Why Spotify Actually Isn’t the Best Platform for Your Podcast

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Spotify as a podcast platform recently, and how it’s gaining or even surpassing Apple Podcasts as the go-to platform. We wanted to find out if that applied to public affairs and similar podcasts, so we reviewed performance data from some of the shows we produce to get the truth. Spoiler: Spotify isn’t that special.

We all know people are listening to podcasts more than ever before. Podcast consumption was up by 5% in 2020, according to Edison Research. People love them because access to podcasts is quick and easy, sometimes just a simple voice command away.

Great news, right? More people are tuning into your podcasts. But it leaves us with two big questions.

What platforms are people using to listen to your podcast?

And specifically, what platforms are best for public affairs podcasts?

The podcast industry progresses each month. But we’ve found consistencies. Here’s what we know about the top platforms listeners are using:

Apple, as usual, starts off in the lead.

The majority of podcast listeners use Apple Podcasts. Apple held 61.1% of all podcast downloads as of August 2020 – so much that some critics have even accused Apple of having a monopoly over podcasting.

Every podcast wants to be featured on Apple’s “Top Chart” and “New and Noteworthy” lists because it can significantly boost listenership for new and less-established podcasts.

So, the general consensus in podcasting is that Apple Podcasts is always worth your investment if you want people to find your show. And while Apple may have set the bar high, its competitors refuse to be left in the dust.

Spotify fights for the top.

Spotify is gaining on Apple in its fight for control over listenership. Spotify actually passed Apple in podcast listening by 4% in 2020. However, Spotify does not lead in downloads, however, because it delivers podcasts by streaming. The differences are a bit technical, let’s just say that Spotify uses its own metrics while the rest of the industry uses “downloads”.

Spotify is also raising eyebrows in the industry by buying podcast-making companies like Gimlet, going into the Netflix-like world of producing original content and offering Spotify-exclusive podcasts. The exclusivity is designed to entice listeners to access all their favorite podcasts through Spotify.

Spotify has a lot of issues, though. For example, Spotify secretly shares user information with advertisers. And their podcast platform is being used to release pirated and unlicensed music.

While these issues may not affect most users, it’s difficult to know what else they do that could turn people off in the future.

Apple, Spotify…anyone else?

Another leader is racing to beat these top two competitors: YouTube.

In 2020, YouTube was the most frequently used podcast platform, especially among podcast newcomers and heavy podcast users (people who listen 6+ hours/week).

So…which is best?

That depends on your audience. Millennials tend to rely on Spotify and YouTube, while Generation X and Baby Boomers tend to listen through Apple Podcasts.

But hear us out, it is not worth it to put all resources into just one. The data shows that these three platforms among others can be equally crucial to your podcast.

What’s best for Public Affairs Podcasts?

Even though Apple typically leads in listenership with Spotify in a close second, are these the best platforms for your organization? Do these trends and statistics apply to your podcast?

Great question. The answer is yes…and no.

Voxtopica has found that Apple still dominates public affairs podcasting. Roughly 30-50% of association podcast listenership comes from Apple Podcasts.

But there’s one more platform specific to pubic affairs that you might not have thought about.

Your website.

That’s right. Voxtopica found the second-most dominant platform for association podcasts is desktop browsers. That’s right, association audiences like members and industry specialists are just as likely to listen on an organization’s website as on Spotify – usually from 5-15% of all downloads.

This means it’s critical for associations to invest in their podcast’s web presence. User-friendly design and experience will make it easier for your listeners to find and access your podcast.

What does it all mean?

Apple leads in podcasting listenership overall, with Spotify in a close second.

In public affairs podcasting, while Apple still leads, your association’s website is second in listenership, with Spotify in a close or distant third depending on the audience.

You may be rubbing your eyes, overwhelmed with a whirlwind of thoughts on podcast platforms. Apple, Spotify, my association’s website, YouTube! How do I know what’s best for my audience?

The answer is simple: Focus on your audience. As long as you never forget that you are making the podcast for them you won’t go wrong.

if you’re a subject matter expert, association, or public affairs pro and want to understand how to reach your audience, we’re here to help. Voxtopica‘s experts can help you plan a podcast to reach the right people or guide your current podcast to better results.

Listening in a pandemic: the latest data

Great new data on podcast listeners during the pandemic

COVID-19 has changed how we work and that change has had major impacts on the way podcast listeners consume content and the content they consume. Podcasts are more frequently becoming a go-to medium for work-from-home professionals.

According to Nielsen’s August Total Audience Report, before the pandemic peak media consumption was outside of work hours, with podcasts and talk radio performing well during commutes. Since working from home became the norm for many, things have changed.

Working from home provides consumers two elements vital to increasing consumption: time and choice. Whether its streaming video content, listening to podcasts or browsing social media, a majority of consumers have reported partaking in these behaviors during work hours. That means more windows of opportunity for content creators and advertisers alike to reach audiences outside of the traditional primetime, as well as potential new, creative ways to engage with consumers.

53% listening to spoken word (talk radio, podcasts) while working from home
From Nielsen: 53% listen at least once a week while working from home.

The WestwoodOne Podcast Network also released new data in September. Their Fall Report focuses on popular content, platforms, and the impact of the pandemic on listenership.

Some of their key findings are particularly relevant to public affairs podcasting, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s start with their data on how podcast listeners’ behavior is changing.

According to the report, “Podcast listening is pandemic proof.” Over 90 percent of weekly podcast listeners say they spend the same or more time listening since the pandemic began. Of the listeners who say they spend more time with podcasts now, 55 percent are what WestwoodOne calls “Podcast Newcomers,” people who only started listening to podcasts in the months leading up to or in the early days of the pandemic.

In addition, the data show more people are listening to more podcasts. This year, 39 percent of podcast listeners say they listen to six or more hours a week, a 22 percent rise since 2017. For comparison, the percent who say they listen to three-to-five hours dropped from 38 percent in 2017 to 31 percent this year, and those who listen to under three hours held steady at 30 percent.

Another key finding is that among the six-hours-or-more listeners, to whom WestwoodOne assigns the hard rock moniker “Heavy Listeners,” 35 percent say they just started listening to podcasts within the seven to twelve months prior to January 2020. In other words, more than a third of Heavy Listeners are relatively new to the medium.

Podcast listeners and public affairs

While this is all positive data about the growth in podcast listenership generally, there are some data points that we think are important to public affairs podcasters. The demographic with the largest growth in listenership were women, among whom the average weekly time spent listening to podcasts increased 27 percent since 2017.

Listening among women grew 27%, Milennials 22%, and Genx-ers 18% since 2017.
Women and millennials were the fastest-growing demographics in the WestwoodOne survey.

Millennials also had a strong showing, with listenership growing 22 percent over three years, and GenX listeners grew a respectable 18 percent. Interestingly, Boomers, which WestwoodOne infuriatingly defines as age 50 to 64, actually fell by nine percent. They offered no explanation for this and, frankly, we can’t think of one. (I am not a Boomer, no matter what they say.)

Apart from demographic information, what listeners want from podcasts has some lessons for the public affairs industry. Not surprisingly, the top reason people say they listen to podcasts is to be entertained (63%). The second most common answer is to hear interesting stories (56%), and the third is to learn something new (50%). Staying up-to-date on news and current events comes in at 37 percent.

What does this mean for you? If you can make a podcast that includes interesting stories that teach your listeners something new, you can reach a sizable audience even without being “entertaining”. Just remember to create value.

In the coming weeks, Voxtopica will be learning more about how working from home impacts the kind of content people consume, and how valuable work-related audio content can be to them. We’ll be sure to share those results