Podcasts are a unique medium, as they do not require as much concentration as a TV show yet are more involved than the average pop song. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people were especially hungry for non-visual content to supplement their remote work and hobbies. Hybrid music and podcast sites such as Spotify took advantage of people’s spare time by making deals with podcasters to host higher-quality exclusive talk shows.
However, these investments may have proven premature, as Spotify reported podcasts accounted for only 7% of total listenership on their platform in 2022.
“Spotify is generalized as a music app, and I don’t feel like Spotify has done a great job promoting their podcasts as a platform,” said Logan Parker, junior finance major. “Unless you have background already — you know, a big platform that you’re basing off of — it’s tough to grow.”
Parker is the co-creator of Painting the Corners, a baseball commentary podcast he hosts with Johnny Neinstadt, a junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Both bring unique qualities to the show, with Parker being an experienced baseball player and Neinstadt bringing his understanding of mathematics to assist in their predictions and interpretation of stats.
However, Parker voices his frustration that they have not yet “blown up” on Spotify, and attributes this to the oversaturation of the market.
He reported that he would often spend around four hours editing one episode, only for it to receive fewer than 200 streams.
“It’s just gotten to that point where it’s less profitable for people to start new podcasts,” Parker said. “Now, just because there’s so many out there, it’s hard to get your own foot in the door and do that. There’s a lot of time to put into if you want to get products for seemingly very little reward right now.”
Spotify provides little assistance in promoting people’s shows, choosing to showcase their originals before any that lack lucrative deals with the platform.
Parker said that most of his audience was brought over from their Twitter posts, rather than anyone stumbling upon it while using Spotify.
The listeners themselves have a role to play in this issue, as most listeners are drawn by familiarity and are opposed to finding new content in Spotify’s vast library of podcasts. Jillian Gutierrez, sophomore nursing major, said that she generally gravitates toward select shows and does not usually look for new ones.
“There are so many different people and opinions and genres of topics for podcasts,” Gutierrez said. “For me, I tend to stick to the same podcasts I’ve been listening to from when I first got into it.”
The vast array of topics and the shrinking attention span in younger generations means podcasts are becoming more compact to keep people engaged.
“More and more media seems to be moving toward short, quick content,“ said Nate Fister, sophomore architecture major.
This noticeable shift, done to capture the attention of younger audiences, comes at the expense of losing established listeners. Fister said that he dropped many of the podcasts he used to subscribe to due to their changed content and style.
Parker believes this alteration is partially due to the media convergence of Spotify, which forces podcast hosts to compete not only with other shows, but also with music.
“I think a big difference between podcasts and music is a song is three to five minutes, where a podcast is half an hour to an hour,” Parker said. “People just don’t have that amount of time.”
Another challenge with podcasts is that many people who were previously working remotely are now back in the office setting.
“Now that most people are not working from home, I feel like it means they don’t have that time to listen to podcasts,” Fister said. “A lot of jobs implement a no-music policy while working, which could extend to podcasts.”
Despite dealing with these struggles, Parker remains optimistic about his predicament. Though he works hard to create a high-quality podcast, it was never about making money.
“We know this was a good episode,” said Parker, referring to his most recent episode. “It’s one of our better ones. And it just doesn’t see numbers, and you’re kind of like, ‘Is there a point?’ During this, I tried to remind myself that we’re doing it for fun, and we never really did it with the intent to go big. But even with that intent in mind, you know that you have good content, and you believe it.”