According to Libsyn, one of the oldest and most popular podcast hosting services, most podcasts are consumed in Apple’s ecosystem. “Approximately 70 per cent of the shows that Libsyn distributes reach audiences using Apple’s iTunes platform which includes iTunes on the computer, iPods, iPads, iPhones, iPad, Apple TV and Apple’s Podcasts App on iOS devices.”
Apple’s dominance as a distributor makes sense. The company first introduced podcasts 13 years ago, in iTunes 4.9. Podcasts have been available through iTunes ever since.
Back then, the podcast directory had about 3000 shows. Today, there are 550,000-plus active shows and 18.5 million episodes. While podcasting is still seen as a niche by some, Apple alone has served more than 50 billion downloads and streams, with the most popular title, Stuff You Should Know, becoming the first to hit 500 million listens.
The ABC’s Kellie O’Riordan credits Apple’s iOS podcast app, released back in 2012, for making Serial a breakout hit. The app allowed users to subscribe to a show on their mobile phone, without needing a computer.
“Apple introducing its native podcasting app, that little purple icon on the iPhone that couldn’t be deleted. It happened just weeks before Serial was released. Those two things coinciding – like adding ice-cream to soda – is what gave podcasting its fizz,” wrote O’Riordan in a recent newsletter.