Audio 2018 - Watch These Numbers


Rather than another obligatory prediction column, I've gathered some stats worth looking at and thinking about as we begin 2018.  So, as they say on Marketplace, "Lets do the numbers."



1 million

The number of morning podcasts listeners as well as the number of morning show podcasts is on the rise.  "The Daily" from The New York Times and NPR’s "Up First" were two of the three most downloaded new shows of 2017 with an estimated download audience of nearly 1 million each day between them.  Non-broadcast companies such as Buzzfeed are already in and others such as Vox enter the category shortly, which has the potential to shake up radio’s lock on morning listening. 

One year

It has taken podcasting about 12 years to get to 60% of general public awareness.  Smart Speakers have hit that mark in one year.

25,000 Skills

At the start of the year, there were 5,000 skills for Amazon’s Echo device.  The year closed out with more than 25,000 skills.  With tens of millions of people unboxing Echo Dots over the holidays, they can get Nicolas Cage trivia, taco facts and just about anything else you can think of. Jacobs Media & Jacapps President Fred Jacobs says it is reminiscent of the early days of apps. Remember fart apps?  Well Alexa can do that too. 70% of people report listening to more audio when they have a smart speaker, but there is a plethora of choice.  Will people learn how to “enable” skills and easily find podcasts and streaming radio or will the greatest beneficiaries be the default music services from Amazon and Google?  

30 percent

According to Gartner Research, in 2018 nearly 1/3 of search (30%) will be done by voice interaction and "conversation" with smart machines.  The implications of the shift to voice search is seismic for companies like Google who count on most of their revenue from advertising.  That's around $74 billion and explains the aggressive development from Samsung, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon and others.  

58,420 podcasts

There are now over 420,000 podcast titles covering a vast array of topics, but the biggest, by a wide margin is Religion & Spirituality with 58,420 titles.  That represents over 13% of all podcast entries.  For contrast, comedy has 32,000.  You can read a full analysis we did here. We are clearly in a bubble with new podcasts being launched at an amazing rate.  Who has time to listen to all of this stuff?  According to Libsyn, the average podcast has 1,632 downloads (removing the top and bottom 1%).  The attrition rate is rapidly rising as well.  “Pod-fade” is a real thing as many learn the difficulty of producing quality content and garnering a following on a regular basis.   

62 percent

Digital music downloads dropped by almost 25% in 2017, while streamed audio accelerated its pace and is now responsible for 62% of the music industry’s revenue.   How does this affect podcasting?  The streamers are aggressively incorporating podcast content (Spotify) into their offerings.  Look for more from other players including Pandora. Sirius/XM, quietly launched an app called Spoke this past year and now has common financial stewardship with Pandora via investor Liberty Media.  This enables more sources for podcast content across new platforms.

1 out of 5

Over a year later, this is among the most important trend statistics to watch.  It represents the percent of all audio minutes being consumed on smartphones.  This number from Edison Research is sure to rise as the smartphone becomes even more of an entertainment hub.  That number is sharply higher already among millennial listeners which dominate podcasting.

59 percent of iPhone users

Apple released its analytics package just before the end of the year.  Podcast creators and advertisers know little, but now will know more, about actual listening patterns, time spent, drop-off patterns, etc.  Only those with IOS 11 (59% of iPhone users) or iTunes 12.7 will be in the sample.  Of course a fraction of those are podcast listeners, but  the trends will discern podcast winners and losers. Do people sit through six minutes of ads at the start of a podcast? Will overall podcast length tighten up? Count on change.    

2.6 million cable cutters

Cord cutting is moving mainstream.  Pay-TV providers are seeing the escalation of cord-cutting.  MoffetNathanson reported 2.6 million people cut the cord through September of 2017, in addition to 1.7 million in 2016.  In tandem, streaming TV or OTT providers such as Netflix, are on fire.  This explains the Disney-Fox merger as media companies are learning that distribution is challenging content for the king's throne. 

There are so many trends to watch as 2018 unfolds including podcast discovery, analytics, monetization, voice-to-text ..... the list grows.  

This is the year of voice.  Enjoy the ride.  

Steven GoldsteinComment