Podcasting is a major channel for comedians, many of the medium’s biggest stars are comedians. It makes sense, because who better to hang out with other talented people and dissect life, crack jokes, come up with a wildly different POV, or just talk for hours on end than a comedian? When podcasting was in its infancy comedians, always the early adopters, took to podcasting very well. Long before 2014’s Serial was a hit, the format was growing into a platform where some of the best talent was able to cultivate a fanbase and check in with them on a regular basis.
With the rise of podcasts and it’s inevitable turn toward the mainstream, it left many wondering about its sustainable future. Could it attract large advertising dollars like television or radio? How engaged are the listeners?
Many speculated as to what their audience listening habits were – whether through anecdotal evidence or polling listeners. But the general vibe seemed to be one of two ideas 1) they’d find listeners had a vested interest in their shows, were loyal, and the podcasts have real influence, or 2) an “ad apocalypse” was on the horizon, showing a house of cards that would soon come crumbling down once it was discovered that listeners were bailing after a few minutes of a show, skipped commercials, thus forcing big time advertisers to abandon ship or never get involved with the medium. Therefore forcing shows to cease podcasting or adopt an ad-friendlier structure making them all the same. Last year Apple announced its plans to make a suite of analytical tools available to podcasters so they could actually get answers to these questions.
Just this week Wired released a new report based on the Apple statistics being available for the first few months and its great news for the podcasting community.
The TL;DR version of the report shows that Apple Analytics helped major podcast companies like Midroll, Headgum, and Panopoly confirm that podcast fans are the hyper-engaged, super-supportive audiences everyone hoped for. Fans make it through an average of 80-90% of any episode they listen to and relatively few are skipping through ads. It also seems to show that show length isn’t having much of an impact on retention rates. So whether your show is 15 minutes long or 4 hours, being compelling is the biggest factor to making a successful podcast.
Another sign to read from the tea leaves is that at the end of 2015, comedy podcasts sat in the top 3 of most popular genres, comedians recognized and capitalized on the value of the format even before some of our biggest news and political outlets did. That same year comedy was riding high, legacy media companies like Slate, The New York times, The Wall Street Journal, and WNYC were finally acknowledging the format by launching official podcast departments, while comedians had nearly a decade of familiarity with the medium under their belt. At the end of 2017, many reported that comedy was the top podcast format.
All of this information should make major players in the podcasting game excited as it gives current and future advertisers a safe call that the water is indeed fine and they should jump in. An estimated $220 million was spent on podcast ads in 2017, all signs point to that number growing fast in the years to come. Comedy podcasts are poised to be able to capitalize big time. Comedians of various sizes will be able to continue to build their audiences and hopefully be compensated better for it.
But it’s not all just good news for the broadcasters, this means listeners can continue to have diverse and creative shows from hosts they enjoy. As a medium that owes more than a handshake to the comics that helped build it, it’s validating to know that they can still build environments where being entertaining is job #1.