Podcasts – Who’s Listening and to What?

Podcasts have been around for nearly two decades, but the format has come into its own over the last five years. A proliferation of shows, involvement from celebrity talent, investment from large companies like Spotify, and the spread of technologies that boost awareness, like smart speakers (e.g., Amazon Alexa), have all helped podcast growth.

  • In 2022, 51% of the population has listened to a podcast and roughly 78% are familiar with the medium.
  • Over one-third (104 million) of Americans listen to podcasts regularly.
  • According to Edison Research, 41% (116 million) listened to a podcast in the last month.
  • 80 million, 28% of Americans are weekly podcast listeners.
  • Smart speaker ownership grew by over 22% during the first year of the pandemic as more people worked from home.
  • During Covid, podcasting experienced unprecedented growth and podcast audiences diversified.
  • Each week, more Americans listen to podcasts than have NetFlix accounts.

“The podcast industry is in a particular moment of creative and innovative renaissance, from content creation by publishers and hosts, to listener discovery. And while podcasts have been around for nearly two decades, the format has only just entered the mainstream.” Consider the following statistics gathered by Buzzsprout:

Who listens to podcasts?
Historically, podcast demographics have not mirrored the US population. In 2011, 68% of podcast listeners were White, but this is beginning to change. Here’s the distribution of listeners by ethnicity:

  • 57% White
  • 13% African American
  • 16% Hispanic
  • 4% Asian
  • 10% Other

Key demographic trends include the following:

  • 43% of U.S. men and 39% of U.S. women listen to podcasts.
  • Female listenership reached an all-time high in 2021 and continues to grow rapidly.
  • People ages 12-34 make up 66% of podcast fans within America, and podcast listenership declines as age increases.
  • Over 66% have a college degree (bachelor’s or higher) and an average annual household income of $75,000 or more.
  • Over one fourth of Americans ages 55+ listen to podcasts monthly.

Where do people listen to podcasts?
Most podcast consumers stream content using their smartphones as an audio source and listen to episodes via a major podcast app like Apple or Spotify. Here are some other ways people listen to content:

  • 62% of Americans have listened to audio in a car using their cell phone.
  • 18% of people ages 18+ own a vehicle with a smart entertainment system.
  • 49% of podcast listening happens at home.
  • 22% of podcasters listen while driving and commuting.
  • 11% of podcasters listen at work.
  • 8% of podcasters listen while exercising.

U.S. podcast fans are spending even more time listening. More than half of domestic listeners increased their listening time in the past six months, and 41% expect to spend even more time with podcasts in the next six months, according to the podcast advertising platform Acast in partnership with Nielsen.

The study of 2,000 U.S. adults who consume podcasts at least monthly found 52% increased the amount of time they spent listening to them over the past six months. In fact, consumption of podcasts has increased more than most other media in the past six months – especially when compared to other audio-based media.

The most popular podcast genres and shows
According to a statistics study, 22% of podcast listeners in the United States prefer comedy as a genre. News is the second most popular podcast genre, followed by true crime, sports, and health & fitness.

According to the Podcast Consumer Tracking Report, the 10 top podcasts are:

  1. The Joe Rogan Experience
  2. The Daily
  3. Crime Junkie
  4. This American Life
  5. Stuff You Should Know
  6. My Favorite Murder
  7. Pod Save America
  8. Serial
  9. Office Ladies
  10. Call Her Daddy

Average podcast episode length and frequency
Podcasts have no set-in-stone rules, but there are trends that most podcast hosts tend to follow. Below are December’s ranges measured by Buzzsprout:

Duration of podcast episodes:

  • Less than 10 minutes 15%
  • 10 – 20 minutes 15%
  • 20 – 40 minutes 30%
  • 40 – 60 minutes 21%
  • Over 60 minutes 18%

Frequency of published episodes:

  • 0 – 2 days 6%
  • 3 – 7 days 36%
  • 8 – 14 days 40%
  • 15 – 29 days 17%
  • Over 30 days 1%

Podcast advertising trends and performance
The podcast landscape has many opportunities for brands and podcasters to reach new audiences, pdf Acast and Nielsen. Buzzsprout concurs saying that podcasting has “become an effective marketing tool for big-name brands, small businesses, and entrepreneurs looking to grow their reach.”

Some findings of podcasting as an advertising platform include:

  • 60% of podcast listeners have bought something from a podcast ad.
  • 72% of listeners who have listened to a podcast for four or more years have purchased a sponsored ad.
  • 69% of respondents say podcast ads increase their awareness of products, brands, and services.
  • 81% say they pay attention to ads more than they do to radio, TV commercials, or billboards, and even digital ads on social media.
  • Ad revenue from podcasting is expected to double to $2 billion this year.

Future of podcasting
Podcast listenership is projected to rise steadily in 2022 as podcast popularity increases and becomes more and more mainstream. Forecasts project total podcast listeners will exceed 160 million by 2023. And monthly podcast listening is growing fastest among Americans ages 55+.

The potential of podcasts to build an audience and generate income is still growing every year. As such, podcasts are set to become even more popular in the coming years.

If you’ve thought about starting your own podcast, now is definitely the time to do it. It doesn’t take much to get started – a decent microphone and a podcast hosting service are all you need.

Acast and Nielsen Podcasting Study, Conducted in July, 2021
Buzzsprout Podcast Statistics & Data, January 28, 2022.

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Posted in Research

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