A SPIKE IN NEW PODCASTS | Top Podcast Trends of 2020 & What’s Next for 2021?

This article, “A Spike in New Podcasts”, is part of a series created from the Ossa Lounge LIVE show at Podcast Movement Virtual on October 20, 2020, “Rogan, Rona, and ROI: 2020 Podcast Trends & What’s Next for 2021?”

Did you know that more new podcasts launched in first half of 2020 than in ALL of 2019?

From January 1st through June 30, 2020, 383,678 new podcasts were published — whereas a total of 273,502 podcasts debuted in all of 2019.

The most amazing part? The quantity of new podcasts that launched in the first half of 2020 represents nearly one-third (29%) of all podcasts in existence, according to ListenNotes.

Alban Brooke, Head of Marketing at Buzzsprout, confirmed that their hosting platform witnessed a spike in the number of new podcasts in the first half of 2020. Buzzsprout saw a 30% increase in the number of new podcasts submitted to their platform during the first half of the year. 

Not surprisingly, there were a record number of new episodes published during the first half of 2020 as well — but the spike in new podcasts wasn’t the only contributing force . Several longer-running podcasts also stepped up their game in Q1 & Q2 of this year. Many shows released more bonus content or transitioned their show to a more frequent publication schedule during the COVID quarantine. The quarantine drove additional content production in two main ways: (1) by creating additional free time for many hosts, and (2) by increasing audience demand for new content to stay entertained and informed during COVID.

The episode data reflects this increase in new content, with close to as many episodes published in Q1 & Q2 2020 alone than in ALL of 2019. There were 16.6 million podcast episodes published in 2019, whereas 13.2 million podcast episodes aired in January through June of 2020. This easily puts the podcast industry on track to set yet another record in 2020, with the highest number of podcast episodes ever published in a single year.

The Listen Notes data shows a significant spike in the number of new podcasts that correlates with the onset of COVID and the associated shelter-in-place orders put into effect throughout the U.S.

With many activities outside the home put on hold, people in quarantine were looking for new ways to stay mentally stimulated and fill their time at home. Podcasting, which was already growing in popularity prior to COVID, was primed and ready to become the creative outlet of choice for those in quarantine who wanted to avoid boredom by exploring a new hobby that would help them to feel more connected and fulfilled.

Another probable catalyst for the spike in the number of new podcasts during the first half of 2020 was the release of several new podcasts hosted by high-profile celebrities. Major names like Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian-West, Mark and Jay Duplass and Hillary Clinton were just some of the many A-listers that put news of their exclusive deals with Spotify for new podcasts in the headlines, which likely had a trickle-down effect on the excitement surrounding podcasts for the larger population.

new podcasts

Unlike so many opportunities that are only accessible to A-list celebrities and the like, podcasting is accessible to everyone. With little more than an internet connection and a mic, nearly anyone can start a show with the potential to appear alongside the shows hosted and produced by household names.

The fact that it’s possible to start a podcast with a modest initial investment of $100 or less gives podcasting a lot of its appeal — especially to trigger-shy new creators who may be apprehensive about spending large sums of money on new hobbies in the shaky COVID economy.

The spike in the number of new podcasts may also correlate with increased experimentation on limited series podcasts, as well as the increased crossover amongst various forms of media like TV, film, podcasts & radio.

Due to their in-person necessity for production, many TV and film sets shut down during the first half of 2020 due to safety concerns over the spread of COVID. Podcasts — which can be produced remotely — became a safer media alternative to television or film, and a much-needed way for many performers to make money and find creative fulfillment during quarantine.

What’s next for 2021?

In the first half of 2021, we expect to see the number of new podcasts continue to skyrocket, especially if the current projected increase in COVID transmission rates this winter prove to be accurate. There were about 550,000 podcasts in 2018 and around 1.5 million podcasts published to date. Based on this data, we expect that the number of podcasts will surpass 2 million by next year.

It is also likely that we will see an increasing number of businesses, both large and small, launching their own podcasts, or even their own mini-networks of shows related to their brand.

If 2020 has been any indication of what is yet to come, then 2021 is likely to bring some unforeseen twists and turns — but all signs are pointing to another strong growth year for the podcast industry.

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