How many podcasts are there?
How many podcasts are there? That’s not quite as simple to answer as you might think; and we should probably have a discussion about what the definition is of a podcast first before we can really give an answer of how many there are.
Spotify suggest they have 5.5mn podcasts on their platform (according an app notification on Jan 13 2023). You have to submit your podcast to Spotify, but it’s a relatively simple process. Spotify’s catalogue includes some exclusive shows that aren’t available as open RSS feeds: and a large number of shows from their free podcast host Anchor. Many of those shows are “one and done” shows, where someone has made a short test for fun on the Anchor platform.
The Podcast Index is built from (in the main) discovering open podcast RSS feeds on the web. They claim they have 3.8mn podcasts in their index (in Feb 2023). What’s quite fun for journalists is that you can download the database in its entirety and play with it to pull data out of it. The Podcast Index doesn’t include all podcasts that are out there, since it removes open RSS feeds that are really designed to be private, also removes a number of dormant podcasts, and removes a number of those “one and done” shows from free podcast hosts.
What most people think of as the definitive number of podcasts is the total Apple Podcasts catalogue. That’s probably around 2.5mn currently (in Feb 2023). They don’t publish this figure, but it’s calculated by Daniel J Lewis’s Podcast Industry Stats website. However, getting into Apple Podcasts is relatively complicated and requires a credit card. Buzzsprout, a podcast host, told me in May 2021 that only 59.5% of all shows on their platform are listed in Apple Podcasts.
In short, if you’re asking “how many podcasts are there”, I think the right answer is “about 4 million”, and not just what’s in Apple.
How many podcast episodes have been recorded?
This is harder to answer than you’d think.
Many podcast feeds will only show a subset of the episodes that they’ve recorded: This American Life only contains the last ten episodes, as one example.
According to Daniel J Lewis, there are 75.7mn episodes available in podcast feeds indexed by Apple Podcasts (in Feb 2023).
The Podcast Index has a hidden stats page that reveals that (as at the time of writing on 10 Feb 2023) there were 110,768,584 episodes in their database. Again, remember that it doesn’t contain every show out there.
How many podcasts are there today v 5 yrs ago v 10 yrs ago
The Podcast Index has a “oldestItemPubdate” in its database, which ought to give a rough age of podcasts - that’s the oldest published episode, aka the birthdate of the podcast, assuming that the podcast feed contains all episodes.
We last calculated this data for Nov 24, 2021.
- Podcasts “today” (Nov 24): 4,426,399
- Podcasts as of Nov 24, 2021 (one year ago): 3,479,072
- Podcasts as of Nov 24, 2016 (five years ago): 547,969
- Podcasts as of Nov 24, 2011 (ten years ago): 168,651
- Podcasts as of Nov 24, 2006 (fifteen years ago): 90,340
But: this is showing how many of these podcasts are still available. There are many podcasts which were started fifteen years ago and which have gone.
How many active podcasts are there?
Many people believe that an “active podcast”, one that is still being made, is the right thing to measure. A dormant podcast - one that was once made but is now neglected and sitting in a server somewhere - probably isn’t a good view of the industry as a whole.
As of Feb 10, 2023, there were 496,076 podcasts that had posted a new episode in the last 90 days. The latest data is here, and we keep an archive of this data, some of which is in the Podnews newsletter every day.
Is it true that half of podcast episodes are downloaded fewer than 25 times?
The correct stat is “half of podcast episodes published in January 2023 were dowloaded fewer than 29 times in the first 7 days” and it’s at the bottom of Buzzsprout’s global stats. Bear in mind that Buzzsprout is a podcast host with many free accounts, which may pull this average number down.
Omny Studio, an enterprise podcast host, gave a higher figure in Sep 2022, which we can summarise as “half of all podcast episodes published in the year to June 2022 were downloaded fewer than 87 times in the first 90 days”. Their data goes into the numbers per category, too. We’d point out that Omny Studio is a podcast host used most by large organisations, which means it’s likely to be higher than a purely consumer host.
Why does all this matter?
Good question. But, if you’re scared away from podcasting because there are “more than 5.5mn shows”: remember that more than 5mn of those shows aren’t being updated any more. Your real competition is fewer than half a million active podcasts. And that’s much less daunting.
|James Cridland is the Editor of Podnews, a keynote speaker and consultant. He wrote his first podcast RSS feed in January 2005; and also launched the first live radio streaming app for mobile phones in the same year. He's worked in the audio industry since 1989.|
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