How Big Should Podcasting Be?

Tom Webster
4 min readFeb 16, 2019

A Share of Ear® Analysis

CC BY-SA 3.0,

According to the IAB, Podcasting captured $314 million in revenue in 2017. The 2018 numbers aren’t available yet, but the IAB estimate is that advertising revenues will grow to $659 million by 2020.

I’m not much on forecasting, myself. I couldn’t tell you what podcast revenues will be in 2020, or 2019 for that matter. But here’s what I can tell you: it’s not enough. At least, it’s not pulling its fair share of revenue as a percentage of its Share of Ear. In 2017, the U.S. Radio advertising market (that is, the revenue for ‘broadcast radio’ and their attendant streams) was about 17 billion dollars (and I rounded down.) That means Podcasting’s revenues are about 2% of the revenues that Radio is pulling in, which would suggest that Radio’s share of your earballs exceeds Podcasting’s by 50:1.

Except, it doesn’t.

Thanks to five years of Edison’s Share of Ear research, we know exactly how much time Americans spend with podcasts as a percentage of the time they spend with audio in general. Share of Ear is the only single source measure of all audio, online and offline, in the U.S. The study uses a large sample to provide a quarterly look at exactly how much time we spend with various types of audio content, platforms, devices, and locations of listening.

When we issued our first public Share of Ear overview in 2014, we showed Podcasting at 1.7% of all listening. Now, that might seem small (AM/FM Radio, for instance, exceeded 50%) but that’s still tens of millions of hours and a stat that reflected the fact that the vast majority of Americans were not regularly consuming podcasts, which averaged a lot of zeros into that estimate.

Today, however podcasting is approximately 4% of our total audio consumption, while AM/FM Radio is now 45%. That five-year shift has moved the ratio of podcasting from 1/25 of Radio to about 1/11 of Radio. Not too shabby. By that measure, Podcasting should be pulling in well over a billion to Radio’s $17 Billion. Clearly, there’s some work to be done here! But this is not the end of the story.

I was taken aback a couple of weeks ago when I heard from one of the leading podcast ad sales companies that our data had been used to lower a buy from its previous levels…

Tom Webster

Partner, Sounds Profitable. Leading voice in podcasting, digital audio, and greyhounds