April 29, 2015

State of the News Media 2015

Podcasting: Fact Sheet

Last updated April 2015

In the fall of 2014, the medium of podcasting achieved a milestone moment. The podcast Serial – which reinvestigated the 1999 murder of Maryland high school student Hae Min Lee – became the fastest podcast to reach 5 million streams or downloads in iTunes history. Although the success of Serial – a spinoff of WBEZ’s This American Life – clearly represented a new peak in the popularity of podcasts, Pew Research Center data show that the medium has, in fact, been steadily growing its audience over the past two years. Advances in technology – in particular, the rapid growth in use of smartphones and mobile devices in addition to the increased ease of in-car listening – have contributed to the uptick of interest in podcasts.

The increased reach and upward trend line of podcast consumption is evident in every available measure – the percentage of Americans who are listening to podcasts, the level of public awareness, and how many podcasts are being hosted and downloaded. An additional indicator of the strong growth of podcasts in 2014 is reflected in the launch of three new podcast networks by public radio alone: Radiotopia by PRX (February), SoundWorks by PRI (May) and Infinite Guest by APM (August).

Podcast Listenership

The percentage of Americans who have listened to a podcast in the past month has almost doubled since 2008, from 9% to 17% by January of 2015. The percentage listening in 2015 was up two points over 2014 levels (15%).

Americans Who Have Listened to a Podcast in the Past Month Nearly Doubled Since 2008

Year % U.S. population age 12 or older
2008 9
2009 11
2010 12
2011 12
2012 14
2013 12
2014 15
2015 17

Source: Edison Research
Note: Edison surveys are conducted in January and February of each year.

Pew Research Center

Edison Research also reported that fully one-third (33%) of all Americans 12 years of age or older now say they have listened to at least one podcast.

One-Third of Americans Have Listened to a Podcast

Year % of population age 12 or older
2006 11
2007 13
2008 18
2009 22
2010 23
2011 25
2012 29
2013 27
2014 30
2015 33

Source: Edison Research
Note: Edison surveys are conducted in January and February of each year.

Pew Research Center

Podcast Awareness

Awareness of podcasting among Americans 12 years of age and older has more than doubled since 2006, when Nielsen measured it at 22%. Overall awareness of podcasting is increasing at a modest pace, with roughly half (49%) of Americans ages 12 and up aware of podcasting by early 2015, up only slightly since 2010 (45%).

Awareness of Podcasts Has More Than Doubled Since 2006

Year % of U.S. population age 12 or older
2006 22
2007 37
2008 37
2009 43
2010 45
2011 45
2012 46
2013 46
2014 48
2015 49

Source: Edison Research
Note: Edison surveys are conducted in January and February of each year.

Pew Research Center

Podcast Hosting and Downloads

Although a total number of podcasts produced on an annual basis is not available from the industry, publicly available data from one of the largest commercial podcast hosting companies, Libsyn, indicate a steady rise in both the number of podcasts actively hosted and the number of download requests over the past three years.

Number of Podcasts Actively Hosted Continues to Rise

Year Total number of podcasts actively hosted on Libsyn (in thousands)
2012 12
2013 16
2014 22

Source: Libsyn internal data and Pew Research analysis

Pew Research Center

Mobile devices are increasingly the preferred way to listen to podcasts. Libsyn also recorded that, of their 2.6 billion podcast downloads in 2014, 63% were requested from mobile devices – up from 43% in 2012.

Podcast Download Requests Increased in 2014

Year Total number of podcast download requests (in billions)
2012 1.6
2013 1.9
2014 2.6

Source: Libsyn internal data and Pew Research analysis

Pew Research Center

More data

Number of podcasts produced (through 2013)

NPR podcast downloads (2013-2014)

Related links

Audio Fact Sheet

Public Broadcasting Fact Sheet