Breaking down the podcast recommendation landscape

Results from our podcast discovery survey

A few weeks ago, we asked you some questions about how you find out about podcasts. Respondents — 56 in total — brought myriad recommendations to the table, from the apps they use to their favorite newsletters.

The answers reveal a landscape that is both active and varied, with lots of room for growth. Here are our key takeaways about the best sources of podcast discovery in 2016:

Recommendation sources are spread out over different mediums

We sought to learn not just about recommendation sources themselves, but also which kinds of sources are consistently the most valuable. That’s why we started with an open response question about listeners’ favorite sources for finding new podcasts.

Analyzing these answers by type, we saw that social media (19.4%) and newsletters (17.5%) were most frequently listed as top sources, followed by apps and websites (16.5%), other podcasts (15.5%), and finally word of mouth, or in-person recommendations (14.6%).

Listeners turn to a variety of websites and newsletters for recommendations

No one web or newsletter source emerged as an overwhelming authority on podcast discovery, with answers spread out over more than 15 sources. Of these, Hot Pod and The Timbre were the most popular answers, cited by 62.2% and 53.3% of respondents respectively. Respondents could choose multiple sources.


On social media, Twitter recommendations reign

85.7% of our respondents said they use Twitter to find out about podcasts, while 42.9% of respondents said they discover new podcasts on Facebook. Respondents could choose multiple sources.

One respondent said they use social media to access curated recommendations from web outlets, citing “lists from various sources that circulate on social media.” Another said they use social media to get “recommendations from people with interests or tastes similar to mine.”

Recommendations for foreign-language podcasts are hard to find

Several respondents commented on the lack of podcast resources for non-English language podcasts.

One person said their biggest challenge is “finding riveting podcasts from non-US origin / non-EN languages. Most European productions seem to just repost (public) radio shows.” Another commented: “I listen in several languages—it’s very difficult to find good ones, but FranceCulture, and Berliner Rundfunk, and RNE (Spain) have lots to chose from.”

In-app recommendations offer convenience

Several respondents said they find out about new podcasts through a podcast listening app. While the native iTunes Podcasts app was the most commonly cited app, others apps are gaining market share when compared to survey data from 2015. Also mentioned in our write-in responses were the built-in discovery tools on Pocket Casts, Podcast Addict, and Downcast, as well as Overcast’s “Recommended from Twitter” feature.

Many find podcasts through networks and cross-branding

One recent trend in podcasting has been the rise of podcasts that recommend other podcasts. In our survey, Gimlet’s new show, Sampler, was the most popular podcast about podcasts, cited by 56% of respondents. Apart from specialized podcasts about podcasts, many listeners find out about new podcasts featured on or mentioned in a show they already listen to.

For example, one person said: “This American Life re-podcasted a story done by Scott Carrier years ago, then said Scott has his own podcast, Home of the Brave. I started listening.” Audio networks can also be a source of recommendations: “I’ve also searched for podcast networks, like PRX or Gimlet, Radiotopia and sample what they have.”

There’s still something special about good old word of mouth

Our responses show that personal recommendations are still prized sources of podcast discovery. As one person said: “I’d rather take the opinions of people I know and trust, both personally and online. ”

In general, respondents expressed appreciation for an off-the-cuff sort of authenticity from their recommendation sources. One person said that the NPR podcast site felt curated by “too heavy a hand,” while another said they often scroll down the “Best of” podcast lists just to see recommendations in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Breaking down the podcast recommendation landscape

      • Awesome. Say, I wanted to add a comment on this comment:

        One person said their biggest challenge is “finding riveting podcasts from non-US origin / non-EN languages. Most European productions seem to just repost (public) radio shows.”

        I run the “un-podcast” 1 Radio News app, where I have been combing through the net seeking hourly and daily news podcasts. In our case we simply play the latest episode because who wants to listen to yesterday’s news with one button push. See:

        These podcasts mostly do come from radio stations, often public/government-funded broadcasters. It seems that many of my users really appreciate what it means to be able to easily access podcasts from well produced radio stations. Being on the radio and also a podcast is an important form of recommendation (plus you can more easily avoid the profanity that makes podcasts difficult to share in a family or communal setting).

        That said, as my “Pro” version has a “global showcase” with the daily or weekly 30 minutes of English programming from 30+ countries (e.g. SwissInfo, Radio Sweden), I am on the hunt for podcasts that are at least weekly with regional news in less covered areas in terms of English. It took me months to find Latin Pulse and Middle East Week.

        Clearly the challenge in finding reliable news sources has reduced the incentive for smaller public broadcasters around the world to get into the iTunes ecology (like RTCI in Tunisia) or they get on SoundCloud but never hook it to iTunes. I am writing up a how-to blog post with recommendations for “shortwave” stations looking to be available effectively on mobile/on-demand beyond isolated website-only on-demand options like many still have.)

        I do have long-range plans to add some news-focused by language collections of on-demand shows, so if folks have tips on surfacing those, let me know via @1radionews on Twitter.

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