The podcast biz in China is 23x more valuable than in the US thanks to paid subscriptions

Thanks to paid subscribers, China’s podcast industry is worth $7.3B -- 23x larger than America’s ad-supported podcast industry.

September 24, 2018

The podcast industry in China is on track to exceed last year’s mark of $7.3B thanks to growth in popular educational podcasts. The US podcast market, by comparison, is only worth about $314m annually. 

China’s podcasting industry is 23x larger than America’s for one primary reason: Podcasts in China are predominantly paid subscriptions, while podcasts in America are almost all free and ad supported.

The ‘pay for knowledge’ economy

While American producers position their podcasts as entertainment, many Chinese podcasters sell their podcasts as self-improvement tools. Since American podcasters can only make money once they’ve amassed a huge audience, the industry has grown slowly. 

But, even by charging as little as $3 for subscriptions, many amateur Chinese podcasters with audiences as low as 7k still generate significant revenue by selling directly to listeners.

Individual podcasters in China can make $8m a year with 250k listeners. Serial, America’s most popular podcast ever, made about $500k in its first year — after 19m downloads.

You probably should quit your day job

Because the industry is geared toward education and not entertainment, the stars of the pod in China aren’t comedians or celebrities — they’re professors and consultants. 

Professionals who offer their expertise in podcast form make good money — enough to encourage at least one professor to quit his day job at Peking University after making $8m off his economics podcast. 

And, it’s not just econ professors having all the fun: More than 218k Chinese consumers paid for a podcast called “How to Make Your Voice More Attractive.”

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