The number of new podcasts launched in 2022 is way down compared to the number of new podcasts launched in 2020. While this may not be that shocking in a post-Covid lockdown world, the actual numbers are pretty surprising.
According to ListenNotes (a podcast search engine and database), new podcasts fell a whopping 80 percent from 2020 to 2022. In raw numbers, that means 219,264 new podcasts launched in 2022 compared to 1,019,272 podcasts in 2020.
If you're curious, the total estimated number of podcasts around the world is 3,018,176. Which also goes to show just how insane the growth in 2020 was, with roughly one-third of all podcasts in existence launching in that year.
What The Decline In New Podcasts Looks Like Over Time
Ok, so that's obviously a huge dip in new podcasts. But what does it look like in context? To reiterate, 2020 was a monstrous, arguably unsustainable year for podcast growth.
Podcast creation grew steadily from 2010 through 2019, with the typical upward slope growth trend you expect to see with any digital medium picking up steam. In 2010 there were roughly 23,000 new podcasts created, compared to nearly 58,000 in 2015 and 337,000 in 2019.
But when the pandemic hit, a lot of people found themselves not only sitting at home, but also needing an outlet — and probably having at least a decent microphone lying around for all those Zoom calls. Thanks to the low barrier to entry and the relatively cheap equipment costs, podcasts were poised for a boom.
And that's exactly when new podcasts had their true hockey stick moment — a near 300 percent increase in one year. The only problem is, the drop since has been so drastic that 2022 actually lags behind even pre-pandemic numbers. The number of podcasts created in 2022 is only slightly greater than 2018's, but down about 35 percent compared to 2019.
When you look at 2022's podcast decline month-by-month, we generally see a downward trend. New podcasts peaked in February with nearly 24,000 and then fell all the way to 7,000 in December (with a slight uptick in August and September).
There is one silver lining, though. New episode creation was up in 2022 compared to 2019, with a little more than 28 million episodes published last year compared to 18 million episodes in 2019.
Why We're Seeing Such A Huge Nosedive In The Space
The obvious culprit for the decline is the fact that a lot of creators don't have the time they did during the pandemic. Now that things are (for the most part) back to normal in much of the world, a lot of hobbyists have other options for their outlets.
And while there's always been a bit of a stigma around the underwhelming podcast (and the tendency for them to be much less diverse than other mediums), the number of new podcasts launched during the pandemic did become a bit of an easy punchline. (You know, like, "What do you call three white men in a room? A podcast." You get it).
But that's not to say people don't want to listen to podcasts. In fact, listenership continues to grow at a steady pace, reaching an all-time high of 82 million Americans in 2021. And with 79 percent of people saying they're aware of what a podcast is compared to only 22 percent in 2006, podcasting as a medium is still certainly having a moment.
The truth is though, it's not easy to make a genuinely compelling podcast. And it's even harder to find an audience.
New Podcasts Have A Really Hard Time Finding An Audience
"Discoverability" is an important term we use when talking about whether a platform or medium is suitable for creators looking to grow their audience. It's not necessarily critical that every platform have good discoverability for a creator — for instance, platforms like Patreon exist to help creators monetize and connect with their audience, not to help a creator find an audience.
Podcasts and podcast platforms, however, have pretty terrible discoverability. Even a platform like Spotify, which has excellent discoverability for music artists, lacks a lot of similar features for new podcasts. Part of that is because it takes more commitment to listen to a podcast than a song. The average length of a podcast is 38 minutes, more than ten times the length of an average song. When a podcast ends, most podcasting platforms don't automatically try to send you to a similar podcast you may like.
Really, the only way to grow an audience for a podcast is to have an audience somewhere else (like on social media or an email list) and to try to incentivize your audience to share your podcast.
It's no coincidence the biggest podcasts are typically creative extensions of people who already have an audience or notoriety elsewhere. Celebrities talking to their famous friends and famous songwriters talking about their famous songs isn't really a tough sell for existing fans. But simply having an engaging story or compelling conversation isn't usually enough to build an audience from scratch.
So Is This Juice Worth The Squeeze?
This is something we're going to dive into in greater detail soon. If you're looking at the podcasting space and all the (frankly antiquated) aspects about it and asking, "Is it even worth it to give this a shot?" the short answer is, "Yes." The long answer is "Yes, if..."
But whether or not podcasting is right for you, there's no denying a lot of people took up the creative medium as an outlet in a once-in-a-lifetime situation. What we don't know, right now, is just how many of those podcasts that started in 2020 are still releasing new episodes today.
But it's going to be a personal choice. There's arguably never been a better time to start a podcast — if you've got the right pieces in place. And we'll talk about that more next time!