Streaming in crowded field | WORLD
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Streaming in crowded field

CEO NOTES | Just over a decade after its launch, The World and Everything in It is competing for listeners amid a huge podcast market.

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WORLD LAUNCHED its daily news podcast, The WORLD and Everything in It, in 2013, when only about 10 percent of American adults said they could remember listening to a podcast in the last month or so. Back then, only about 1 in 4 had even listened to a podcast. Ever.

By 2023, podcast audiences exploded—half of all adults were regular listeners—and the number keeps increasing. So here’s the basic math on that growth: In about 10 years, the podcast audience in the United States has increased about fivefold.

But the rate of podcast audience growth is minuscule compared with the growth of available podcasts. Back in 2013, there were around 30,000 active podcasts produced—seemingly sufficient to satisfy the market.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough. The number of podcasts that existed as of 2023 is almost impossible to nail down, but Apple Podcasts, one of the two heavyweight podcast platforms, hosts about 2.7 million. And Apple is downright picky compared with Spotify, Apple’s primary rival in the podcast space—Spotify says it’s hosting more than 6 million podcasts. Seriously?

So while the audience for podcasts has grown fivefold, the number of podcasts has grown ninetyfold, using Apple’s comparatively conservative offerings.

Both Apple and Spotify, and most other podcast platforms, helpfully break those millions of podcasts down into categories, like Comedy, News, Arts & Culture, and True Crime. Based on audience size, those are the top four categories on both platforms, not necessarily in that order. Based on the sheer number of podcasts, the Religion & Spirituality category is the biggest.

The World and Everything in It is in the News category, where it competes with about 150,000 other podcasts (on the Apple Podcasts platform). Even within the News category, many of them are strictly commentary or personality-­driven, but most of the real news podcasts are from major players—from BBC to NBC, The New York Times to The Wall Street Journal.

We don’t pay much attention to the “ranking” of The World and Everything in It. For one thing, the algorithms used in the platforms’ ranking methodology are notoriously arcane and complex, so we don’t know what helps or hurts our ranking. Also, advertising revenue is not a major part of our business model, so a mass audience isn’t necessary to accomplish our objectives.

Most importantly, we produce the podcast for our audience, and while we hope more people join our audience, we’re not looking to be No. 1. That would undoubtedly require sacrifices we’re not willing to make.

Kevin Martin

Kevin Martin is the CEO of WORLD News Group.


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