It is quite a rare thing in history–to be alive during the invention of a whole new medium of entertainment. Those living in the 1910s and ‘20s must have had a particularly good time experiencing the proliferation of cinema, and radio and recorded music, or you can trace the invention of newspapers and mass-published books as far back as the invention of the printing press in 1440. In recent years, a small but scrappy industry–podcasting–has made a claim for real estate in the American entertainment market, and seems to be here to stay.
Podcasting may directly root from radio, but only with the tandem of high-speed internet and affordable audio playback devices did it come into its own as a medium. Now a decade and a half after iTunes first introduced podcasts to its iTunes library (in the summer of 2005), it has become a vastly popular form of entertainment, crossing all sorts of genres and formats, and making a tangible impact. Recent studies conducted on consumer listening habits support the fact that the medium is growing significantly year-over-year.
According to the Pew Research Center, half of the United States population is currently aware of podcasts (though that number has flatlined in the past half-decade), and one third has listened to one or more. Edison Research (left), with similar data to Pew’s, found that the percentage of Americans who regularly listen to podcasts has almost tripled in the last decade, up to approximately a quarter of the nation’s adult population. To put this number into context, it’s worth noting more people now listen to podcasts than use Twitter
Top podcast shows now garner one million or more downloads per month, with the very select few earning enough attention to rival the best in entertainment in most any media. This American Life, along with Serial and their new series S-Town top five million unique monthly listens in the United States alone, and NPR’s network of shows now earn a cumulative (approximately) 100 million downloads per month, globally.
Every trend seems to be pointed up for podcasting listenership as more, better shows come onto the scene, and the medium itself moves from what once was a niche internet toy to a multi-million dollar evolution of the radio format.
– Nathaniel Nelson