Podcasting has a big money problem

More people are listening than ever before — but the ad market has dried up.

Podcasts are more popular than ever. Among listeners, anyway.


For many creators and production companies, it sure doesn’t feel that way: The money that sustains their shows has slowed to a halt.

What’s going on?

The last decade or so has been a golden age for podcasting, as shows like Serial popularized the medium and took it mainstream.

Today, 64% of Americans say they’re podcast listeners.

(BTW: 0% of respondents say they listen to the podcast of their favorite daily newsletter, but that’s only because they weren’t asked.)

This listening boom saw media companies pour lots of money into audio; Spotify notably invested $1B+ in podcast acquisitions and celebrity deals.

But this year, those investments have scaled back — hard.

  • In March, layoffs at NPR led to the cancellation of four popular podcasts.
  • In June, Spotify laid off 200 employees from its podcast division, shuttering some of its major shows.
  • This month, SiriusXM will officially shut down its once-popular podcast player, Stitcher.

Where did things go wrong?

Put simply: advertisers are no longer footing the bill.

The monetization model for most podcasts took power away from their listeners.

  • With shows distributed for free, fans haven’t been the ones exchanging money to keep their favorite shows going — that’d be corporations and advertisers.

Now, that market is in a state of correction.

With a recession looming over the past year, advertising budgets have been among the first to go for companies looking to curb spending.

The podcast industry has watched that happen in real time this year.

The silver lining here: podcasting isn’t going anywhere — it just needs a more sustainable business model.

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Topics: Podcast

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