How Many Podcasts are There Compared to Other Types of Media?
An unwritten rule of writing about the podcast industry is that you must mention the amount of podcasts there are as often as possible. I've been guilty of it and it's hard not to do because as we speak there are over 750,000 podcasts sitting right there in your phone waiting to be downloaded (see, there I go again!).
Part of the obsession of talking about it might be because podcasts are one of the few types of media that we have been able to witness in real time go from a small, semi-knowable industry, to one that is larger than any one person can understand. When I see this large podcast number get thrown around, I can't help but think, "but compared to what?".
You don't see other types of media throwing around their big numbers as often, so it can be difficult to have good context for where podcasts fit into the bigger media picture.
So in the first of a series of short posts about the podcast industry, I wanted to take a look at this question of what the big number is for the other major types of media out there.
This isn’t to say anything about the inherent differences between the types of media, but just a curiosity of how much there is of each one. The goal is to find the single BIG number that encapsulates everything as best as possible (within the correct order of magnitude), from inception and regardless of quality.
At the bottom there are more notes about my sources because this endeavor was more difficult than I imagined and there are some caveats with some of these numbers. My primary concern was accuracy, even if it meant some of the data is a few years old.
A good starting point might be to compare podcasts to things like movies, TV series, video games, and broadway shows.
Hey look at podcasts, king of the hill! They’ve pulled ahead of other media that have had several decades of a head start.
And this isn’t even including individual podcast episodes, just the amount of shows. Let's add those in, and a few others including TV episodes and total songs on Spotify to get some better perspective.
Wow, now things on the lower end are just starting to look like flat lines barely above zero.
I love comparing podcasts to books, so let’s add those in now, while removing everything smaller than podcasts.
Oh boy. Things are getting unfair. I mean there are 15,000 books just on Lincoln for goodness sake and they’ve been popular for hundreds of years.
Books have long been the king of all media (sorry Howard Stern) since the printing press was invented, but the internet has obviously changed this up a bit from a numbers perspective. Let’s add in Tumblr Blogs and YouTube videos.
As you can see in my notes below, the YouTube number is actually very conservative, and is most likely well over five billion in reality. This was the biggest surprise out of all my research. I feel stressed for the engineers in charge of the YouTube data centers even thinking about all that storage needed.
To end on a ridiculous note, why don’t we just add in every single webpage indexed by Google.
Yes, that is 30 trillion. And that is only pages Google has indexed, not anything in the deep web, which is much, much larger.
Here’s one last big view of everything minus the Google Index, but plus some minor additions of active websites, YouTube creators, and iOS games.
Sources and notes
Google Index source: Google's blog. On Google's "how search works" page, they mention their index being hundreds of billions of webpages (not websites, a signifactly smaller number). But in 2013 they did give the more specific number of 30 trillion. I can only imagine how much this number has ballooned since.
YouTube source: Official YouTube blog. YouTube doesn’t publish many official statistics about the total number of videos, but this post from 2017 on the YouTube blog mentions hitting over one billion videos with automated captioning. So amazingly, one billion is a very conservative number. This doesn’t include all videos and is a few years old. I wouldn’t be surprised if the true current number was well over five billion. As a side note, I found dozens of articles citing “mind-blowing” YouTube statistics and I’m pretty sure they just all copy and paste each other.
Active Websites source: Internet Live Stats. This website tracks all websites in real time. The number for ALL websites is currently at 1.69 billion, but a majority of those are parked domains with no content. As totals websites continues to grow, the amount of active sites has been pretty stable, with the most recent statistic of 170 million as of 2016.
Tumblr source: Tumblr's about page. It is hard to get a good number for the total amount of blogs out there, but Tumblr is the largest single blogging site (I'm not going to count Twitter) and handily keeps up-to-date stats.
Books source: Mental Floss article. In 2010, a software engineer tasked with counting all the books out there wrote an article pinning it at around 130 million. This was updated using reasonable math in 2016 in the Mental Floss post to get the more current figure I used of 134 million.
Spotify source: Spotify's company info page. I know Spotify doesn't have every single song ever, but it was the largest database of songs I could find and I think it is a reasonable stand-in for songs in general.
YouTube Creators source: Social Blade homepage. Social Blade tracks statistics on the creators among the major social networks.
Podcast Episodes source: Chartable homepage. The best data traditionally came from keynote addresses during Apple events where they mention podcasts, but Chartable is keeping great stats on the total amount of podcasts and episodes in Apple's directory.
TV Episodes source: IMDb Statistics. IMDb keeps an updated stats page on all sorts of things, and IMBd is so robust that I trust them being the best single source on this.
iOS Video Games source: Pocket Gamer database. Pocket Gamer keeps a running total of the amount of apps and games in the iOS App Store and the cited amount is as of May 19'.
Podcasts source: Chartable homepage. Just like with Podcast Episodes, I trust data from Chartable on this.
Movies source: IMDb Statistics. You can't get a better database of all the movies out there then THE movie database.
Comic Books source: Mike's Amazing World. I couldn't find a good source from the actual publishers on this, but this site from a super-collector has a detailed database from the major comic book publishers going all the way back to 1933. He mentions true numbers might be slightly higher, but from everything I researched this data is legit. The publishers included in this number are DC, Marvel, Archie, Charlton, Dark Horse, Dell, Gold Key, Harvey, and Image.
TV Series source: IMDb Statistics. I mean, what would I do without IMDb?
Console and PC Video Games source: Bit Rebels Infographic. An article on this site looked at available lists of all Nintendo, Sony, Sega, and Microsoft console video games, as well as everything available on Steam. I used Steam as a stand-in for PC games because you can buy pretty much any PC game on Steam. One notable caveat with this data is that there is overlap between the consoles and PC with many games, so due to duplicates being counted several times in certain instances, the true number will be lower.
Broadway Shows source: Stats from Broadway League. This site keeps a running database of all new shows that hit Broadway each year. One important note is that this data only goes back as far as the 1984-1985 season.