Podcasting is a way of sharing content accessible through a syndication feed (RSS feed) and downloadable on a computer, a smart device or a portable audio device. This content can later be listened to offline.
Audio podcasts have become increasingly popular and now Quebec mass media such as Radio-Canada, Télé-Québec and RDS all have their own podcasts.
This audio content is trending mainly because of its convenience and ease of use. You can listen to a podcast while being busy with something else: road trips, commuting, cleaning, walking the dog and even while taking a bath! Moreover, some studies show that podcasts have a higher retention rate than video content.
A significant share of online audio content
The popularity of podcasts has intensified over the past few years and continues to grow. Indeed, the trend seems to be particularly on the rise since 2020.
Based on an industry snapshot conducted by the Centre d’études sur les médias (Centre of Media Studies) at Université Laval (updated in 2019), podcasts now make up a large portion of the audio content posted online. Usually free of charge, they can be found on different platforms and listened to through various services.
While radio ratings in Quebec have been in decline in recent years, it is quite the opposite for streaming audio content. Both Quebecers and Canadians now spend more time listening to streaming audio content than radio.
Podcasts are also trending in the U.S., which is usually a good indicator of what is likely to prevail in the rest of the world. In 2019, podcast ad revenues were expected to reach US$1 billion. In 2020, these revenues saw a 19% year-over-year increase despite the pandemic.
In Canada, the Université Laval study found that in 2019, people aged 18 and over listened to an average of 7.2 hours of streaming audio content per week, representing a significant increase from 2016 (5.2 hours). Still in Canada, the study noted that one in five French speakers regularly listens to a streaming radio service, and the figures for podcast services are very similar.
Lastly, according to the 2021 version of the Global Podcast Statistics, Demographics & Habits report, 63% of the Canadian population is familiar with the term podcasting, and 36% listened to a podcast during February 2021.
The impact of the pandemic on podcasting
Unlike some types of media that have been deeply negatively affected by the measures related to the pandemic, there has been an upsurge in new podcasts in 2020 from the first weeks of lockdown.
For traditional media, some channels have turned to podcasts to offer additional content. There is also an increase in podcasts provided by individuals who have started producing original content from the comfort of their homes.
Over the past year, podcasters have demonstrated great ingenuity in recording interviews remotely while setting up home studios. The internet is full of tutorials and ideas to learn about this. Content creators have shown resourcefulness even if they can’t record their content outside of their homes.
According to Xavier Kronström Richard of the Canada Media Fund, this recent burst of activity is attributable to the medium: audio content can be produced remotely and with relatively little equipment.
Podcasting is not only made for adults
Available in several formats, even children's audio is following the podcast trend with many local and international options available for young people. They all share the same objective: feeding the imagination of toddlers and adolescents and allowing them to learn in a fun way. Rather than staring at a screen, they can enjoy audio content just like grown-ups do.
There are still few local studies on the level of interest of young people under the age of 18 for podcasting compared to the United States, where the number of options for youths has proliferated in recent years.
Excluding France and Belgium, French podcasting content is a bit behind. However, the Podcasts section of Radio-Canada now has several titles for young people, whether they be podcasts, stories or audio novels.
Audiobooks are popular too
When you think of podcasts, it's impossible not to think of audiobooks, which can also be listened to at all times.
Audible is popular among audiobook enthusiasts. This platform offers a wide selection of titles from all areas. Listeners can access informative content and fiction narrated by actors worldwide simply by downloading the mobile application and with a monthly subscription.
More and more Canadian and Quebec content is now available on the platform. You can even listen to the voices of Quebec celebrities such as actress Karine Vanasse, singer Marco Calliari, singer Laurence Lafond-Beaulne, author Bryan Perro, actor Patrice Robitaille, actor Raymond Cloutier and many others.
Audio content is increasingly popular and constantly reinventing itself and improving. Will it eventually completely replace talk radio as we know it? Who knows?!