Podtrac says iHeartRadio had the biggest audience and most streams and downloads of any of the publishers it measures during April. Overall, Podtrac says the average U.S. unique monthly audience for publishers in its top 20 was a mixed story with downloads down 7% compared to March but up 13% compared to a year ago.
Last month iHeartRadio had a total reach of 26.9 million podcast listeners during April, and downloads and streams that topped 250 million. “Our broadcast radio reach acts as a megaphone to promote our podcasts like no other company can,” CEO Bob Pittman told analysts last week during a conference call. “We've got this secret weapon called broadcast radio and we are able to build a hit podcast by promoting on broadcast radio and putting that kind of firepower in the kind of reach and frequency we do and promoting it we see show up in terms of downloads almost immediately,” he said.
NPR can also promote its shows on its vast network of radio affiliates, and it remained in second place in April. The same is true for PRX, ESPN and the Cumulus Podcast Network, with four of Podtrac’s top ten publishers having ties to broadcast radio. And a fifth, NBC News, having similar capabilities on television.
The megaphone effect may best be illustrated by This American Life, which, with just one show, was ranked No. 17 last month by Podtrac with a reach of 2.7 million and more than 10.6 million downloads.
Just two of the top 20 publishers saw an increase in their monthly audience in April compared to March. Barstool Sports was one of the two as it popped into the top five with its reach up 19% to 8.5 million and its downloads and streams increasing 22% to 45.3 million.
American Public Media was the other publisher that saw gains last month. Its reach was up 10% to 2.7 million although its downloads and streams fell 2% to 16.4 million.
Among the top 20 publishers measured by Podtrac, downloads and streams were up an average of 2% between March and April and up 3% compared to a year earlier. Two of the top 20 publishers saw an increase in their U.S. monthly audience in April over March, while six saw an increase in global unique downloads and streams over the same period.
This month marks five years that Podtrac has been publishing a ranker of the top podcast publishers. The rankings launched as a top 10 in April 2016 and then expanded to a top 20 in March 2020. NPR led the ranker for 40 consecutive months until iHeartRadio moved into No. 1 for the first time in August 2019 and has now held the top spot for the past seven months.
Despite new entrants into the space, including companies such as Nielsen and Edison Research, Podtrac vowed to stick with the release of monthly rankers. “We look forward to tracking and sharing industry growth by top publishers and podcasts in the years to come,” said Podtrac CEO Mark McCrery.
A comparison of the data from five years ago to today shows just how much the industry has grown. The average unique monthly audience of top 10 publishers has risen three-fold. In 2016 it was 2.8 million while today it is 11.4 million. And the average global downloads for the top 10 publishers have grown at an even faster rate. Five years ago, it averaged nearly 169 million, while today it is more than 883 million.
“Podtrac created a valuable way for us to benchmark our audience and get a wider view of the industry,” said NPR Senior VP for Programming and Audience Development Anya Grundmann. “The insights we gather from the tracker have been a valuable part of our toolkit as we imagine new shows and build out our portfolio.”
Added Conal Byrne, CEO of the iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group, “As we’ve expanded and refined our podcasting efforts, the Podtrac top publisher ranking has provided us valuable benchmarking information that was not available to us anywhere else.”