The Myth of “Asians Don’t Podcast”
Some years ago when I decided to start our Podcast Agency in Singapore, a “media exec” said to me that our venture would fail because “Asians don’t listen to podcasts”.
Unfortunately, there is a myopic world view that centres around the traditional dominance of media industries based in the US. Understandably so, Hollywood has acted as the US Federal Reserve’s PR department for nearly 100 years.
But today, it’s different.
Podcasting isn’t Media, nor is it a Media industry.
Exploding the Myth: Asians Don't Podcast
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And data from our Podcast Maps platform shows that Korea is clearly the #1 podcast market in the world.
So, we need to change our narratives about how people consume Podcasts and, importantly, who they are.
Why focusing only on the U.S. paints an incomplete picture of podcasting’s growth
The conversation about the podcasting industry often revolves around the U.S., with an ever-growing number of shows, competitors, and new business models. But a closer look at the global business of podcasting reveals that South Korea is fast becoming the world’s podcast capital.
Nearly 2 out of every 3 South Koreans listens to podcasts, which is the highest audience penetration rate of any population around the world. Compare that to the U.S., where only half the population has listened to at least one show.
And South Korean podcast fans aren’t just casual listeners – the average Korean listens to 2.5 hours of content every day.
Podcasting’s growth in the region can be attributed to its strong tech sector. With the heavy presence of major companies like Samsung and LG, South Koreans have access to some of the world’s most advanced technology as well as the fastest internet speed. And localized podcasting platforms like Podbbang and Media Zamong have gained millions of listeners in addition to popular global platforms like Apple Podcasts and Stitcher. But podcasts’ growth in South Korea can also be connected to something more meaningful.
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Podminer Data on South Korea Podcasts
Data from our Podminer Performance Tracking Platform shows that South Korean business podcasts are dominated by local content. While this may not appear to be a revelation, many Asian markets on Apple Podcasts are dominated by English titles, often due to a lack of high quality local content.
This isn’t the case with Korea, however. With the exception of Tim Ferriss, who according to our Podcast Maps platform is currently (at time of writing), the #1 Podcast in the world.
Korean Podcast Content is Highly Localized
Here’s an example podcast ranking at #2 on our Podminer Platform for Investing in South Korea:
The content is highly localized, featuring personal financial advice for Koreans, however the limitations of this localization are reflected in the global reach of the podcast. Outside of Korea, this podcast only ranks in Jordan.
South Korean Political podcasts resonate
News and political podcasts account for 35.2% of podcast listenership in South Korea. The focus on more informative shows could be credited to NaGomSu (short for Naneun Ggmsuda). NaGomSu combined entertainment and investigative reporting to critique then-President Lee Myung-bak’s leadership. The format resonated, racking up 6 million downloads in just a few months. NaGomSu’s success paved the way for other popular news-based shows like Korea FM, XSFM, and KBS World Radio Korea 24.
Korean podcasting isn’t all serious though. Music, comedy, movies, and language podcasts are also popular. In general, podcasts are a powerful source of information and a driving force in motivating a once politically dormant population to get active.
Korean podcasts and advertising
A fifth of the South Korean population commutes for an average of 74 minutes a day. That’s ample time for listeners to take in their favorite content, but it’s also a valuable time for advertisers to connect with them.
Advertising has become a significant fundraising source for the Korean podcasting market, with the aforementioned Podbbang taking in $1.5 billion won in ad revenue annually.
For established shows with built-in audiences, advertising is a no-brainer. But Podbbang is democratizing podcast advertising by connecting lesser known shows with relevant advertising opportunities, similar to one of Anchor’s functions in the U.S. This gives every show a fair shot, allows newer shows to pivot away from crowdfunding, and gives a major boost to the local advertising industry.
As South Korea’s podcast market continues to explode, it’s clear that advertising will become an even bigger source of revenue for the industry’s gatekeepers. It’s also clear that listeners will use podcasts not just as a means of entertainment but as the fuel for informed activism. It’s high time the rest of the world starts paying attention to what’s happening in this market.
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