Podcast Opportunities in 2020

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Podcast Opportunities in 2020

Some topics that could provide podcast opportunities in 2020 include cryptocurrency, thrifting, politics, true crime, and sober curious.




  • Cannabis is an emerging industry with many complexities surrounding it.


  • There is a growing interest in thrifting as Americans are looking for ways to be more thoughtful consumers and focus on sustainability.

Zero Waste Lifestyle

  • Where a zero waste lifestyle used to be associated with hippies, it is becoming more mainstream and people are looking for ideas on how to get closer to that goal.

Alternative Ways of Eating

  • Between 2014 and 2017 the number of Americans who identified as vegan grew from 1% to 6%. As more people embrace new ways of eating they will be looking for communities to support their transitions and new lifestyles.


  • With a presidential election in 2020 and the country as divided as ever, there will be opportunities for podcasts to address the political environment in new ways.

True Crime

  • Six of the top 50 podcasts currently on iTunes are produced by Wondery and focus on true crime stories. The popularity of these podcasts indicate there is a market for these types of stories.

High School, College and First Job Advice

  • As of 2018, Gen Z is the largest population in the U.S. As these people are currently between ages 0 and 23, the older ones of the cohort will be looking to succeed in high school, college, and beyond. Creating podcasts that help on this path is a current opportunity.


  • In 2019, health-related hashtags were some of the most retweeted of the year. This included medicaid, healthcare, aca, and opioid. This indicates that people, at least on Twitter, are engaged with the topic and a podcast focused on healthcare could be successful.

Sober Curious

  • There is a trend towards sobriety that has been growing and people who are testing or embracing this lifestyle could appreciate a podcast that focuses on the lifestyle, how to fit in with friends who drink, and best places to go for low or no-alcohol drinks.

Content Type

  • Four of the most popular formats for podcasts are interviews, non-fiction narrative, hybrid, and repurposed content.
  • The interview format generally has a single host who is interviewing either a single person or a panel of people.
  • A non-fiction narrative format is a combination of storytelling, audio clips, and editorializing.
  • Hybrid podcasts typically have a set host but may change it up with guest hosts, interviews, or panel discussions.
  • Podcasts that use repurposed content focus on curating content that is already available on the web to put it all in one place for people interested in a particular topic.

Research Strategy

We began our research looking for expert recommendations on potential podcast topics for 2020, which allowed us to find several topics that were included. Then we proceeded to look for consumer trends that could provide an opportunity for a podcast. We identified trends such as the zero waste lifestyle, growth of the Gen Z cohort, and sober curious. For each trend identified, we found data to support that it was a trend and provided an explanation of why the topic could provide a podcast opportunity in 2020.
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Podcast Trends

The US podcast industry has seen explosive growth. This is expected to continue in 2020 and beyond. Other trends driving the podcast industry include the acceptance of ads by listeners, more data-driven decisions, new podcast niches, and more podcast formats.


  • In 2018, 75 million Americans listened to podcast monthly. The number of podcast listeners in the US is expected to reach 103 million by the end of 2020 and 164 million by 2023. In 2019, 69% of people in the US had contact with podcasts. Gen Zers and young millennials are the largest age groups listening to podcasts in the US.
  • Within the past few years, America's podcast market has grown significantly. With Spotify acquiring Gimlet Media and other ambitious projects across the US podcast space, this growth is expected to be thermonuclear by the end of 2020.
  • In 2018, there were 550,000 podcasts registered online. This figure increased to 750,000 in 2019 and is expected to see a more substantial growth by the end of 2020 as podcast popularity is showing no signs of slowing down in the US.
  • The main driving force behind the existing and forecast growth of the US podcast market is quality. This includes content quality, planned and built-in content quality, and audio quality. US Podcasts continue to offer quality content that appease people.

Acceptance of Ads

  • Although youths in the US - the main consumers of podcasts - are not very tolerant of ads disrupting their content, on average, podcasts have fewer ads than traditional mediums. This smaller clutter makes it customer friendly.
  • Podcast listeners are more open than the general US audience to advertising. These listeners have accepted that ads are part of the podcast experience. Since US listeners trust podcast hosts and consider them personable, they will accept and be more open to more advertisements to support their favorite shows.
  • Studies have revealed that podcast listeners find a lot of ads on their favorite podcast relevant, engaging, and enjoyable. In fact, over 50% of listeners "respond positively to brands presented in ads and are willing to support their show this way."
  • Almost 80% of US podcast listeners approve of podcast advertising, while 67% actually remember brands and products heard on podcast ads. Up to 63% of podcast listeners in the US purchase products or services they hear on podcast ads.

Data-Driven Decisions

  • As podcast advertising increases, podcast creators want to not only implement a better user experience, but also create more targeted offers. As a result, they actively seek out ways to gain a deeper understanding of their podcast listeners as this will allow for data-driven decisions.
  • Some interesting insights that podcast creators are learning, include the interests of listeners. For example, research by Nielsen revealed that coffee is most "consumed by listeners in genres of News & Politics, Sports and Business" while candy, frozen pizza, and cookies are consumed the heaviest by "listeners in the genres of Games & Hobbies and Kids & Family."
  • In 2020 and beyond, podcast creators will combine general market data like the aforementioned study by Nielsen and data gotten from podcast media host analytics. This will be cross-referenced with data on what episodes of their shows are successful to offer more targeted ads and ultimately improve user experience.

New Niches

  • As the US podcast industry grows, new podcasts are expected to appear in 2020 and beyond. In 2019, new podcast niches like tiny-homes, plant-based diets, and zero-waste living gained traction.
  • As more young Americans continue to focus on living and eating healthy, niches related to sustainable living and environmental consciousness are expected to be more intense.
  • Alternative and unconventional ways of eating and travel are becoming more of a concern in the US. As a result, there will most likely be an increase in the number of new and existing podcasts addressing this. There are also several undiscovered niches, such as BioPods, and untapped markets that will most likely be unearthed in 2020.
  • "How To" podcasts that guide people through life-changing situations, as well as, podcasts centered on debate and increasing awareness around these topics, are expected to become more popular as well.

More Podcast Formats & Distribution Channels

  • In 2020 and beyond, the US podcast market is forecast to see more experimentation with different formats within one show and across different shows. Some of the top podcast formats include Monologue, Interview, Narrative, Multi-Host, Round Table, and Documentary. One new format that is expected to be used more often is Microcasts.
  • With the popularity of connected speakers and wireless headphones, listening is now more frictionless, thus leading to more casual podcast consumption and content creation, including podcasts that are shorter. The shorter content trend is expected to continue in 2020.
  • As more personalized streams take hold in the US, podcast creators are expected to focus on atomized audio. Synced to the "duration of [one's] commute/workout, these will bundle localized and passion point ‘podcast’ content with music adapted to user preferences.


In order to provide the current trends driving the podcast industry, we relied on credible industry publications like The Wrap and expert opinions about where the industry is and will be headed to. We selected the most discussed topics across at least three publications. Of note, since the trends selected refer to the market in general - as opposed to themes among specific podcasts - it was impractical to provide examples of podcasts adopting each trend.