The proportion of people in the U.S. who listen to podcasts is double the worldwide average, according to eMarketer. The media research firm has been collecting data from 18 countries and it finds that podcasts are most popular in English-speaking countries or where a lot of people are proficient in English.
“The U.S. is the leader in the podcast market and there has been an explosion in content that is available,” eMarketer Analyst Peter Vahle said on an eMarketer podcast last week. “Whereas some of the other markets where they don’t speak English or they have less English speakers, all of that podcast content isn’t necessarily available to them and that’s a natural barrier.”
The numbers show North America and Asia-Pacific have the most podcast listeners, but very different levels of adoption among their populations. In the U.S., 40% of internet users listen to podcasts. In Canada a third (32.8%) listen and in Mexico a quarter do (25.8%). But in the Asia-Pacific region the numbers are smaller. In South Korea and Japan 12% of internet users report listening to podcasts. And 9% do in China.
With most shows in English, eMarketer says language is a huge factor. “Like many entertainment products, podcasts are an increasingly borderless medium. However, unlike movies, TV, sports, and music, podcasts are very difficult to enjoy if the listener does not understand the language spoken by the content creator.
This reality is shaping the development of podcast audiences across the globe,” it says in a blog post. “With the enormous U.S.-made library of podcast content, English speakers around the world have a wider array of shows available to them than non-English speakers do. This in turn smooths the path for podcast adoption in countries with high levels of English-language proficiency.”
Despite the smaller numbers, eMarketer says several emerging markets are growing their podcast listener base rapidly, particularly in Latin America. “Spanish is well on the way to becoming the second universal language for podcasting,” says eMarketer. “Spanish-language podcasting, and podcast penetration within Spanish-speaking populations, will rise in tandem over the next few years.”
The firm says in 2021, Spain will have the highest podcast penetration rate (30% of internet users) among countries with limited English proficiency. And Mexico will post a higher rate than much of Europe.