5 Things to Know About the Podcast Listener

The State of Podcast Listening in 2019


Photo by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash

Edison Research has blessed us with good news on podcasts: more people than ever are warming up to them as their go-to for information and entertainment. That’s right, the results are in from the longest-running study of consumer media habits, and one of the biggest growth stories is podcasting.

The grand finale of the 2019 Infinite Dial revealed some eye-opening stats on how podcasting is morphing into a mainstay media source. After years of steady growth, the study reaffirms that this is a good place to be whether you’re a creator or an advertiser. As Tom Webster, the Senior VP of Edison Research said, “Make no mistake this is podcasting crossing into the majority. It’s now become a majority behavior.”

These stats will be quoted for the next year to come so keep in your back pocket for the next time someone — a potential listener, business partner, or sponsor — asks you “why podcasting?”. Here are 5 things to know about the podcast listener.

1. Majority rule

2018 was a very active year for the podcasting business and after growing slow and steady over the years, all that activity has paid off, pushing the medium closer towards mainstream status. Now, 70% of Americans 12+ are familiar with podcasting, a 6-point gain since last year and the largest jump since 2016. That’s nearly 200 million who have read about podcasts in the news, have heard a friend or family member talking about them, or maybe listened but haven’t found “the show” yet. To put this number in perspective, 223 million say they have ever used social media. Let that sink in.

2. There’s strength in numbers

All the hype from 2018 must have had a hand in increased listening too, right? There are not one, but two major stats to note. The first is overall listening. For the first time, the percentage of Americans who have ever listened to a podcast has crossed the halfway mark to 51% in 2019. Second, monthly listening among Americans has grown from 26% to 32% — making it the largest leap in Infinite Dial history! The study has been tracking podcasts since 2006, so these are very big milestones. Tracking conversion from awareness to regular listening over the past year: 20 million more people listened to a podcast, 17 million more became monthly listeners, and 14 million more became weekly listeners. Once again the mission to convert those who are aware of podcasts to fans is critical, but achievable with better content and better tools for the listener.

3. At arm’s length

Podcast growth and smartphone use have been closely linked ever since Apple introduced its pre-loaded app on iOS. While podcast listening remains a heavily mobile activity, two new stories have been emerging — one at home and the other in the car.

While the ease of listening to AM/FM radio in the car can’t be beat, podcasts have found a growing niche among drivers and passengers in the past few years. For adults 18+ who have driven or ridden in a car in the past month, 26% have ever listened to podcasts in the car — a 37% increase since 2017 over-taking SiriusXM by 4 percentage points.

Meanwhile, at home, smart speaker and tablet ownership have reached a new high — 23% and 56% of the population owning each. Smartphones may have reached critical mass at 84% of the U.S. population, but there’s opportunity home and in the car for podcast fans to access their favorite content in new ways.

4. More to love

Another eye-popping stat from this year’s study was the time Americans spend with online audio overall. Weekly time spent with online audio has increased 3 hours from 13 hours and 40 minutes to 16 hours and 43 minutes. That’s a lot of content.

A big story last year was the increase in the number of podcasts the weekly listener consumes on average — increasing to 7 in 2018 after holding steady at 5 for some number of years. As we predicted, 7 is still the magic number. 14 million new podcast fans came on board in the past year alone, and they are quick to get hooked. 52% of the 62 million weekly listeners are committed to their podcast habit, consuming 4 or more and 17% consuming 3 in a week.

5. Young guns

Growth was driven across all age demos with 39% of adults 25–54 and17% of adults 55+ counting themselves as monthly listeners (a 7 point and 4 point increase since 2018, respectively). However, the not-so-dark horse is the 12–24 group, which grew by 10 points to 40% in the past year.

This group has also flexed their muscles in other categories the Infinite Dial examines: social and audio brands. Since 2015, Facebook use among this group has been on a rapid decline as they devote their attention to Snapchat and Instagram. And when it comes to online audio, they are gravitating towards Spotify and YouTube as their platform of choice (Spotify is also making huge bets on podcasting). 53% of 12–24 year-olds who listened to Spotify also accessed podcasts in 2019. Just as younger generations have influenced social and media trends, they are also now leading the charge in the podcast boom.

Source: Edison Research, Infinite Dial 2019

Thanks to Edison Research for continuing to track these trends — we’re looking forward to more insights like these in the months to come. In the meantime, team cabana’s expertise can help you make the most of podcasting’s potential.

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