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The State of Podcasting in 2021: How to Grow in a Booming Market

5 min
First published:  
February 16, 2021
Esther Lowde
Marketing Executive @ telbee
 - a.k.a - 
Let's talk! Details at bottom of page...

2020 was a breakout year for podcasting, with 24% of millennials in the US stating at the end of the year that they tuned into at least one podcast each week.

This was up from 22% of millennials in 2019, and it probably won’t come as a surprise to you that in 2021, these numbers are still rapidly climbing!

In fact, it’s looking like this year will see podcasts becoming one of the most popular mediums of entertainment across the globe.

Today, we’ll be exploring the current state of podcasting - from the demographics of modern podcast fanatics to the most up-to-date statistics on podcast distribution and growth.

We’ll also be sharing our top tips for growing your audience, standing out from the crowd and inviting more feedback from your listeners. 

The podcasting industry is a dynamic, competitive and exciting place to be - and you’ve got every reason to believe that 2021 will be the year your show sees more success than ever.

Let’s make sure that as the popularity of podcasting continues to grow, so does your audience, engagement and love for what you do. 

The state of podcasting in 2021

At the very beginning of 2020, there were 850,000 active podcasts and more than 30 million podcast episodes available online. This was already pretty startling growth, considering there were just 500,000 active podcasts two years before that, at the start of 2018.

Shortly afterwards, the entire world was faced with a turbulent year of lockdowns, social distancing, virtual learning and remote work, all of which saw the global population becoming more dependent than ever on at-home entertainment.

So, along with the rise of companies like Amazon, Zoom and Netflix, you won’t be surprised to hear that the number of new podcasts being created also began to grow exponentially.

By the end of 2020, there were over 1,500,000 active podcasts available across all streaming platforms. There were also more than 34 million episodes available to stream! As we enter 2021, these figures are still on the rise.

In this period of exponential growth and change, here’s what you need to know about the current state of the podcasting industry:

Podcasts are now mainstream

By the end of 2020, 75% of the US population was familiar with the term ‘podcasting’ – up from 70% in 2019 and 64% in 2018.

On top of being more familiar with podcasting, people in the US are actively listening to more shows too. At the end of 2020, 55% of Americans said they had listened to a podcast before (up from 51% in 2019), indicating that roughly three quarters of the people who are familiar with podcasts have actually engaged with one.

Plus, last year - for the first time ever - more than 100 million Americans (around 37% of the entire population) said that they actively listened to at least one podcast each month. For Americans aged between 12-34, that number rose to 49%, compared to just 42% in 2019.

how to grow podcast audience

Listener demographics are changing

According to one report from Westwood One, women are closing the gap in podcasting. The majority of new podcast listeners are women, whereas the early adopters of podcasts (sometimes referred to as the ‘Podcast Pioneers’) tended to be older and male.

This growth in female podcast listeners has led to a pretty fair split between the genders, with 51% podcast listeners being male and 49% female by the end of 2020.

Globally, 63% of podcast listeners are white, but South Korea leads in terms of its percentage of people who have listened to a podcast in the past month, with a staggering 58%.

Interestingly, nearly half (48%) of podcast listeners around the world are aged between 12-34, showing that the podcasting industry is beginning to attract a far younger audience.

Listener preferences are changing too

When it comes to where people are listening, Podcast Insights’ latest report has shown that 49% of podcast listening takes place at home, while just 22% of people listen while driving.

As for what they’re tuning into, the majority of people look to podcasts first and foremost for entertainment. Comedy was shown to be the most popular genre at the end of 2020, closely followed by education and news.

However, many listeners also like a variety of different shows, as new research revealed that American podcast listeners listen to an average of 7 different shows per week (up from 5 in 2017).

how to grow podcast audience

Essentially, there are two things we can be sure of: more people than ever are producing podcasts, and more people than ever are listening to them too. The podcasting industry is growing rapidly - and evolving as it goes.

All things considered, 2021 is a goldmine of opportunity for podcasters.

In the next chapter, we’ll be taking a look at how you can stand out and succeed in this increasingly saturated, evolving and exciting industry.


How to make your podcast stand out

Much like the world of social media influencers, part of the initial appeal of podcasting seems to have stemmed from its low cost and ease of entry.

You don’t need to be a celebrity or a TV personality to start your own podcast. You can simply pick up your phone, record yourself talking and post it online for the whole world to hear.

