Walking through a big city, multitudes of commuters can be seen with headphones in their ears. Many people listen to music when commuting, but a growing number are using their commute to enjoy podcasts of all kinds. Approximately 10% of Americans above the age of 12 listen to podcasts weekly, and the ease of access to podcasts through iTunes, Soundcloud, and Stitcher is causing this number to rise even further.
However, podcasting has not always been a viable financial alternative. Hosts would ask for donations from listeners or sell advertising space in their show to cover costs. Only the most popular podcasts, such as true crime drama, “Serial,” made enough to cover production costs, and even then, it did not generate enough ad revenue to also cover salaries for the premium talent working on the podcast. Even “Serial” had to rely on donations to cover all their costs.
National Public Radio hosts a handful of podcasts such as “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me,” an hour-long trivia show, and “Fresh Air,” an investigative talk show. According to data provided by NPR, nearly 75 million podcasts are downloaded monthly. They earn $4.7 million in revenue from their podcasts.
However, podcasts are not always produced with the financial backing of a national news organization. Many podcasts are produced with a few hundred dollars of equipment and an iPhone to publish the audio. This makes podcasting on niche topics very easy, requiring little in the way of financial capitol.
The rising popularity of podcasts shows that people are interested in consuming media in new ways. The popularity of podcast rests comfortably next to talk radio and music broadcasting, often providing news and conversation on topics left out of mainstream radio shows.