885,262 new podcasts were uploaded in 2020, agencies reported this week, almost triple the previous year’s total (318,517). Figures put forward by the specialist company Chartable, based in New York. Just under half of the podcasts were in a language other than English.
Astonishing, in this funny year 2020? Not that much, says Dave Zohrob, director of Chartable: “The pandemic has left a lot of people at home with creative energy to spare. A lot of people “try” for one or a few episodes, but about 25% of new creators do more than ten episodes, ”he told the Time.
In Switzerland too
And success is everywhere around the globe: in terms of podcast production, the number of Hindi-language podcasts has increased the most (multiplied by 14.1) , then Chinese (8.4) and Portuguese (7.8). English (1.9) and French (2.4) progressed less quickly, given their already large supply. And in Switzerland? “There is a minimum of 1,500 Swiss podcasts, of which around 500 were created in 2020, answers Dave Zohrob. But I think there are actually a lot more. “
The periods of confinement around the world have allowed certain projects to mature, but also many citizens to turn to this form of listening. “In this anxiety-provoking period when the news parades and alerts arrive continuously on our phones, the podcast allows you to distance yourself a little and choose your listening moment”, estimates Lisa Omara, French communications consultant and expert in podcasts.
Turkey, Italy and Peru are the countries that have seen the strongest growth in listenings. Educational podcasts (133,107) topped the genres offered, ahead of culture and society (121,556) and arts (94,360). Some are created by the media, others by independents. Dave Zohrob specifies: Many podcasts are also produced by companies for promotional purposes.
But if 2020 was special, this significant increase in podcasts has been underway for several years now: in five years, the number of podcasts produced has multiplied by 17 and downloads would have almost tripled in 2020 (+ 180%).
Freedom of listening and production
How to explain such success? For Lisa Omara, freedom, both in terms of production (relatively simple) and listening (audio on demand), is a key factor. But also the very great diversity of subjects, far from the bobo label which was sometimes stuck to it. Sport, feminism, LGBTIQ + community… “Podcasts are likely to concern very different people,” she explains.
Different, and on all continents: “The podcast is going international”, notes Lisa Omara, mentioning the podcast Sandra, an audio fiction in English, adapted today for French listeners (Sara), german (Susi), brazilians (Sofia) and mexicans (Sonia).
Music streaming platforms also play a big role in the explosion in the number of listeners, also believes Lisa Omara. Spotify’s takeover of podcast company Gimlet Media in 2019 gave them a boost. “Spotify already had a lot of customers listening to music. Now that the platform is promoting podcasts, many listeners are also getting started, ”she underlines.
Attractiveness for advertisers
This intense production would also have a stimulating effect. “The content is always better and attracts more people, which has the effect of stimulating the development of new podcasts,” adds Dave Zohrob. Advertisers are also looking to diversify their spending. ”
Note however that, according to figures from Chartable, only a few thousand podcasts generate significant revenues. A model yet to be found, believes Lisa Omara: “We must dig to find a sustainability of the income of podcasters, and perhaps something that is stronger than advertising.”