Consumers Aren’t Ready to Pay for Podcasts but Platforms Keep Trying

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Cheyne Gateley/Variety Intelligence Platform

Companies have long tried to gain a critical mass of paying monthly podcast listeners, with varying degrees of success

The most recent entrant to the paid podcast space? 

See: Podhero, which launched Tuesday and charges listeners $5-$6 per month (users can pick). The amount gets split up evenly and sent to all the podcasters on Podhero that listeners subscribe to. 

But avoid the desire to conflate: Podhero is set up more as a bulk-pod-donation platform, rather than something offering splashy exclusives for a fee, i.e. a Luminary-“Netflix for Podcasts” type (that concept has been kicked around since 2015). 

However, regardless of the more altruistic positioning, Podhero may struggle to become more than a niche podcast product. 

That’s suggested by a new survey conducted exclusively for VIP from June 8-10 by our data partner YouGov. The survey found that, among U.S. adult podcast listeners who’ve never paid for or donated to a podcast, 80% said it was “not very likely” or “not at all likely” that they would pay or donate to access or listen to a podcast in the next year. Just 20% said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to do so.

Additionally, just 17% of U.S. adult podcast listeners said they had ever paid or donated to access or listen to a podcast, while 78% said they had not. 

The figures aren’t exactly inspiring for paid podcast biz stakeholders, and helps shed light on why Luminary has yet to crack the paid podcast code.

This doesn’t mean there’s no hope for a Luminary or Podhero type, but it does indicate there may be no hope (soon, at least) in expecting much of the broader (more casual) podcast listener to pay for podcasts.

The vast amount of free high-quality podcasts available likely makes paying for podcasts a tough sell to the average listener. Companies in the paid podcast biz are likely better served targeting heavy-podcast listeners in the near-term.