Podcasts are now listened to by an estimated 124.5 million Americans each month, according to the latest eMarketer estimates, including 98.4 million who listen weekly. The media tracking firm’s latest update estimates weekly podcast listeners make up 29.2% of the U.S. population, while monthly podcast listeners make up 36.9%. The numbers are growing. But as podcasting continues to mature, eMarketer analysts say the listener gains are not as big as they once were and the firm is scaling back some of its earlier forecasts.
The latest forecast includes 1.9 million fewer weekly podcast listeners for 2022 as eMarketer sees a growth rate that is half the size of the increase recorded in 2021. But in a crowded media landscape, podcasters can still be lifted by the kind of growth rates that some other media would likely be envious of. Analysts expect weekly podcast listener numbers will climb 6.8% this year compared to 2021. But the growth rate will continue to slide in the coming years, dropping to an estimated 5.4% next year and falling to 4.2% by 2025. Overall weekly listening number totals will keep on climbing to a forecasted 119.4 million.
Podcasters are likely to face tougher competition for attention. “Overall, listening to podcasts continues to represent a significant portion of total digital audio consumption,” eMarketer says, but adds a noteworthy qualifier. “The percentage of digital audio listeners who do not subscribe to podcasts will drop below 50% in 2023 for weekly listeners,” its latest forecast predicts.
“Podcast growth is slowing in the U.S., but that’s merely a sign of the platform’s maturity. It still remains an opportunity with many advertisers who have overlooked the channel,” eMarketer says. “Despite a slight slowdown in podcast audience growth, the medium remains an underutilized advertising channel.” By eMarketer’s tally, this year, advertisers will spend an average of $13.70 per podcast listener–roughly a quarter of the $52.10 they’ll spend per on-air radio listener. “That suggests there’s still plenty of runway for podcasting as an ad channel,” it says.
The slower growth in podcast numbers has also led eMarketer to scale back some of its Spotify usage numbers. In the U.S. it says the streaming service is still adding subscribers, but its growth rate is decreasing.
“This year, we anticipate a 5.8% increase in the number of Spotify premium subscribers, up 0.7% over our previous forecast. This rate is approximately one-third of last year’s growth,” says eMarketer. By year end, it predicts there will be 49.3 million Spotify premium subscribers.
Analysts at eMarketer call that “anemic growth” potentially concerning for the company because it did not raise its subscription fees this year while it also had promotions offering three months of free premium service at sign-up.
“Spotify monthly active users (MAUs) are rising, but a little more slowly than anticipated. Our projection for MAU growth has decreased from 7% to 6.0% for 2022. We now expect 88.4 million people will use Spotify this year,” eMarketer says.
Even so it says the news is not all bad for Spotify. Even though it is experiencing a slower growth rate, eMarketer expects its podcast listeners will increase by 13.8% this year to 32.2 million, outpacing the overall growth rate for podcast listening.