In this end-of-the-year series I will be looking back at what happened in 2020 in the worlds of podcasting, subscriptions & memberships, newsletters and social media. This first part looks at podcasting, with the aim being to identify the biggest trends, to separate the news from the noise.
Podcasts had a big year by any measure, Spotify counted 1.9 million podcasts in its directory, Apple Podcasts has 1.6 million, we saw acquisitions of podcasting and audio-related companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars (The Ringer, Serial, Audm, Stitcher, Megaphone, and others) and many studies (such as the Digital News Report) reported increased podcast listening all over the world.
Timeline of the most impactful podcasting news in 2020
- Morgan Stanley sparked a lively debate with its sixth annual music and radio survey, which claimed Spotify had surpassed Apple Podcasts as the “most popular” podcast platform. According to Libsyn, one of the biggest, oldest, and best known podcast hosting platforms, Apple Podcasts was still #1 (and stayed there).
- The US Library of Congress started archiving podcasts.
- At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Spotify announced Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI), its proprietary podcast ad technology for Spotify Podcast Ads.
- Spotify bought Bill Simmons’s The Ringer, a sports and pop culture website and podcast network, to boost its podcast business.
- Data from a German report showed Spotify listeners prefer comedy and Apple Podcasts listeners prefer the news.
- The Podcast Academy was launched in New York as a membership-driven non-profit organization to provide community, professional development, and industry connections to independent podcasters and industry professionals.
- The Google Podcasts app launched also on iOS.
- Podcasts about the Coronavirus started taking off across the world.
- Due to the ongoing pandemic people started listening to podcasts more on their computers as commuting was restricted.
- Both Apple Podcasts and Spotify crossed the one million podcasts mark.
- “This American Life” won the first ever Pulitzer Prize for Audio Reporting, the new, 15th journalism Pulitzer category available. Previously, the last significant change took place in 2007, when a “Local Reporting” category replaced “Beat Reporting”, as NiemanLab noted.
- Spotify signed a podcast deal with Joe Rogan worth more than $100 million to get his content exclusively on the platform.
- Reuters launched Reuters Audio, a dedicated audio and voice service with nearly half a million archive clips dating back to the early 1900s.
- The BBC launched a new Creative Development Unit in Bristol focused on podcasts to “turbocharge the production division’s podcast ambitions.”
- Spotify launched local versions of the hit podcast “Sandra” by Gimlet in France, Germany, Mexico and Brazil. Its producers altered scripts, changed the names of characters to adjust to the local taste, context and feel, and featured known stars in those countries.
- Spotify became available in Russia, Ukraine, Croatia, and 10 other European markets giving a push for podcasts in those countries. Russia remained the fastest growing market for the streaming giant.
- Apple launched its own original daily news podcast called Apple News Today.
- The New York Times bought the production company behind the popular “Serial” podcast.
- Amazon opened up podcast submissions for Amazon Music and Audible.
- To help publishers monetize their digital audio content, Google Ad Manager expanded support for audio ads with new features like Dynamic Ad Insertion for audio, programmatic monetization, and new audio forecasting capabilities.
- The BBC Sounds app became available to download on international app stores.
- Conan O’Brien’s Team Coco signed an audio development and production deal with Amazon’s Audible.
- NPR released its Spoken Word Audio Report 2020 stating that the share of time spent listening to spoken word audio increased by 8% in just the last year. Spoken word audio includes podcasts, news, sports, talk radio, and audiobooks.
- Spotify announced the acquisition of Megaphone, one of the world’s leading podcast advertising and publishing platforms. The streaming platform said the deal meant further investment into programmatic ads in podcasts.
- Apple Podcasts launched an embeddable podcast player anyone can use on their websites and listen to podcasts without restrictions. It’s available on the Apple Podcasts Marketing Tools website.
- Amazon was in talks to buy podcast production company Wondery.
- Google Podcasts added private RSS feed support, primarily for the shows you have to pay to access.
- Spotify published the trends that shaped streaming in 2020 on the platform.
- Most popular podcasts globally on Spotify in 2020:
- The Joe Rogan Experience
- TED Talks Daily
- The Daily
- The Michelle Obama Podcast
- Call Her Daddy
- Most popular podcast genres globally on Spotify in 2020:
- Society & Culture
- Lifestyle & Health
- Arts & Entertainment
- Apple Podcasts published their biggest shows of 2020:
- The Daily (NYT)
- Crime Junkie (audiochuck)
- Call Her Daddy (Barstool Sports)
- This American Life (This American Life)
- Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard (Armchair Umbrella)