Spotify: the podcast revolution and new Italian productions

Spotify: the podcast revolution and new Italian productions


Spotify photographs in the latest report the inexorable rise of the podcasting phenomenon, in Italy and in the world. Over the last few years, the creation of podcasts, ie episodic audio productions produced on a regular basis on a certain theme, has grown to take on a leading role in the panorama of entertainment and digital information.

Precisely by virtue of this revolution still underway in listening habits, Spotify, a leading company in platforms for listening to streaming music and audio content, has devoted an ever greater interest to podcasts. Here are all the numbers of listening to podcasts in Italy and in the world and Spotify's new initiatives for the production of this type of content.

Podcast: all the numbers

The phenomenon of podcasting, which has already grown over the last few years, has seen dizzying growth in the twelve months between September 2020 and 2021: always in search of new forms of entertainment during the difficult months of the pandemic, 84 million people at world listened to a podcast for the first time around this time.

In terms of content, over 1.5 million new podcasts have been added to Spotify in the last year, an increase of 85 % compared to the previous year and even 2500% compared to 2018. These are numbers that testify to a real explosion of the phenomenon all over the world.

The most listened to podcast genre on the international market is status "Society & Culture", thanks also to the contribution of the podcast by Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen Renegades: Born in the USA, closely followed by “Comedy” and “Lifestyle & Health”.

As for the Italian catalog, which in the last year has expanded by 89%, the consumption of podcasts extends over several generations: the over 40s (but not only) listen with pleasure to the Lessons and history lectures by Alessandro Barbero, while Millennials and GenZ move towards Muschio Selvaggio by Luis Sal and Fedez. Other well-established topical podcasts such as Morning by Francesco Costa and true crime such as Urban Demons have achieved great popularity.

Spotify on the hunt for talents

The world of podcasts is still characterized by a strong gender gap: only 22% of podcasts in the Italian top 100 ranking are in fact conducted by women. To remedy this gap, Spotify has set up the first edition of the Sound Up! Program in recent months. , with the aim of finding new talents among girls and under-represented social categories to be employed in the production of original shows. The applications received, which will lead to the selection of the 10 candidates in the coming months, were over 1000.

To meet the needs of podcast creators, Spotify also intends to enhance the interaction between producers and listeners with the inclusion of Q&A and surveys within the episodes through the Anchor service. Spotify has also recently launched the hybrid playlist “My Daily”, which combines music playback with news from major news podcasts.

The new Spotify original podcasts

Spotify today presented four new original podcasts, produced and distributed on the platform, which will be available to Italian listeners in the coming days:

BISCOTTIS, Stories of the Internet by The Jackal - the group of comedians tells the changes introduced by Web through its most absurd and incredible stories. UltràDelicious by Maurizio Tentella - a podcast that explores the combination of football and food through a trip to 16 Italian cities. Whenever by Camihawke and Alice Venturi - the two influencers use their life stories, shared and loved by their followers, as a starting point to understand how to navigate life today. Ikaros - Morgan's Wings of Rock - the most controversial and eccentric personality in Italian music talks about the phenomena of rock, those artists who "by burning themselves, saved the music". The ideal wireless headphones for listening to music and podcasts in freedom? Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, now half price on Amazon.

Spotify To Pass 100 Million Users In The US By 2025 While Pandora Continues To Slide

UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01: Children Listening To The Radio In London (Photo by ... [+] Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

A new forecast for the US music streaming market from eMarketer suggests an upward curve will continue for the majority of the kingpin services into 2025 but a steady decline is the fate of the oldest kid on the block.

Due to the specifics of how Spotify operates – a limited free tier running on advertising revenue sitting alongside a paid premium version – the numbers from eMarketer view the music streaming sector through two different lenses: total listeners; and total subscribers. 

Spotify dominates in both, which is unsurprising given its entire model is based around using free access (with certain limitations and restrictions) as a key way to hook in users and convert them into paying subscribers. Spotify currently has, according to eMarketer, 83.1 million users in the US, of which 44.7 million are paying subscribers: that is expected to grow to 100.6 million users by 2025, with just over half (52.2 million) of them paying. 

