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Podcast Network Consolidation and Show Growth: What it Means for Advertisers in 2021



  • The number of podcasts is growing rapidly every day
  • The number of independent podcast networks is shrinking almost as quickly
  • The fragmented nature of podcast advertising is difficult, but not impossible to navigate

2020 was a record year for podcasts, podcast networks, and podcast advertising. There were many trends that grew from a steady stream of change to a complete overhaul of the podcast ecosystem. The expansive growth we saw in 2020 has only accelerated in 2021. The consolidation of independent networks also continues with the announcements just last week: SiriusXM acquired Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible and DraftKings purchased the rights to former ESPN Host Dan Le Batard’s podcast

Of course many of the larger independent players were already acquired last year finalized with Amazon acquiring Wondery in January 2021. Amidst the network and platform consolidation, the surge in the number of podcasts, and the rise of even more independent podcasters, there are many implications for those looking to invest in podcast advertising. First, let’s take a look at last year. 

Podcast growth and shifts in 2020 by the numbers

The total number of new podcasts that launched last year nearly tripled over 2019, surpassing more than a million. And that is just new shows. The number of episodes that are available to listeners today comes in at over 90 million. According to Listen Notes, these numbers have continued to tick high into 2021.

The rise in podcast awareness and an ever-expanding listener base has contributed to this growth. Fourteen years ago, only 22 percent of people over the age of 12 had heard about podcasts. In 2020, that number rose to 75 percent. As for listeners, there were 88 million people listening to podcasts in 2019. Forecasts suggest that the number of podcast listeners will shoot past 160 million by 2023, an increase of 20 million year-over-year.

Podcasting is still fragmented, despite much consolidation

The rapid expansion of podcasts has given rise to two parallel trends that at first seem to contradict one another—greater fragmentation and increasing consolidation. Let’s start with the latter.

Last year, we saw a continuation of the 2019 trends for major publishers to acquire podcast hosting, creation, and monetization platforms. The first big splash of 2020 was set off by Spotify acquiring the exclusive licensing rights to Joe Rogan’s show, the highest-earning podcast with $30 million in annual revenue, and the publishing platform Megaphone. Then in September, Apple acquired Scout FM, a startup that offers podcast listening with radio-like stations. Amazon threw their hat into the ring when they purchased Wondery in early 2021, scooping up the last of the major independent networks. 

Despite network and platform consolidation by Amazon, Spotify and Apple, the rapid creation of new podcasts has only accelerated. There were three times the number of new podcast shows launched in 2020 versus 2019. That means at the end of 2020 there were nearly 2 million podcasts. The top genres include Society and Culture at top with 13.4 percent of all shows, followed by Education and Religion and Spirituality. 

While consolidation can be an exercise in standardization, as the industry stands right now, each publisher measures and tracks podcast downloads and ad performance differently.

How advertisers can navigate today’s podcast landscape

One of the main pain points for podcast advertisers is how it is still nearly impossible to programmatically buy podcast ads like digital. To compound the problem, measurement and attribution are slightly different per network or platform. Podcast advertisers cannot obtain a clear view to monitor and measure their ad success without investing in advanced technology or outsourcing to a specialized podcast agency.

Anyone has the power to create a podcast. Yet advertisers do not yet have the same agency when it comes to buying podcast advertisements. Whether it is working with hosts directly or negotiating across the major networks and publishers, Veritone One has helped advertisers eliminate the complexities required to achieve and scale successful podcast advertising campaigns. From channel analysis to podcast buying, to writing the perfect creative to optimize your ads in real-time with Veritone’s aiWARE, we have helped hundreds of clients grow their brands and build customers for life through the power of podcast advertising. Let us take this complex and ever-evolving landscape of highly engaged listeners and turn your ad dollars into sales.

Get started with podcast advertising.

Further Reading

Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash