Digital Publishing Top Stories
3 mins read

Three key South African podcasting trends, and why they matter to publishers

man with headphones on

Podcasts have exploded in popularity in recent years, with an estimated 1 in 3 people globally listening to episodes every month.

The hype around them has resulted in a flood of podcasts on the market, with Google claiming to have indexed over two million podcasts. 

It’s understandable given the promises many other technologies have made in the past that publishers may be hesitant about starting podcasts for their own brands. But there are actually numerous reasons why publishers are in an excellent position to launch a podcast and get ahead of the competition.

One of the first things to do when looking to start a podcast is to research the demand. In South Africa, media companies looking for ways to diversify their revenue would benefit from seriously exploring podcasts.

Here are some of the key reasons why.

1: 43% of South Africa’s online population have listened to a podcast in the last month

Digital media trends are tougher to measure in South Africa compared to countries like the US, because only around half of the country’s population have regular internet access. But of this ‘online population’, 43% have listened to a podcast recently according to Reuters’ Digital News Report 2019. This is a high percentage compared to the 36% average in other countries around the world.

The popularity of podcasts is likely to be due to them being easily available offline, so people can download episodes onto their mobile phones when connected to Wifi. Mobiles are the primary way of connecting to the internet for most South Africans, but high data prices are an issue in the country and have stunted the growth of online radio, as it is unaffordable to stream on the go.

2: Podcasts are the fastest growing sector of media consumption in South Africa

Podcast host Matt Brown released a report on The South African Podcast Media Consumption Research Data, Trends & Analysis Report last year, and revealed that the current addressable market for podcasting in the country is 16 million people.

Brown also highlighted that podcasts are actually the fastest growing sector of media consumption in South Africa.

“We believe there’s a very specific reason why there’s such a large addressable market, and it comes down to our demographics: With such a rich, diverse culture, consumers are looking for media that speaks directly to them,” he said.

For those that don’t listen to podcasts, the main reason simply seems to be that they aren’t sure how to access them on their mobile phones. For publishers looking to launch podcasts in South Africa, education around how to listen should be a key part of the strategy.

3: Podcast listeners in South Africa went up by 50% in 2018

Brown’s report shows that podcast listeners in the country grew rapidly last year. This is partly due to increased awareness of the format, but accessibility, better quality content, and easier discovery are also helping to drive popularity.

Spotify’s launch into the South African market in early 2018 is also likely to have played a part in the growth of podcasts. The company’s MD for the Middle East and Africa claims to have seen “the user numbers by far exceeding what we had expected” according to Forbes, and the platform is growing as a major driver of podcast discovery both in South Africa and in the West.

When it comes to the types of podcasts South Africans most like to listen to, news and politics are the most popular, with 1 in 5 people using podcasts to keep up to date. Specialist podcasts and lifestyle podcasts are also popular, with 19% of respondents to the Digital News Report 2019 saying that they listened to these types of podcast each month.

At the moment, podcast advertising revenue is only a fraction of what radio advertising makes, but both in South Africa and around the world, interest in podcasting from both advertisers and audiences is growing rapidly. In fact, global podcast advertising revenue is expected to pass $1 billion by the end of 2019.

Although the US is driving the majority of the ad revenue growth, better discovery, confidence in listeners and advertiser’s understanding of the format means that podcasting is one trend which won’t be going away any time soon.

These statistics were originally presented as part of FIPP’s Insider Cape Town and Johannesburg events as part of a talk on ‘Podcasting: the why and how of a modern-day medium’.