However, as every online content creator knows, as the popularity of the medium increases, the higher the expectations become.

To compete with the Joe Rogans and Fearne Cottons of the podcasting world, successful creators today are expected to have all the high-tech equipment, feature exciting, engaging guests in every episode and churn out original, high-quality content on an almost weekly basis.

Still, we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to have a colossal amount of money, time or team members to see huge success as a podcaster in 2021.

Your priority as a podcaster should simply be to produce original, entertaining and authentic content - and to enjoy connecting with your audience on a personal level, without getting caught up in all the technicalities.

After all, these are exciting times for podcasters. Podcasting has become one of the best ways to reach a worldwide audience, create an intimate connection with like-minded listeners, and provide valuable, entertaining content on demand. ‍

how to grow podcast audience

Without further ado, here are the top three things to remember when you’re looking to grow your podcast:


#1 Find your niche

You may have heard it said that “If you’re talking to everyone, you’re really talking to no one.”

This is especially true in the podcasting world, as if you want more people to take the time to listen to you, you have to be able to clearly communicate exactly why someone would want to tune in, and what they’re going to get when they do.

For example, if you’re hosting a podcast about sports, then communicating exactly why someone would want to tune in, and what they’re going to get as a result, is going to be very difficult – this is a very wide and broad topic.

On the other hand, if you’re hosting a podcast centred around tennis players, then it becomes a lot easier to communicate exactly why someone would want to tune in, and what they’re going to be hearing when they do.

It will also confirm to every individual who hears about your podcast whether it’s for them, making it incredibly easy for your target audience to find you.

Last but not least, if you don’t find your niche, you run the risk of not being able to attract the right listeners to your show, and stunting the growth of your audience.

#2 Be authentic

One of the great things about podcasts is how much emotion you can convey through the tone of your voice.

If you want to grow your podcast in 2021, you’ve got to make the most of the medium by being yourself, being expressive and letting your personality shine through.

However, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do this right away. It can take time to find your voice as a podcaster, and becoming more comfortable and familiar with your podcast setup and being a podcast creator doesn’t happen overnight.

If you want to speed the process up, listen back to your podcast episodes and critique yourself by asking the following questions:

  • Do I sound natural?
  • Is my personality coming through?
  • Are there phrases I overuse or filler words I can work on leaving out?
  • If I were a listener, what else would I want from tuning into this podcast?
how to grow podcast audience

#3 Listen to your audience

Whether you’re new to the world of podcasting or a seasoned expert, letting your audience participate in your podcast is one of the most effective ways to grow your following, engage your listeners and diversify your content.

After all, your listeners love sharing their stories, questions and opinions with you. According to Scientific American, people love to talk about themselves and share their experiences as it gives them ‘a neurological buzz’!

Audience participation doesn’t just keep your listeners happy - it makes life easier for you too! Receiving voice submissions helps you easily generate unique content for your podcast, get to know your audience better and give each of your broadcasts a more personal touch.

The problem is - how do you encourage your listeners to get in touch with you? And once they do get in touch, what’s the best way of managing it?

We know that often, it can feel like too much work to organise a session of live calls with your audience - or to sort through all the questions and stories your listeners have sent in by email, text and post.

Luckily, the latest voice recording and messaging technologies are making it quick, easy and straightforward to receive high-quality audio content from your audience - all in one place - that you can easily feature on your next episode.

how to grow podcast audience
With voice messaging for podcasting, you’ll be able to interact with your listeners far more personally, authentically and efficiently!



2021 is set to be an exciting year for podcasters.

In particular, it’s set to be a huge year for those who are willing to go the extra mile, get creative and invite their listeners to become part of the conversation.

Of course, creating a truly engaging podcast that captivates an audience week on week is definitely not a walk in the park. It takes a lot of enthusiasm, dedication and commitment to follow the steps laid out above. But we promise that the effort you put into crafting an interactive, captivating and interesting podcast will be well worth your while.

At telbee, we believe that every podcaster has the opportunity and the means to grow their podcast throughout 2021 - and we’re on a mission to do everything we can to help.

After all, the golden age of podcasting is well and truly upon us, and there’s never been a better time to start pulling out all the stops!

To find out how our voice recording and messaging software for podcasts can transform the way you interact with your listeners (and hear their questions and stories), get in touch with the team at telbee today. We’d love to hear from you!
Get Started with telbee!

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