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Steve Goldstein: Finding “Shelf Space” for your Podcast is Hard

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


Thanks to our friends at Edison Research and Triton Digital for another valuable Infinite Dial. The trades will cover plenty of useful data and insights. I want to focus on one key takeaway for anyone trying to drive more listens and downloads, in particular, shelf space.

For the uninitiated, the Infinite Dial is an influential report dating back over two decades that provides the most up-to-date research on digital audio, podcast consumption, mobile, smart speaker, and social media usage in the U.S.

The latest version of the study breaks out the number of podcasts listened to differently than it has in the past. Stick with me on this. In previous years, the number of podcasts listened to hovered around seven per week. Last year it dropped to an average of six. A safe hypothesis is as the total number of people listening to podcasts rise, the overall average would drop a bit. There are always heavy, and light listeners blended to get to an average.

This year, the data is presented differently, taking into account the difference between shows and episodes. This is smart, especially with the proliferation of daily news podcasts and other podcasts with multiple weekly episodes. For example, I listen to The Daily from the New York Times. They publish five days each week. I probably listen to three. So, I am consuming three episodes of one show.

On average, people listen to eight episodes per week from 5.1 different podcasts. That’s it. And speaking with Edison’s Tom Webster, he suggests not trending the data from previous reports, but using these two metrics – number of episodes and number of podcasts – as a fresh starting point.

No matter how you slice it, the issue is shelf space. The “heaviest” podcast episode listeners are knocking down eleven or more episodes in a week. That’s just under 20% of podcast listeners. On the other side of the spectrum, 26% are consuming just one or two.

Let’s stick with simple math. There are roughly two million podcasts out there in podland and the average weekly podcast listener has room for five on their metaphorical “shelf.” The tyranny of a podcast getting onto that shelf is brutal and staying there, with so many great choices, is equally challenging. Our Smartphones are loaded with the great intentions of downloaded podcasts that are never listened to.

The Challenge Going Forward For A Podcast(Er) Is Being “Good Enough” To Get Onto An Individual’s Shelf

Going forward, the challenge for a podcast(er) is being “good enough” to get onto an individual’s shelf through a combination of high value content, clear differentiation, findability and awareness. We focused on the critical importance of strategy a few weeks ago.

Five shows and eight episodes out of millions. Getting space on the shelf isn’t easy.

Steve Goldstein

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