in including podcasts in their media mix.

Big brands have embraced podcasts.

There is strong growth in brands investing in podcast advertising

Thus far, this was a data nerd’s delight, with so many metrics from which to drive data to produce meaningful insights into the state of things in podcasting today.

It’s not done yet, as one other session I found most interesting was a presentation by Gabriel Soto, Senior Director at Edison Research, who took us through the results of a new study into the UK podcast consumer – who is listening, how are they doing it, what are they listening to, and how does it compare to US consumption?

UK Podcasting Snapshot

Gabriel Soto’s focus on this topic took a somewhat different angle, with information on listener demographics and other data points rather than only big-picture numbers. If a podcast is available in the UK, he said, it will be included in Edison’s UK study. Other presentations cited Edison Research data in many instances, so I was keen to see different takes.

Gabriel told us that Edison measures listening, not downloads. Rather than asking publishers to report their metrics, which inevitably will be mostly related to downloads, Edison goes directly to UK podcast consumers aged 15 and older, asks them, “What are you listening to?”, and reports that.

He noted that Edison conducts 2,500 online interviews with consumers every quarter. Since starting the UK study a year ago, announced at The Podcast Show 2023, Gabriel said they have carried out 7,200 online interviews – a robust sample in the research field.

Locations listened most often.

Consumer podcasts are mostly listened to at home, both in the US and the UK

He offered some good insights into where people listen to podcasts. I found the data on UK locations for listening pretty interesting if unsurprising, where the majority (55 per cent) takes place in the home, and while walking coming in second at 14 per cent. Listening in the car (10 per cent) or on public transport (7 per cent) was less than I expected, though.

It’s a notable contrast compared to listening locations in the US. While listening at home is the top metric there, as it is in the UK, listening in the car is a strong second place at 18 per cent – the US is a big country, and cars and driving have a much bigger role overall in culture and society there than here; plus, as Gabriel pointed out, the UK has “more walking-friendly cities”. Listening in the workplace is third at 10 per cent.

Gabriel spoke about routine and how many consumers make podcast listening part of their daily routines. News podcasts do well in this scenario especially those that address consumers’ listening habits by publishing new episodes at times best suited to their routines, eg, early morning or evening commute times.

Another focus was on listener demographics, especially younger Gen Z listeners, those aged between 15 and 24.

UK Gen Z podcast listeners ethnic composition.

Gen Z audiences illustrate greater diversity

It’s striking how this generation of younger podcast listeners demonstrates greater diversity compared to the overall listener makeup. The younger you are, the broader your ethnicity and the wider the opportunity for creators to reach larger niches. Asian/Asian British, for example, comprises 18 percent of listeners, more than double the number in the general listener population, with Black audiences at 9 per cent, nearly double the general metric.

How loing listening to podcasts?

One-quarter of weekly UK podcast listeners started listening less than a year ago

The overall growth in listeners is a trend to pay close attention to, adding it to the other listener-growth trend that skews younger listeners. Understanding who your audience is, how old they are, and where they are, is key to tailoring content to their needs and preferences.

A final snapshot metric from Gabriel I want to mention is about video podcasting.

Video podcast audience UK vs US.

Your audio podcast can also be a video podcast

Gabriel said that younger listeners prefer video podcasts to audio, so he’s paying close attention to this trend. As more Gen Z listeners enter the scene – many of the 4 million new UK weekly listeners last year are Gen Z – the more this preference is likely to increase.

Podcasting, Google and Major Change

I was keen to attend the session about best practices in publishing podcasts to YouTube given by Sandy Wilheim, Head of UK News and Podcast Partnerships at YouTube. Many others were also keen as the small presentation room was packed, with every seat taken, and people standing at the back.

Sandy Wilheim, YouTube podcasts presenter.

A captive audience that didn’t get many YouTube insights

The reality was quite different. Instead, we had a 30-minute one-way presentation about publishing tactics, and that was it. There was no Q&A, no discussion.

YouTube session details, 22 May 2024.

I was disappointed, frankly, as I had expected some engaging, insightful commentary on the advertised topic, perhaps with some keen to-and-fro Q&A at some point. And perhaps hear more about Google’s podcasting strategy with the imminent global shutdown of Google Podcasts and the shift to YouTube Music.

Still, Sandy did cover some key points about publishing audio podcasts to YouTube, including developing a channel strategy, visual styles, captions and transcripts, chapters in full episodes, etc.

