More Than One Nation Under Pod
Here in the U.S., we tend to think of podcasts as an “American thing.”
This American Life! Pod Bless America! The Daily!
Listening to podcasts abroad is actually about as popular — or more popular — than it is here. For example, a survey conducted by Reuters earlier this year, polled 2,000 people (representative of the population with access to the internet) in each of the countries below.
The numbers represent the percent of respondents for each country that listened to any podcast in the past month.
South Korea - 53%
Spain - 39%
Ireland - 37%
Sweden - 35%
United States - 35%
Italy - 30%
Canada - 29%
Australia - 27%
France - 25%
Japan - 23%
Germany - 21%
United Kingdom - 21%
Understanding Podcast Growth
What fuels South Korea’s passion for podcasts? Most point to the 2011 debut of a four-man comedy team of left-leaning political commentators, and their smash hit shot Naneun Ggomsuda (“I’m a Sneaky Trickster”).
Nakho Kim, an assistant professor at Penn State Harrisburg, describes NaGomSu as a mix between ProPublica and Saturday Night Live. The mix of satire and serious political reporting became popular for its potshots at the corrupt ruling class. It drew six million downloads in its first few months, a figure no doubt helped along by South Korea‘s robust electronics and technology sector.
That might make the show—and South Korea—sound like an international outlier, a place where the stars happened to align in a certain way. But consider the other factors media analysts say contribute to the popularity of podcasting in a country: fast internet speeds, and significant commutes. Add to these, a diversity of political opinion (and the freedom to express it), and you have the profile of any number of nations ripe for a podcasting hit, which is often the catalyst for the format to break more widely into a general population. All it takes, according to podcasting expert Eric Nuzum, is for each country to get its Serial. And if other countries are interested enough in the content, there’s a market ripe and ready for localized podcast hits from other markets.
Truth is, smaller countries don’t have a huge inventory of shows to draw from.
“They need more content. If they can bring in podcasts from other lands, it makes it more appealing,” Nuzum says. “You need an audience hungry for things to listen to, and advertisers willing to support content because they know people will love it. If you can attract an audience, everything else works out.”
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