Podcasts in Italy, in search of a sustainable model

There are 11.1 million Italian users listening to podcasts, numbers that testify to the growth of attention to this audio format. Only still struggling to find a sustainable economic model.
Podcasts in Italy are growing, unlike in other countries, despite having a much larger pool of users. But in our country, the focus on podcasts has never diminished, quite the contrary. It is a content format that is also prompting companies to experiment with some success. But there is a “though” in all of this, and it is the fact that despite the growing numbers, podcasts struggle to find a sustainable economic model.
Recently, data was published showing that Italians are big users of digital content, a figure that during the pandemic reached its highest levels. Now, after the last two years, the percentage is slightly on the rise even though, looking at the data on how much Italian users spend on the enjoyment of online videos and games, we are talking about 3.3 billion euros in digital content purchases in 2022.
Audio is part of the digital content that Italians enjoy the most, but relative to the purchase we are talking about music audio and not audio podcasts.
And we want to dwell precisely on podcasts, a format that we like very much and that, we are sure, you who are reading this also like.

As mentioned in the beginning, in Italy, users who listen to podcasts are steadily increasing. They were 8.5 million in 2020 and have come to be, according to the latest data from the Ipsos Digital Audio Survey 2022, 11.1 million. This is a very encouraging figure, up 5 percent from the previous year, especially if we compare it with other markets that are much more advanced in this respect, such as the U.S. and U.K., which grew by 5 percent and 4.7 percent in 2022, respectively.
In 2023, podcast listeners will grow by double digits in China, Argentina, France and Germany, and China and Argentina are expected to continue to grow by double digits in 2024.
Podcasts in Italy are therefore entering the media diet of Italian users, they are falling into the type of reliable content that audiences are interested in. It should be noted that the audience is young; in fact, it is composed of 43% of users under the age of 35. And the smartphone remains the most used device for listening in 72% of cases.
It is therefore a very positive context, although still lacking a sustainable economic model and, to date, they are responsible for a still marginal share of both consumer spending and advertising revenues, as also noted by data from the Digital Content Observatory promoted by the School of Management of the Milan Polytechnic.

Thus, in our country we are witnessing a growth process that, however, fails to give rise to a solid and steady advertising market. Spotify has defined the potential of podcast advertising as $20 billion.
And this comes at a time when new forms of reader engagement aimed at promoting new channels and forms of content dissemination, most notably, precisely, podcasts, are being considered in the publishing industry.
This is therefore a positive context that is again confirmed by the data from the Ipsos Digital Audio Survey 2022, which reveal that the recall of advertisements associated with podcasts remains stable at the high levels achieved in recent years, namely 71 percent. The form of adv before/during/after podcasts remains prevalent in recollection, although declining. Growing in recollection, however, are speaker-read ads and podcasts focused entirely on a brand sponsor.
Here, this our consideration of podcasts at the beginning of the year to highlight, with data in hand, how this audio format still has great potential, even as more evolved business models struggle to find their way. Think, for example, of subscription models or single direct purchase.
But, being at the beginning of the year, it may not happen in this very year 2023.
And do you listen to podcasts? Which ones and what occasions do you listen to them? Would you be willing to pay or subscribe for listening? Let us know what you think.

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