Essentially, everything you can find on YouTube’s help system, here: https://www.youtube.com/creators/podcasts/

Given Google’s imminent changes, this is an important topic. Google Podcasts isn’t the platform it ought to be. Instead of being alongside the prime players Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and potentially Amazon Podcasts, it’s way down the league table (see James Cridland’s slides above). With the announced changes, perhaps we’ll see some energy from Google in the podcasting space. But I didn’t hear about that.

Political Journalism and Podcasting

Panel discussion on how the BBC covers an election.

Members of the front line of the BBC’s global election coverage

Now for a complete shift away from metrics and big pictures to an excellent afternoon panel session I sat through with half a dozen BBC journalists who also podcast, typically about current affairs and politics, as shown in the photo above that I took.

From the left, they are Justin Webb, Presenter, Today and Americast; Nick Robinson, Presenter, Today and Today Podcast; Marianna Spring, Disinformation & Social Media Correspondent, BBC News and Presenter, Americast; Adam Fleming, Presenter, Newscast; Amol Rajan, Presenter, Today and Today Podcast; and panel chair Alex Forsyth, Political Correspondent, BBC News and Presenter, Any Questions? and Newsbeat.

All the journalists on the panel are well known in the UK, especially those whose prime medium is radio (voice recognition). Some have wide exposure via TV, and increasingly so with their involvement in the global medium of podcasting.

The session discussed how the BBC brings together the power of podcasting with radio to deliver a comprehensive and trusted offer for audiences, wherever they are, when the news cycle and political opinion goes into overdrive.

This year, there are more than 60 countries holding elections, so the need for and requirements of media coverage and reporting will be intense. The backdrop is the BBC’s wide approach, skills, and resources as an international public service broadcaster to covering an election. Podcasts play a mainstream role now, alongside all the other elements of a mainstream medium, brought together in a holistic whole.

For the UK general election, some of the panel members will be in and reporting from a constituency on polling day: Amol Rajan in Dagenham, Essex; Nick Robinson in Bolton, Lancashire; and Justin Webb in Wells, Somerset.

The BBC panel at The Podcast Show 2024.

A very relaxed panel: clearly podcasting has beneficial effects

And on the UK general election, the timing of it was an unspoken topic. At one point during the 45-minute session, someone made a comment about Nick constantly glancing at his phone, probably to see messages from contacts about the likelihood of a general election being called soon. It got some laughs, but as we now know, the next general election will take place on 4 July as announced by Rishi Sunak in the late afternoon on 22 May.

Next, Justin said, it’s the US presidential election where much attention will focus, news and opinion will be reported on, and podcast episodes will be created.

On the topic of podcasts, it was interesting to hear from the panel members on the appeal of podcasting to them.

For Nick, podcasting creates space for others to share their stories. It’s largely about the content, he said. For Justin, his style as a radio journalist has been affected by podcasting. He’s now more relaxed, he said.

For Amol, there are risks as well (he didn’t expand on that), and being able to meet listeners’ expectations. Podcasting is not a zero-sum game, he said. And he added, if you don’t like a particular podcast, find another one (the power of choice!).

Marianna spoke of making connections with the podcast audience, especially younger listeners. For Adam, he’s careful on choosing what topics to discuss in a podcast.

It’s a Wrap

In summary, my day at The Podcast Show 2024 was a great experience. I didn’t get to attend all the sessions I wanted to (I missed one entirely as the session time had been moved, but the schedule in the show app hadn’t been updated), and I dearly wished I could have stayed for the second day.

I think it’s very clear that this event is a landmark and a milestone (can it be both?) in the business of podcasting that presents an accessible place for 10,000+ people with like minds and common interests, along with a huge number of partners and exhibitors, to gather, listen, learn, and ultimately create and share thinking and ideas. As a B2B podcast host and producer, I learned much from experiencing the consumer side of this business.

The Podcast Show+

If you didn’t attend – or even if you did – you can take advantage of a brilliant idea from the event organisers: get an audio recording of every session across the two days via The Podcast Show+ offer.

While you won’t get the visual presentations, you will get each session audio recording in a playlist that you set up in your podcast app of choice. It’s a one-off cost of £79. But, until 2 June, there’s a 25% discount if you use the promo code TPS2024. See the FAQ for more information.

Related reading:

Others have posted reviews of their impressions and experiences, including Adam Bowie and, on LinkedIn, Lev Cribb, Norma Jean Belenky, Gareth Evans, and James Cridland. Undoubtedly there will be more, but these are the ones I’ve seen so far.

I attended The Podcast Show 2023 in May last year. Equally good! I wrote about it.

The Podcast Show 2025 is being planned. I intend to be there!

(Photo at top via The Podcast Show Instagram)

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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