The era of explosive growth for podcast listenership is coming to an end for much of the world. Until this year, most of the countries in our forecast were seeing 20% or greater annual increases in podcast listening. However, most listener bases will grow by single digits in 2022, and more sluggishness is on the horizon.
This deceleration reflects a maturation process for the medium and an end to certain pandemic-related distortions. Before this year, only a few countries had reached a point where podcasts were so ubiquitous that growth was inevitably set to decline. Now, many other countries and regions have made strides in podcast penetration and will see similar slowdowns.
A return to relative behavioral normalcy is also constraining podcast adoption. Pandemic-related lifestyle restrictions played a larger role in the 2020–2021 podcast boom than we previously thought. As workers returned to offices and commutes, it became apparent that podcast listening flourished more as a home activity. Many podcasts are too long for car rides and require too much attention for at-work listening. The pandemic created a lot of extra “couch time” for podcasts worldwide, but that phenomenon is receding.
Nonetheless, several national markets are still amid their initial podcast adoption phase, and solid growth can be found. Podcasts first took off in primarily English- and Spanish-speaking markets, but standout growth is now manifesting in places like France and Germany. China, meanwhile, is still in the early phases of discovering podcasting and is in line for substantial growth.