Table via eMarketer.


Apple Music will also grow, although not quite as sharply, from 36.9 million subscribers this year to 40.6 million by 2025. 

Pandora – the longest-serving brand here, having launched as a consumer-facing service in 2005 – could be staring at more bad news than good news. Like Spotify, it runs on a “freemium” model (limited access for free users stretching all the way to unlimited access for full subscribers). It will, according to eMarketer, see its total users slip from 54.2 million this year to 46.1 million in 2025. Against this, however, it could see marginal growth in subscribers, edging up from 6.5 million to 7 million in the same period. 

The numbers around services from two of the biggest companies in the world are, however, much harder to pin down and the forecasts around them come with certain and important caveats. 

Amazon AMZN has a full subscription service but also rolls a more limited on-demand music offering into Prime memberships. Separating them out is beyond the reach of eMarketer here. The report says Amazon’s total listeners will rise from 49.8 million to 56.8 million between 2021 and 2025, but these numbers need to be approached with more caution than one normally would with regard to forecasting in general. “We don’t have visibility into how many people pay for Amazon’s music service independent of Prime access, but we expect Amazon to also be a major player in this space,” explains eMarketer. 

The other service that comes with caveats is YouTube Premium which eMarketer projects will leap from 29.5 million subscribers this year to 46.6 million by 2025. This would make it a bigger player than Apple Music and second only to Spotify in the marketplace. Yet the clauses in this forecast are numerous. 

“YouTube Premium isn’t exclusively used for audio listening, but we included it in this forecast because most users who pay for YouTube use it to listen to music or podcasts at least once per month,” notes eMarketer. “Our YouTube Premium metric combines YouTube Premium and YouTube Music. Our YouTube Premium estimate captures all users who use that product, including ones who use it for purposes other than audio listening.”

Table via eMarketer.


Forecasting market growth in the music business has always been an undertaking fraught with incredible risk. When one holds forecasts from a decade or more ago up to the light of today they often crumble into dust. 

But rather than dismiss all forecasts as doomed enterprises, it is perhaps better to have them stand as a marker for the confidence (or the lack of confidence) currently coursing through the veins of a certain sector of the business. They are better approached as snapshots of the optimism – or the pessimism – defining the business today and how certain brands continue to glow for consumers while others start to fade in relevance or see their edges dulled. 

Ultimately, these numbers only give one perspective on growth in the market here – distilling it down to pure user numbers, not looking at total revenues. For the freemium services, their ad-supported side has a tendency to drag down the ARPU (average revenue per user) of all users. Then when discounts, telco bundles and multi-users accounts (such as family packages) are factored in, the ARPU plummets further.

The elephant in the room is pricing – or, more specifically, the services’ reluctance to increase the cost of a basic subscription. 

Today’s default market price was effectively set in stone in the early 2000s by Rhapsody (now rebranded as Napster) at $9.99 a month. Competing services coming into the market ever since have all held to the same price point (more or less) for their core single-user offering. That means subscription streaming has not increased in price for two decades. (Point of historical note: two decades before Rhapsody launched, the CD was still at the idea stage.) Following the rate of inflation, a $9.99 subscription in 2001 should be $15.43 today.

Mayor of Boston, Kevin White, points to a chart showing inflation costs, Boston, Massachusetts, 25th ... [+] September 1978. (Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Despite artists calling for better rates from streaming, services are not increasing prices as a possible way to cover this – primarily because if one service breaks rank and increases prices, competitor services will most likely drop prices to try and poach their users. This is less a pricing war a more pricing inertia driven by fear. And thus the pricing deadlock endures. 

What would be more revealing and interesting would be modelling the growth curves here against what they would be if the services in question raised their prices. 

Were that to be the case, the optimism underpinning such figures might not glow quite so brightly.

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