Publishers eye audio investment as revenues grow 500%

Audio investment
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Challenged in many other areas of their business, publishers are finding comfort in the robust revenue increases being delivered in the podcast sector. Seeing podcasts returning the strongest growth in the latest Digital Publishers Revenue Index (DPRI) report, audio investment is planned for the remainder of the year at many leading media organisations.

  • The 12 publishers participating in the latest Digital Publishers’ Revenue Index (DPRI) report from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and Deloitte, reported a 500% increase in digital audio revenue in the first quarter of 2022. Audio revenues for the sample group hit £4.2 million in the period, six times higher than in the first quarter of 2021.
  • This latest news of continued audio revenue growth for publishers echoes reports earlier in the year that the UK’s podcasting market was ‘set to soar’. Analysis from Price Waterhouse Coopers suggested UK podcasting advertising revenues were set to rise from £37 million to £64 million by 2025 – 16 times more than the £4 million the market was worth in 2016.
  • Seeing robust growth in the podcast sector, several publishers have recently announced increased audio investment. Plans include the expansion of podcast portfolios, collaborative production and distribution deals, and the potential introduction of direct revenue generation with the introduction of audio paywalls.
Portfolio expansion
  • Business publisher Bloomberg and podcast network iHeartMedia are planning to launch five podcasts in 2022 as part of a production and distribution deal. The agreement will deliver more than 12 original shows over the next three years. Bloomberg’s existing podcast portfolio features 20 podcasts.
  • B2B publisher Haymarket is planning to increase its podcast investment, building on a three-fold annual increase in listeners. Already reaching 20,000 listeners per month, Haymarket’s podcast strategy has become an increasingly “critical element” of the publisher’s audience engagement strategy.
  • The company will add three new podcasts this year to its 15-strong portfolio. While content consumption is higher on Haymarket’s content sites, Deputy MD Donna Murphy told Press Gazette that podcasts are rapidly catching up.

    Our like-for-like growth in B2B audio audiences over the past year has been around 300%. Sponsorship (rather than networked ads) is growing at a similar rate and will soon be a material part of our commercial revenue mix.

New money, new markets
  • The Economist has twice as many monthly podcast listeners as print subscribers. And, despite being outside the publication’s paywall, its podcasts are generating real revenue from advertising. However, with a podcasting staff of 30+ to support, the weekly is considering how to introduce its famously robust paywall to its audio portfolio.
  • The Economist’s director of podcasts John Prideaux explained there are many reasons for considering paywalling podcasts and it is a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ some of its currently free podcasts are gated. He said:

I think we’re going to start experimenting with that… It’s obviously more complicated than putting a paywall on a website.

  • As well as new revenue streams, podcasting promises publishers new audiences, particularly younger audiences. Katie Vanneck-Smith, Co-founder and Publisher of Tortoise, discussed the slow-news site’s audio-to-member strategy at the recent FIPP World Media Congress.
  • She explained that Tortoise’s under-40s audience prefer audio to newsletters, and they love the intimacy of podcasts. She said:

The average listener of our podcasts is 28, while the average Tortoise member is 39. This tells you something about reaching these younger audiences.


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