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How many podcasts are there?

· By James Cridland · 2.5 minutes to read

How many podcasts are there? That’s not quite as simple to answer as you might think - we should have a discussion about what the definition is of a podcast before we can really give an answer of how many there are.

Spotify suggest they have 3.6m podcasts on their platform (in Mar 2022). 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.

The Podcast Index is built from (in the main) discovering open podcast RSS feeds on the web. They claim they have 4.2m podcasts in their index (in Mar 2022). 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, and also removes a number of dormant podcasts.

What most people think of as the definitive number of podcasts is the total Apple Podcasts catalogue. That’s probably around 2.4m currently (in Mar 2022). 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 needlessly 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 “more than 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 63m episodes available in podcast feeds indexed by Apple Podcasts (in Mar 2022).

I’ve just calculated it from the Podcast Index (from a snapshot I downloaded on November 24), and the total number of episodes available in their feeds is 75.7m.

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.

Based on The Podcast Index’s database, downloaded on 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.

Is it true that roughly half of podcast episodes have been downloaded fewer than 26 times?

Absolutely.

The correct stat is “half of podcast episodes published in February 2022 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.

Listen

This American Life
This American Life
Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify
James CridlandJames 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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