Spotify’s $100 million-plus Anchor acquisition is seemingly paying off. In data released today as part of its annual Wrapped look-back on the year, the company says Anchor, which makes podcast creation software, powered 80 percent of new podcasts on Spotify this year, meaning the software contributed more than 1 million shows to Spotify’s catalog in 2020 alone. Overall, Anchor powers 70 percent of Spotify’s total podcast catalog, or around 1.3 million out of over 1.9 million shows.
People also seem to be listening to that content. Spotify says Anchor shows account for more consumption, in terms of time spent listening, than any other third-party podcast hosting or distribution provider on its platform. (Not counting shows owned or operated by Spotify.) This sounds surprising, at least to me, especially given that big networks like NPR, The New York Times, and Wondery all put their shows on Spotify. But Mike Mignano, head of podcast mission at Spotify, says the data point speaks to the large global podcasting ecosystem that people might not know exists. With more than a million Anchor shows on the platform, listening time adds up fast, even if some shows only have a small group of dedicated fans.
“I think people still tend to think of podcasting as being this sort of small, niche community, and I think the 2020 growth has highlighted that it’s very, very quickly grown far beyond that, and there’s just so much more scale and depth to the medium than I think people realize,” he says. “We feel like for all the people in the world that want to say something, or want to share their voice, or want to have themselves heard, there can be actually far, far, far more new podcasts over the next couple of years.”
Spotify says Anchor’s top five markets in 2020, by total number of shows, were the US, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and Great Britain. In Indonesia, Spotify signed nine shows to become exclusives. Meanwhile, the fastest-growing markets, looking at the average monthly increase in new shows, are India, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Indonesia. India accounts for nearly 40,000 Anchor-made shows and has been growing at an average of 22 percent month-over-month increase in 2020.
Still, many of these creators might not be making money through their podcasting, or at least not with the help of Spotify. Although Anchor supports monetization and automatically inserts ads into participating shows, the feature is only available in the US. So while a variety of countries contribute to Anchor’s growing reach, the creators on the platform likely aren’t making a living, or even any income, because of their podcasting work. (Mignano and a spokesperson declined to comment on when monetization might roll out to other markets, although in the US, a spokesperson says more than 100,000 creators have generated revenue through Anchor’s sponsorships product.
Spotify itself had another big podcasting year. It made two big acquisitions — The Ringer and Megaphone — and signed multiple exclusive deals with figures like Joe Rogan and Kim Kardashian West. Yesterday, it said two of the most popular shows on the platform this year include The Joe Rogan Experience and The Michelle Obama Podcast, both of which were major investments for the company. But not every show involves a recognizable name, which is why the Anchor deal was a critical part of Spotify’s podcast strategy. People all over the world are making shows with Spotify-owned software. Whether they can become superstars and make money off that work, though, is the next challenge for Spotify, at least if it wants to retain these podcasters in the years to come.