Steve Goldstein: What People Are Doing When They Aren’t Listening To Your Podcast

Steve Goldstein’s Amplifi Media works with media companies and podcasters in developing audio content strategies. Goldstein writes frequently at the Amplifi blog. Steve can be reached directly at 203-221-1400 or sjgoldstein-at-amplifimedia-dot-com.

No matter how compelling or popular your podcast is, the battle for attention is brutal. In my days as an executive in the radio business, our competitive focus was always on other radio stations and grabbing audience from them with researched music, smarter commercial placement, stronger talent, and visible marketing. No matter how good we were, it turns out people didn’t sit in their cars when they reached work or the supermarket, and mostly, they didn’t stay up past their bedtime. Time is not elastic. The same holds true in podcasting. People don’t just listen to podcasts; they do other things and have an increasing array of choices.  So how are they spending their time when they aren’t listening to your podcast? Let’s take a look.

Here’s how people are spending some of their media-related time.

  • YouTube – We know YouTube is a juggernaut with roughly 14 BILLION videos on the platform. Mr. Beast is the most watched in the U.S. He has 237 million subscribers and had 4 billion views in 2023. Scott Galloway sums up just how big that is in this LinkedIn post: “At an average video length of 16 minutes, that’s 1 billion hours of viewing time generated by one man.”
  • YouTube Shorts – YouTube’s short-form video format was designed to compete with TikTok and has more than 2 billion monthly logged-in users. On average, more than 70 billion YouTube Shorts were viewed daily last year. Variety
  • TikTok – Speaking of short-form video, TikTok has a whopping 150 million active users in the U.S. According to Statista, as of January 2024, the U.S. has the largest audience on TikTok in the world. On average, people spend 54 minutes per day scrolling.
  • Streaming video – Streaming video now beats linear (regular) TV in total day viewing.  It accounts for 3 hours and 11 minutes every day. 7.7% of all television time in December was spent with Netflix. Here’s an interesting stat in a podcast world contracting a bit: in 2022, Netflix had 107 new releases – that number dropped to just 68 in 2023.
  • What’s the top streaming show? In the last weeks of 2023, the TV sitcom Young Sheldon had 1.31 billion minutes of viewing time on Netflix. Nielsen data does not include computers and mobile devices. That would juice the numbers.
  • What about regular TV? Americans are watching less TV. Bloomberg reports weekly time spent watching TV has dropped by three hours over the last decade. Today, most consumption is done by older viewers, who still watch plenty of TV. And what are the big TV hits these days? It’s all football. Back in 2012-13, 20 shows drew 10M+ viewers. Zero shows hit that number last year (10 years later).

  • Streaming music – Spotify leads the pack. You think podcasting is tough? On the music side of Spotify 60,000 new tracks are added every day.  There are 10 million artists on the platform, but only 1,060 earn more than $1 million in royalties.  Only 57,000 generate more than $100,000. Under new rules being implemented, songs that get less than a thousand streams in the previous 12 months do not qualify for any payout. Luminates 2023 edition of the Year-End Music Report found that 86.2% of tracks do not meet that threshold.
  • What about podcasts on Spotify? Here’s a data nugget: Spotify reports Gen Zs listened to more than three billion podcast episodes in the first half of 2023 and more than 560 billion songs in the first half of 2023, a 76% year-to-year increase.
  • Games – Puzzle games are big and take time. The New York Times’ puzzles and games were played over 8 billion times last year, led by breakout hit Wordle, with 4.8 billion plays according to Axios.  “On a mid-October day, 2,615,333 average daily active users were in the New York Times Games app. The New York Times surpassed 10 million subscribers last year at roughly $25 a month. Big business. Vanity Fair.
  • Google Search – 8.5 billion searches a day take place on Google. 46% of them are local searches.

Clearly, this is just a snapshot and a partial list of where people spend their time. It is, however, illustrative of a crazy busy world where choice abounds.  So next time you think about how to garner more listeners, think more broadly about where that time will likely come from and what you are up against. It may not be another podcast.

 Consumer attention is indeed a battle. They always have choices so the competition isn’t just another podcast, it’s everything.

Steve Goldstein