A Quick Delve Into the Age of Podcasting

By: Emmanuel Utibe

From the short video clips of Andrew Tate, Kevin Samuels, Joe Regan on TikTok and on Twitter to the voice of Joey Akan, Motolani Alake, Osagie Alonge and  Prisca Aniemeke, podcasts seem to have come to stay. The idea of podcasts – like a radio was before the 2000s – is not particularly novel to our earspaces in today’s society. A podcast is an audio program made available in digital format for download over the internet. It usually features one or more recurring hosts engaged in a discussion on a particular topic.. Themes for podcasts range from something as highly scripted as an on-air drama series or an interview section with celebrities, to something as simple as having your holy book or a nice bedtime story read out while you listen. For simplicity, we could define podcasts as radios to the digital internet. However, in reality, the concept extends beyond just “being radio.

A Trip Down the Streets of History; How did Podcast Start?

Podcasts can be traced back to 2004 when the iPod started to become a thing. Given that the world was slowly catching up with broadband internet access and portable digital audio playback devices, the iPod was the first to allow people download digital audio files over the internet. For some others,  the precursors to modern podcasts were “audioblogs’ ‘ from the 80s, with records like “The illusion of Independent Radio’ ‘, a Russian radio program created in Rostov-on-don and distributed on magnetic tapes and cassettes. Also in the 80s, Radio Computing Services(RCS) provided music and talk-related content to radio stations in digital format. MIDI format and Bone was used to distribute the audio and video files. 

By the 90s, several websites already provided a system where music, talks and other audio files could be selected and sorted in different digital formats. Soon there were a few websites that provided audio subscription services and even allowed the downloads of whole audio shows. By the time Radio stations began exploring the option of broadcasting online and having on demand streaming talk shows, the world began to grasp on the early days of online radio and with it the larger idea of podcasts. 

Anyways, despite all that lead up to it, it was not until 2004 that the name podcast became associated with this particular type of service. In February 2004, while writing for The Guardian, Ben Hammersley suggested the term “podcasting” as a name for the nascent technology. Months later, in a podcast episode of Evil Genius Chronicles on September 18, 20004, Dave Slusher made the first documented use of “podcasting” in the definition known today. Up until then, People thought of podcasting in the sense of downloading audio content in a digital format from off the internet. Slusher even pondered if he should monetize the podcast, and what approach he would take to it if he did.

As with things associated with this current age, the reach of podcasts rose quickly, and by October 11, 2004, The New York Times had reported on podcasts across the United States, in Canada, Australia and Sweden, mentioning podcast topics ranging from technology, movie reviews to even veganism. By November “podcasting” got defined by Wikipedia and even the BBC had a domestic show, “In our Time”, made available as a podcast.

By June 2005, Apple had added podcasting to its iTunes 4.9 music software and start building a directory of podcasts at its iTunes music store. From there, podcast – both as a word and as a thing – kept ballooning at jet speed, so much that it was named as the word of the year in 2005 by the New Oxford American Dictionary. It became a dictionary word by 2006. By September 28, 2005, exactly a year after Google started tracking the search hits for the word “podcast” on its search engine, Podcast had over a 100 million+ search hits. 

By February 2006, When the first premium-podcasting platform was launched, the widespread acceptance came that podcasting had considerable commercial potential. 

What is the Current Picture With Podcasts

With the increasing rave around podcasts in the first decade of the century, you would be tempted to think like the metaverse, it would reach its golden age then, peak and see a halt in its adoption. However, like the return of Vinyl records, these things can throw you off if you feel you are too sure. 

As the charts and graphs show, the number of listeners, contents, and creators reveal that we are only just entering into the golden age of podcasts. From 424.2 million listeners in 2022,  464.7 million global listeners in 2023, and a projection of about half a billion by 2024, the numbers of podcast listener are still steady on the rise. The paradigm shift towards a virtual reality as a result of COVID contributed to the almost double number of listeners after the peak of the pandemic.

With over 5 million podcast titles available on various streaming platforms, and with well over 150 million episodes of podcasts, the number of podcast content is going astronomically high to keep up with the growing market size in terms of revenue. In 2023 alone, the podcast industry in the USA is valued at $2 billion and is expected to double to $4 billion by 2024. On a global scale the podcast market is worth over $23.6 billion and is projected to get as high as $132 billion as of 2030.

It is no wonder that for an industry that has stubbornly remained decentralized over the years, with no single gatekeeper like a Netflix of Podcasts, only just dozens of popular podcast players, leading players like Spotify and Apple are looking to change that to effectively get more out of the podcast industry. Between the both of them from current data, lies over 64% of the market shares and the vast majority of the rest scrabbling for the rest 36% with Google Podcasts and Amazon music holding only 2.4% and 0.7% respectively. 

Spotify has made moves though to consolidate its position in the market as it has bought over several podcasts, even recently buying Anchor for $340 million and buying Gimlet media. 

With an average of 1 new podcast being created every 3 minutes, it would seem like maybe all that can be said is already being said. However, when you take into account that there are currently over 35 million Youtube channels, you would see there is still very much room for new entrants in the audio world. Also, given that many people are creating podcasts for the same reasons journalists, writers and others are starting newsletters, that is, podcasts are a great way to connect directly to an audience as there is no single gatekeeper or gatekeeping algorithm preventing them from reaching your audience. That’s why there are many more shows from diverse and marginalized creators than you would find on regular broadcast radio. This podcast has been described as a disruptive medium.

Then there is the relative cheapness of access and listening, and set-up as a creator. For most, you don’t require so much for creating your podcast. You only need a good USB microphone, a USB audio mixing interface (if it’s not a solo), your pc, audio recording software and you are almost certainly good to go. For listeners, given that 0ver 75% of people listen to podcasts on their smartphones, all you actually need is a smartphone. Podcasts –like Homo sapiens – are making sure that they don’t leave no Neanderthals alive; they are slowly finding their ways into cars, hoping to usurp the last stronghold keeping the regular radio alive.  

Regardless of the relatively shorter attention span, it would seem that podcast is somehow excelling relative to other channels of content creation. Over 87% of podcast listeners are shown to listen to podcasts to the end. This is despite the fact that many podcasts can run for hours. This is also coupled with the fact that daily podcast listening is shown to build habits. So basically, listeners get to binge on podcasts just the same way they would binge on Netflix shows. 

What Next?

The Golden Age of Podcasts is happening now because more listeners are signing up, more binge-worthy and daily contents are being created and then there is also the convergence of the tech adoption curves. Going forward, what would be expected?The current trend only tells of more growth in the industry; podcast would grow to become an even bigger phenomenal with more amazing shows for users. There will be more ways to monetize for creators, more aggregation of market shares into few hands and so much more. 

We would also see more intrusion of the human story into the “earscape” of society; our hears would bleed from both human wisdom and unbridled stupidity. Moreover, like with writing, we might see podcasts become another feature of our social media. We may well be seeing this with WhatsApp’s introduction of the voice note feature to Status updates. Best of all, “being given a voice” would now assume a more practical and powerful meaning as more people would be given the chance to talk.



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