U.S. podcasters are attracting more international listeners
Though the podcast industry is in a state of correction after a period of significant investment, some podcast networks have found a bright spot this year: a growing cohort of international listeners.
Podcast networks including Acast, iHeart, Spotify and Wondery – as well as measurement companies like Edison Research and eMarketer – have all clocked international podcast audience growth in the past year. Wondery is capitalizing on this growth by translating some of its popular podcast franchises and hiring local podcast teams to create original shows catered to their respective audiences, while other networks are still figuring out how to best cater to this audience.
Wondery’s investment in international podcasts is “an opportunity to participate in markets while they’re in early phases of growth,” said Declan Moore, the company’s head of international.
Podcast networks attracting more international listeners
There appear to be two things happening at once: For one, more international listeners — specifically from English-speaking regions and countries like Australia, Canada and Europe — are tuning into U.S. podcasts, while at the same time more people outside of the U.S. are listening to podcasts overall.
iHeartPodcasts’ international audience has grown about 42% from 2021 to 2022, a spokesperson said. Roughly 20% of iHeartPodcasts’ downloads come from outside the U.S., with the largest market being Canada, followed by the broader Europe region and Australia.
Though iHeart is experiencing growth in international podcast listeners, the U.S. remains its largest podcast market. Other regions are starting to adopt the medium, but at a slower rate than audience growth in the U.S., said Will Pearson, president of iHeartPodcasts. Digiday reached out to measurement company Podtrac, but a spokesperson said its data doesn’t show a significant change in the percentage of non-U.S. audiences in its dataset of U.S.-centric podcast publishers.
More broadly, the U.S. has the largest number of podcast listeners, according to research from eMarketer (see chart).
Some of Wondery’s shows created in the U.S. attract up to 40% of listeners coming from overseas, but that’s not the case across the network, Moore said, but he declined to share which shows in particular.
Wondery has significantly expanded its international podcast offerings in the past few years. The company translated popular shows such as “Business Wars” and “Dr. Death” into multiple languages. Beginning last year, Wondery produced local versions of its “Business Wars” podcast franchise, working with local producers and creators to cover regional business stories in France, Mexico, Japan, Germany, the U.K. and Brazil. Wondery has also worked with local podcasters to create original shows for their respective audiences, such as “British Scandal” in the U.K., “10 Mujeres” in Mexico, “Kurt Kromers Feelings” in Germany and “Nenê da Brasilândia” in Brazil.
Spotify said listeners outside of the U.S. tuning into podcasts hosted on its Spotify Audience Network ad platform have grown 72% from Q1 2022 to Q1 2023.
Measurement companies are also reporting overall podcast listener growth in some international markets. In February 2023, eMarketer found that podcast listener growth was 7.7% in Latin America year over year, the fastest of any region. Western Europe podcast listener grew at a 7.4% clip, Canada at 6.1%, the U.S. at 4.6% and Australia at 4.2%, in that same period.
Edison Research’s studies in Australia, Canada and South Africa also uncovered growth in podcast listening over the last few years, a spokesperson said. In a recent report, the company found that 43% of Australia’s population 12 years and older listened to a podcast in the last month, up significantly from 17% it reported in 2017.
U.S. podcast listeners also listening to more international podcasts
This trend is going the other way too, as some podcast companies and publishers notice that U.S. podcast listeners are tuning into more international podcasts.
Of The Economist’s 5 million monthly unique listeners, 88% of them come from outside the U.K., a spokesperson said. More than 1.5 million of those listeners are in the U.S.
In its April 2023 study, Acast found 53% of the roughly 1,500 weekly U.S. podcast listeners it surveyed listen to podcasts that are not from the U.S., a 15% increase compared to November 2021. Most of those listeners are tuning into podcasts from the U.K. (52%) and Canada (34%), followed by Australia, Europe, Asia and the Americas, according to Acast’s study.
Tommy Walters, director of research and insights at Acast, said this could be because of political polarization in the U.S., which has turned off some U.S. listeners who are searching for a more global lens on the news.
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