How People Listen to Podcasts

A look at Anchor’s data to determine the top podcast listening apps by share of audience

Anchor makes it easy for anyone to start a podcast, no matter who or where you are, how many subscribers you have, or how much money you have (it’s free). As a result, the flood of shows people have created using Anchor — which now account for a third of all new podcasts on the market — are representing a more diverse community than podcasting has ever seen before. From seasoned pros to total beginners, people in every part of the world and from every walk of life, everyone’s able to share their voice through podcasting.

This wide-ranging pool also gives us a glimpse into the behavior of the podcast audience. We provide our creators valuable information about how their shows are being listened to across the spectrum of podcast players and apps, which gives us a window into the industry as a whole. In other words, we can see which platforms are really driving podcast consumption.

This information not only helps us optimize Anchor’s product for the best podcasting experience, but also gives us a peek at what’s driving the growth of the entire podcast audience, and what will be most important to listeners in the future. We want to share that insight to help creators and listeners be better informed about our evolving podcasting landscape.

The Data

This data set represents consumption across Anchor’s entire catalogue in the month of September:

A few things are clear right off the bat.

At 52% of the listening market share, Apple Podcasts is driving more listening than all other sources combined. Which is no surprise given it was the first-ever version of the podcast listening platform as we know it today, plus it comes pre-installed on all iOS devices — removing a significant hurdle that every third-party app encounters when trying to gain listeners. It will be a while before any other platform comes close to catching up (if ever).

Spotify is gaining steam. Spotify’s aggressive push for podcasting has really heated up in the past year or so, and it’s working. Putting the leading music streaming service’s marketing weight behind podcasts has manifested in several ways, including promoting podcasts on its front page as part of its significant forays into content discovery, and creating podcasts with some of the world’s most famous talent.

With the addition of music streaming services to the podcasting space, there’s been some speculation that podcasters will be tempted to employ the “exclusive” strategy that many musical artists took when streaming first came into the public sphere (to note, that practice has been since abandoned by most). Though we’ve seen a couple podcasts enter exclusive deals or “window” their content, we expect that exclusives will not become the norm in the long run as it benefits creators more to distribute their content widely — more on that in a minute.

Google Podcasts is still small, but that could change quickly. Google is in the position to not only grow their own player’s awareness, but awareness of podcasting in general. If and when Google chooses to package Google Podcasts into Android as a first-party experience bundled into the OS, hundreds of millions of people throughout the world who weren’t previously exposed to podcasting would learn about medium very, very quickly. And Google Podcasts would likely be the way most of these new Android users would listen.

There are many, many other listening experiences out there. Podcast listeners will likely recognize players like Overcast, Pocket Casts and Stitcher, but it struck us how big the “Other” category turned out to be. This category includes apps, websites, direct RSS feeds, cars, smart speakers, and many other experiences whose share of listenership is too small to be listed in the pie chart. But, in aggregate, they make up a huge portion of listening. This is interesting for a number of reasons, but most of all, it shows just how fragmented the ecosystem really is in 2018. This group represents a ton of opportunity for consolidation by the bigger players. Or, alternatively, for a smaller player to break out and quickly become a contender with Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and others.

What’s next?

Interest in podcast listening shows no signs of slowing down. Listenership has grown from 9% of the U.S. population to 26% in past 10 years, increasing by more and more each year. With the emergence of smart speakers, connected cars, and other new ways to consume podcasts, it’s difficult to say what the data might look like in the future, besides to anticipate that it will become an even more diverse array of options for listeners and podcasters. New listening patterns, behaviors, and platforms will introduce new challenges and opportunities alike.

In an upcoming post, we’ll take a closer look at different segments of the above data set. Thanks for listening, and stay tuned!

The data referenced above includes Anchor’s entire catalogue — representing the diverse nature of the entire podcasting ecosystem, with podcasts both large and small, from chart-topping shows to brand-new beginners.

Haven’t started your own podcast yet? Check out our handy How to Start a Podcast guide for tips and tricks on how to make something awesome with Anchor. And as always, we’d love to hear your feedback, via email or on Twitter.