Digital Strategy

The rise of podcasts

Last weekend the Paris Podcast Festival was happening for the first time in La Gaieté Lyrique. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to join. As I am personally addicted to the type of media I decided to conduct some researches about it. I happened to discover that this support hasn’t always been as famous as I thought but podcasts best days are still to come!

What is exactly a podcast?

   In 2005, The New Oxford American Dictionary defined the podcast as “A digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player”. They even elected it as the Word of the year!

This definition illustrates how podcasts were made to be consumed at their beginning. However, it isn’t necessary anymore to download them on your own device to play. Nowadays many platforms exist to stream a podcast directly on the internet. Among the most famous: SoundCloud, Podbean, Libsyn, Buzzsprout, Speaker, Audioboom, Blubrry & Anchor but also Itunes which had a huge importance in its development.

During the same year Steve Jobs, as always, saw the potential of this format and announced that he was going to make it “mainstream”. Which means they will be integrated to Itunes 4.9 and have their dedicated space. He already defines podcast as “the next generation of radio” and users could subscribe to thousands of them, directly distributed within their device.

Its development wasn’t as glorious as we could have thought considering its flying start of the beginning of the 21st century. However, in 2014 the format literally exploded on the internet with the publication of Serial.  In this podcast, Sarah Koenig investigates episode by episode on real criminal cases happening in the US. As a result, more than 5 million downloads within a month. The podcast was born again. Americans rediscovered this format.

Snapshot of the current state

   Nowadays, 64% of Americans are familiar with the term “Podcast” and this number keeps growing over the years. A quarter of them is listening on a monthly basis. Obviously, most of them are millennials aged between 18 to 34 years old. The consumption is quite recent as ⅔ of the consumers only started during the last 3 years. It is also interesting to note that podcast consumers are usually well educated. 85% of them have higher education degrees.

This format is getting very popular for educational purposes; Studies have shown that the retention rate of the audience is “2X higher than reading and 4X higher than attending a lecture”. They are even topping the charts and represents 40% of the listened genres. Schools and universities are taking advantage of that and now offers audio classes.

Easy to access

   The rise of the podcast isn’t surprising as it is accessible to anyone. You don’t have to fit a particular format. The producing costs are close to zero. Anyone with a simple microphone and an internet connection can start recording his own content and have his voice spread on the internet. You can now find hundreds on almost every topic.

So … Why do people like podcasts?

They are portable, they fit with the mobile. You can have direct access to your content on-demand compared to usual radio shows.

People have the feeling to spend their time more effectively. As most of the listenings happen during transportation, while driving, traveling, cooking or working out they serve as a secondary activity.

People can have access to the niche content they want which isn’t possible with regular radio.

People feel that the speaker is talking them directly in time and places where they are not used to. They establish a personal connection with him. Some professionals are talking about an “intimacy effect”.

Most of the time people are choosing their podcasts after close relationships recommendations.


Marketers have seen the potential of this media format and are now looking for solutions to generate revenue out of that. Due to the “intimacy” and the engagement listeners have with the podcast, advertisers consider it as very promising as they are more likely to take actions after having been exposed to a message.

The revenue generated on podcast in America is exploding. In 2018 it will skyrocket 220M$.

However, due to its particular format, it is quite difficult to measure the audience a podcast is having. Downloads can be tracked but how can you be sure that a downloaded podcast has properly been listened?

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) published PODCAST PLAYBOOK, A GUIDE FOR MARKETERS in which they recommend the use of the right metrics to measure the efficiency of advertisement campaigns.

About the author


Lucas Brossier