One in Two Million: How Listeners Discover New Podcasts

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One of the biggest challenges facing podcasting is discovery.

It cuts both ways. Where can podcast listeners go to find their next great obsession? And, if you’re a podcaster, how do you get your podcast discovered among the 2 million or so podcasts crowding the playing field?

We put our microscope on this a few months ago in The Canadian Podcast Listener 2020. Our Client Advisory Council told us they wanted something more detailed than asking listeners how they ‘typically’ discover new podcasts as we had in previous years.

So we devoted a whole section of this year’s survey to chase this down. We asked monthly listeners if they had found any new podcasts in the past 6 months and followed up with a series of questions about their latest find. What was that new podcast? And what was the very first place they found out about it?  

By drilling into that moment of truth, the questions gave us a ‘share of discovery’ by method and some surprising insights.

Top 5 Ways to Help Listeners Find Your Podcast

1. Get your podcast on another podcast.

  • Your first step to success is to buy ads, trade ads or be a guest on a similar podcast.
  • Listeners are most likely to find out about new podcasts by hearing about it on other podcasts.
  • This is a particularly important way to reach Power Listeners, the ones responsible for most podcast listening. One-third of Power Listeners said they first learned about their latest find from another podcast.

2. Give your listeners a ‘remarkable’ podcast.

  • Is your podcast so exceptional and unique that it will get people talking? If so, you open the door to the #2 way podcast listeners learn about new podcasts.
  • Word-of-mouth from family and friends is an especially big driver of discovery among listeners who’ve recently come into podcasts. Many say that it’s exactly that kind of word-of-mouth that brought them to podcasts in the first place.

3. Build out a social media strategy—focusing on earned or owned social media.

  • Your social presence could come from hosts and guests with a big social media following and/or a social media team.
  • Either way, you’ll get more listeners from your organic efforts than you will from social media ads. One in every eight listeners said they learned about their latest new podcast from someone they follow on social media vs. just 1% who say they heard about it on a paid or sponsored post.
  • If your podcast targets women or 18–34-year-olds, you’ll get even get even more mileage from social media. The #1 social network for telling the story of your podcast? Instagram, especially to reach that younger, female audience.

4. Optimize the searchability of your podcast.

  • More than 1-in-10 listeners discovered their latest podcast by searching for a podcast on a specific topic, either within a podcast app or via general search.
  • That calls for an SEO strategy—like the in-house tool that Dan Misener of Pacific Content has built to help their clients and others continuously monitor in-app search results.

5 (tied). Use video to help promote your audio.

  • For many people, YouTube is their go-to destination for all things entertainment. That includes music and podcasts, with YouTube being one of the leading platforms to access podcasts.
  • You don’t have to post your podcast on YouTube to benefit from the promotional possibilities of video. A video presence is all that’s necessary: 5% of listeners who access podcasts most often on Apple Podcasts or Spotify say they learned about their latest new podcast from a video.

5 (tied). Leverage blog or website content.

  • Any kind of online content offers a window to promote your podcast.
  • Podcast listeners who engage in blogs or websites are there for the content; it could be a celebrity, an expert, or a specific topic. A podcast offers the listener a chance to dive deeper into the same content.

Bubbling Under—the Other Discovery Levers

The above Top 5 accounted for 80% of the ways listeners first found about their latest new podcast.

What about hearing about the podcast on the radio? Broadcasters place a lot of bets on their own airwaves to promote their podcasts. How about in-app recommendations based on other podcasts you listen to, or getting featured on the app’s home page or on its top podcasts listings? A lot of podcasters put a lot of energy into getting prominent placement on podcast apps.

Those are the next three factors (radio at 5%; in-app recommendations at 4%; and the app’s home page or its top podcasts listings at 4%). And they can help. They are just less likely than the Top 5 to give you that first point of discovery.

Further down the list are email newsletters, other online podcast listings and off-line media (TV, newspapers/magazines and posters/billboards).

Is this the definitive road map to discovery? Hardly. It’s still early days for podcasting. As podcasters and publishers find other ways to surface their podcasts, and as podcast listeners hack their way to find new favourites, new paths will emerge.

The Canadian Podcast Listener 2020 surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,618 monthly podcast listeners in October, 2020 using the Maru Voice Canada online survey panel. The study is published by Signal Hill Insights in partnership with Jeff Ulster of Ulster Media, with support from The Podcast Exchange (TPX). More details and a free summary report are available at canadianpodcastlistener.ca.