The podcasting world hit a milestone last weekend: According to Daniel J. Lewis, who tracks industry-wide statistics, there are now one million unique podcasts in Apple Podcasts, the world's largest podcast directory. (Full disclosure: seven of those are mine.)
Of course, not every one of them is active: Less than half have published a new episode in the last three months, and less than 20% have published a new episode in the last week. But there has been a noticeable uptick in the number of new podcasts launched in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Lewis points out that while we normally see about 50,000 new podcasts launch each month, we've seen 82,000 new podcasts in the most recent 30-day period.
So, what does it all mean? Is the space too crowded, giving rise to discoverability problems? Have we reached “peak podcasts”? Or are we just at the beginning? I asked some of the brightest minds in the podcasting space for their thoughts…
Founder of Sound That Brands
“Although a million podcasts is a milestone, we’ll chuckle someday at how few that is. Consider that roughly a million hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every 2 ½ days. Or that a million books are published in the U.S. every year.
Here are some likely consequences as the number of podcasts grows:
- Podcasts need an SEO strategy. Our studio’s “Coronavirus 411” podcast instantly drew a big audience because it was among the first podcasts on the topic – that Google knew about.
- More discovery tools please. Helping you find podcasts will become an industry unto itself. And with more ways search and discover, there won’t be a need for an app to download your favorites – just as you don’t need to DVR “Real Housewives.” It’s always on.
- The tyranny of choice will cause less sampling of new podcasts. Being established and heavily ‘subscribed' will be even more valuable to a podcast than having a pre-set button is to a radio station.
- More podcasts. Capt. Kirk was talking to the wall of the U.S.S. Enterprise 50 years ago. Increased use of voice search will cause nearly every brand and organization to want their own custom audio, too.”
Editor of the Podnews newsletter and radio futurologist
“I mean – the number ‘one million' sounds exciting, doesn't it, but it's relatively meaningless. Much more interesting to me is that 46% of those podcasts have published something in the past ninety days. So almost half a million different podcast shows are being regularly produced. That's an incredible number and shows the vibrancy of the medium.
It does mean, of course, that it's harder to get your new podcast noticed. Podcasters will need to be better at marketing, and search engine optimization, among other things. As LaunchPod Media's John Dinkel has noticed, Parcast's doing particularly well at this.”
Co-founder of She Podcasts
“Passing one million podcasts simply blows my mind. What it means is that podcasts are keeping on. There are around 130 million books, so we’re on our way! Podcasts as entertainment, education, self-help tools, delivery mechanism for internal communications, stand alone story telling art pieces, and whatever other innovative, creative ways there can be to use podcasts, there will be. Two million will come way faster than we ever thought were possible.
Side note: kudos to Apple for supporting podcasting from way back in the day. I’m sure they had no idea their directory would be such a seminal piece of podcasting growth.”
Founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of the Grammar Girl podcast
“People love big round numbers, and the million-podcast mark is definitely something to celebrate. It means more people are getting into podcasting in big and small ways, and it is also a signal that more people are aware of podcasting in general. You have to know what one is to start on, right?”
Co-founder of Podcast Movement
“To me, it's an arbitrary number that looks really cool in headlines. The number that is intriguing to me is that 46% of those million had published an episode in the last 90 days (or less). We've long known that Apple Podcasts is full of podcasts that, while still ‘live,' have not released new episodes in years, sometimes close to a decade. But the fact that we can classify nearly 50% of them as ‘active,' or something close to it, is really interesting to see.”
Founder of, AmplifiMedia
“The million mark is great and certainly speaks to the mainstreaming of what was once niche. Baked into the number is the relative simplicity of grabbing an iPad and launching a podcast. It’s not dissimilar to the democratization of video spearheaded by smartphone cameras and YouTube.
But something like 40% of podcasts haven’t been active in the past year, so a lot of people are spinning them up and then learning that creating valuable content is hard work and finding an audience is even harder. Whatever the number, there are more podcasts on just about everything. That means the bar is higher and that’s good for listeners, but harder for podcasters to be discovered without a good megaphone.”
VP of Content and Partnetships at Libsyn
“Hitting this milestone means the content side of podcasting is growing fast with 300,000 net new shows since June of 2019. Libsyn has seen strong new show growth as well, but continues to see some shows stop producing new content and Apple removing dead and keyword spam utilizing shows as well. That is a faster growth rate of new shows than at any other time in the 15+ year history of the medium.”
President of Motor City Woman
“It's no surprise to me that we've now surpassed one million unique podcasts in Apple Podcasts. Podcasting has the perfect combination of being accessible to diverse voices to create content and accessible to a worldwide listening audience. This number reflects the fact that people want to create media and not just be consumers of prepackaged content.
Fortunately, the masses have figured out that through podcasting, we are all connected. Your voice is your power and we are all powerful.”
Daniel J. Lewis
“One million podcasts is obviously a large number. Some people may claim it indicates we've reached ‘peak podcast.' But according to some quick research, there are more than 31 million YouTube channels, more than 97 million songs, more than 140 million books, and more than 600 million blogs. And yet in each of those ‘saturated' media, there's still plenty of room for new content, new innovation, and new opportunities for anyone to find success.”
VP of Pacific Content
“Passing the million podcast milestone reaffirms that this is a great, long-term medium for creators and for listeners. It is easier than ever to produce a great show and it is easier than ever to find and listen to a show that is uniquely suited to your interests.
For those who worry about podcasting becoming too crowded, I think there is a long way to go before podcasting catches up with the number of YouTube channels or blogs in the world. The more shows that get created, the more diversity in voices, subject matter, points of view, and languages are showcased. A million podcasts is a lot, but this is still just the beginning.”
Managing Director of OmnyStudio
“Hopefully, it means the question of whether podcasting is more of a ‘fad' or ‘mass media' is getting further behind us in the rearview mirror. And that publishers in more nascent regions around the world, who are still only just starting to consider whether they should begin podcasting, are given more evidence and reasons to jump in.
As far as having passed that milestone during COVID-19, I think it speaks to the fact that audiences crave podcast content and look to it for trusted and enjoyable content. And that publishers see podcasting as a way to connect with audiences, even when life is upended.”
VP of Podcaster Relations at Libsyn
“The one million number does not mean much — many – actually most – of those one million are not actively producing content. Only around 27% of those shows have published at least 10 episodes with one of them being in the last 90 days. That is the more accurate number around active podcasts.
Sadly, there are hundreds of thousands of shows that produced less than five episodes ever and stopped producing content and are still listed and inflating numbers.”
“Passing the million podcast milestone on Apple Podcasts is something those of us in the podcasting universe expected- it was an inevitability we knew was coming; it was just a question of when.
Apple is in the middle of an aggressive expansion, making podcasts available in 21 new countries just this week, and that’s having an impact. It’s the ‘If you build it, the content will come' model. And it did.
Although expected, the million podcasts mark does have significance. It’s a big fat number that makes it easier for us to claim another thing we already know: this isn’t a hobby for a few. It’s mainstream, while serving up thousands of niches.
There’s a podcast for every topic you can think of: from the Native American Flute to knitting to followers of the Rick and Morty TV show (multiple options on all of these), which is how we got here. We also got here because anyone can crack a mic and begin a podcast. As many quickly learn, it’s much harder to sustain week in and week out, but anyone who is passionate and dedicated enough to do it can.”