A new estimate of podcast listening shows the medium’s audience continues to grow. Analysts at eMarketer estimate 76.4 million people in the U.S. will listen to podcasts this year. That’s up 5% compared to a year ago. And eMarketer forecasts podcast’s reach will climb another 3% to 78.9 million listeners in 2020. Based on its analysis, analysts estimate podcasts now account for 37% of digital audio listeners.
“Podcasts still have a way to go before catching up with traditional radio,” eMarketer says. It points out that podcasts still have less than a third of the reach of traditional AM/FM radio which is projected to reach 234.7 million U.S. listeners this year as it maintains a 91.5% share of the adult population. It forecasts marketers will spend $13.9 billion on broadcast radio in 2019.
Although eMarketer doesn’t currently forecast podcast ad spending, it points out that “a growing number of U.S. marketers and agency professionals have added podcasts to their budgets.” A survey of ad buyers in May 2018 by Advertiser Perceptions and Westwood One showed a third were already buying podcast ads another 36% planned to begin buying podcast ads within the coming six months.
Because many podcast ads are host-read and baked into episodes, analysts also see podcasts as a way for marketers to make an end-run around ad-free streaming service like Spotify or Pandora and still reach people who may be accessing the shows as part of a subscription package. “Podcasts could also be a way for marketers to reach listeners on ad-free streaming platforms,” eMarketer says, noting “they will still hear third-party ads that are placed within podcast episodes.”