The number of podcasts ballooned in 2020 with the debut of new shows nearly triple the new shows debuts of 2019. The podcast search engine Listen Notes says 897,379 new podcasts debuted last year. That was a 186% increase compared to the 313,112 new podcasts that came onto the scene in 2019. That brought the number of new podcasts to 1,897,528 at year-end. And the number of episodes available for listeners totaled 91,075,724. Both figures have continued to tick higher in the early days of January according to Listen Notes.
A month-by-month tally reflects the impact of the COVID lockdown on the rollout of new shows. May was the biggest month for new podcast debuts according to Listen Notes, which detected nearly 106,000 new shows. June ranked second with about 92,000 new podcasts, followed by April at 91,000. December had the fewest new show debuts of any month last year.
All that time at home, as well as the addition of new podcasts, meant 2020 was a banner year for release of new episodes. Listen Notes says it detected more than 28 million newly-published episodes last year. That compared to about 17 million in 2019 and 14 million 2018.
The flipside of more podcasts being born is that the number of podcast deaths also rose last year. Listen Notes says there were 60,858 podcasts that were considered dead, an increase of 35% from 2019. It was also the largest number of podcast deaths reported in any year since Listen Notes began tallying the numbers in 2008. Listen Notes considers a show to have died when the RSS feed is deleted, or its iTunes “Completed” tag is marked “yes” by the publisher.
Two-thirds of all podcasts originate in the U.S. Not unexpectedly, most shows are in English. Listen Notes tabulates 65% of podcasts are in English. That is down from 73% at the end of 2019. It reflects the growing number of Spanish- and Portuguese-language podcasts. The tally shows one in ten podcasts is in Spanish with another six percent in Portuguese, driven by the fast-growing Brazilian podcast market. Indonesian (5%) and German (3%) round out the top five.
The top genre remains Society & Culture, which represented 13.4% of all shows. It is followed by Education (11.3%), Religion & Spirituality (9.2%), Arts (9.0%), Business (8.6%), Comedy (7.7%), Health & Fitness (5.9%), Music (5.5%), News (5.2%), Leisure (4.8%), and Sports (4.8%).
San Francisco-based Listen Notes was launched in 2017 by Webian Fang, who in the latest update to users says Listen Notes now has transcripts posted for 90 million podcast episodes. That represents fewer than one percent of all episodes, but he points out that compares to 60 million songs in the music catalogs of Spotify and Apple Music or the half million audiobooks on Audible. “Basically, you can learn any topics from podcasts today,” he said.