Time to re-explore podcasting as new statistics reveal opportunities in profitability

CBS Sports correspondent and podcaster of “The First Cut” has an extensive setup for his daily workflow. Melody Bathaee/Lariat
Podcasting takes on record numbers in consumption and creation, forming it into the money-making outlet for media once again

Media consumption rises due to overwhelming communication cut-offs since the COVID-19 pandemic hit back in March of 2020. But as the anniversary of the global shut down approaches, new statistics by streaming companies show engagement levels growing rapidly in the podcasting industry. This new information opens a window of opportunity to take media creation to the next level and expand a person’s online presence overall.

With over 155 million premium subscribers, Spotify reports in their 2020 fourth-quarter shareholder letter that over 25% of users listen to podcasts on the streaming site. Spotify’s many records were broken throughout the duration of the pandemic, including a current explosion in podcast creations. The company hosts 2.2 million podcasts which is three times more than the previous year.

“Based on the behavior we see when users first join Spotify, we are confident that podcast usage has been a factor in the accelerated net additions,” the report states. “We continue to see strong growth in podcast consumption, with consumption hours in Q4 nearly doubling since Q4 2019.”

Whether listening during a daily commute to work, cleaning the house, or using them to pass the time, podcasts resurface in both the creative space and consumption bubble. Investing in a microphone and over-the-ear headphones could quickly turn this hobby into a full-time career. Not only has this digital space become more readily available, but producing experiences within this realm of media could allow for development across other platforms as well.

Rick Gehman, CBS Sports correspondent and co-host of “The First Cut,” began his journey into the world of podcasting after creating a golfing blog that covers the PGA tour. Noticing a steady interest in his descriptive YouTube videos, Gehman transitions his content into an audio version for listeners called “300 Yards To The Unknown,” leading to his signing with CBS in December 2019.

After launching, “The First Cut” quickly saw a fast-growing ratio of 100,000 downloads per month as of today, and using a portable medium like podcasting took his brand – RickRunGood LLC – to a whole new level. The podcaster recognizes why creators feel more comfortable taking the first step into this business during these isolating times.

“The creation of new podcasts is up because the barrier to start is generally pretty low and inexpensive,” Gehman said. “It is an excuse to connect with people that you haven’t been able to connect with face-to-face, but you can do it in a podcast form.” 

While making a profit might not be the endgame, increasing communication and socialization is a guaranteed remark when bringing forth the opinions, values, information and beliefs that spark conversation for both the hosts and listeners. Podcasting stimulates interactions beyond the initial discussions from an episode and leads to more triumphant discoveries on social media intertwined with various podcast genres.

However, this spike in interest of the medium is not its first showcase into the realm of mainstream online platforms. Podcasting emerged in 2005 when Apple released its own feature attached to iTunes, allocating to fill 3,000 slots. An experimental joust at a fad turned into a trend previously called “audio blogging” that spread worldwide as virtual storytelling and educational teaching.

Today, podcasters can gain a large enough audience to move into sponsorship, merchandise, and team up with larger distributors after only just beginning. The production and media manager for RickRunGood LLC, Armina Raeisian, took on a completely different role once the sports correspondent gained recognition and appearance opportunities with larger corporations. Many of which stemmed from his roots in “300 Yards To The Unknown,” which still runs weekly, in addition to “The First Cut.”

“Basically, The First Cut fed back into our core business, and a lot of the people who listened to it want more of Rick so they would follow his other content,” Raeisian said. “It opened the door for video appearances on CBS Sports because the producers had a really good sample of how well Rick can host and manage time and other personalities, so they asked him to make regular appearances on CBS Sports HQ.”

Podcasting proves to serve as a way to share a depth of knowledge and absorb content from likable creators on a revamped platform. The first step in expanding the digital space is but one sound bite away.