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Now Streaming: The Rise of the Podcast


Despite having existed for over fifteen years, it’s only recently that podcasts have achieved mass popularity. In 2004, Apple first offered over 3,000 free podcasts on iTunes, and a year later the word ‘podcast’ (a combination of ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’) became the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year.

Now, there is a plethora of websites offering podcasts, with Spotify and Apple Podcasts being the most popular. Since expanding their audio streaming platform from just music, Spotify has amassed over two million podcasts, which is more than triple the 700,000 podcasts on their platform at the end of 2019.

The appeal of the podcast is so large that Spotify credits the move beyond music as a factor in the growth of their user numbers, which has become a ‘a Wall Street-beating 24% year-on-year increase in paying subscribers’. The Financial Times recently reported that, following scrutiny about US pricing from investors, there’s potential for Spotify to add a subscription purely for podcasts, at $3.99 a month.

A quarter of Spotify’s 345 million users listen to podcasts, and this number is set to continue to increase in the future. This is not just a Spotify-only phenomenon, with global podcast listeners (those who listen to at least one podcast a month) predicted to grow to 1.8 billion by 2023.

In 2018, 18% of the UK and 33% of the US populations had listened to a podcast about news in the past month, but the proportion was even higher in South Korea, at 58%.

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has given a lot of people more free time, much of which has been spent streaming the latest podcast, series or film. In the fourth quarter of 2020, ‘Spotify recorded a doubling in podcast listening hours’.

Amongst those new to the podcast scene, there may some confusion as to why they’ve become so popular. Forbes suggests that the variety of content out there is part of the appeal. Nearly every topic under the sun has been discussed on a podcast, whether it’s food, sport, books, politics, or investment banking

Having a fairly niche theme for podcasts also creates a sense of community for the listeners, who all share the same specific interest.

The practicality of listening through your phone is not to be overlooked, either, as it allows for multitasking when streaming a TV show or film would be more difficult. Podcasts also vary wildly in length, meaning that you can find the right one to fit easily into your schedule, whether that’s whilst you’re cooking or on the commute to work.

The ease of podcasts is not limited to the listeners. Creators need only to record their voices, edit and then upload the sound onto the platform of their choosing. Compared to most audio productions, podcasts are fairly low-tech affairs.

However, not all podcasters run small-scale productions. Large media companies have cottoned on to the popularity of podcasts. The New York Times, for example, runs the aptly-named ‘The Daily’ podcast, discussing headlines every morning.

If you can listen to the news, hear the latest music, and stream audio content about the topics you love on platforms like Spotify, it begs the question – will the traditional radio die out?

In short, not yet. Ofcom’s 2020 Communications Market Report showed only a slight decline in the average weekly reach of radio in the UK, although 58% of live radio listening hours were digital.

There is, of course, a generational divide between radio and podcast listeners which may affect these statistics in the years to come. Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism in New York, said to the BBC that podcasts’ ‘informal, less “produced” style’ is popular amongst younger generations.

All signs are pointing towards now being the time that podcasts have their so-called ‘Netflix’ moment – huge increases in audiences are likely in the immediate future, and companies are fighting to be the go-to platform for listeners and creators alike.

Whether you regularly tune in to podcasts, or you’re just discovering them, IB Insider has the perfect addition to your podcast playlist. The IB Insider Podcast is dedicated to bringing you all things related to investment banking, covering topics such as career advancement, financial news, health, property, lifestyle and much more.

Interviewing everyone from students to CEOs, we aim to help aspiring investment bankers or those already in the industry to discover more about the world of investment banking. Available now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts.

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