Podcasting’s rebound from stay-at-home lifestyle fell back slightly in this year’s Edison Research Infinite Dial study. It shows both weekly and monthly podcast listener numbers have fallen from a year ago, while longer-term indicators have continued to point to growth for the medium. Here are seven podcast clips from the latest Infinite Dial.
Drops in weekly and monthly podcast listening
As more and more people return to work – Edison says three quarters now work mostly outside the home compared to 70% last year – the return to a more normal lifestyle has had an impact on podcast listening habits.
Data from Infinite Dial shows that 38% of respondents say they have listened to a podcast in the past month. Though it represents 109 million Americans, the number likely surprised some podcasters because it’s down from 41% in 2021. Edison saw similar trends in its weekly podcast listening numbers, which are from 28% last year to 26% this year. However, it remains higher than the 24% rate recorded in 2020.
“It all comes within the context of what happened last year and what happened the year before,” said Tom Webster, senior vice president of Edison. “We asked a lot of people to try out the content. That’s the good news. And then a bunch of people went back to school and back to work. Some of them did not stay with us. But the space continues to grow,” he said during a presentation Wednesday at the Podcast Movement conference in Los Angeles.
Webster pointed out that separate data from Edison’s Podcast Consumer Tracker helps shed some light on the numbers. It showed that while 64% of podcasts were listened to at home at the start of 2021, by the end of the year 59% were. At the same time, the number of people saying they listen to a podcast most often on a computer fell from 20% to 13% while those saying they use a smartphone to listen to podcasts jumped from 64% to 73%.
“It doesn’t sound like a massive change, but it is,” Webster said. “The younger demos have been the most affected by the lockdown and by the pandemic, and that’s where we’ve seen some of those habits change.”
177 million Americans have listened to a podcast
The benefit of the lockdown is that the total number of Americans who have ever listened to a podcast has hit a new high. Edison says that 62% of people aged 12 and over say they have ever listened to a podcast. That’s a five-point jump from a year ago, when the number of people who listened to a podcast soared to 177 million people.
“It’s a big jump, and I think it’s another one of those numbers influenced by the pandemic lockdown,” Webster said. “When we all finished ‘Tiger King’ at the start of the pandemic, we were all trying a whole bunch of different things, including the audio. And I think what we saw there was that a lot casual users entered the space.
Familiarity with podcasts — a particularly important metric early on in the medium — continues to gain traction. The latest survey showed that 79% or 226 million Americans aged 12 and older know what a podcast is. Webster said podcasting may be a “clumsy” name, but it’s probably too late to change. He also noted that while a majority say they know the term, that doesn’t mean they all know what podcasting actually is.
A third listened to podcasts in the car
Edison says 84% of adults ages 18 and older surveyed say they’ve been in a car in the past month. That’s up from a year ago, when the pandemic played a bigger role in travel. Of those in-vehicle people, Edison says a third (32%) listened to a podcast while driving. That’s an increase of two percentage points from a year ago and four points from 2020.
“Podcasts have grown in the car,” Webster said, but he noted that overall podcast listens still lagged, suggesting this indicates pent-up demand for easier listening to podcasts on the road. “I think we’ll continue to see that number grow and grow to approach the overall percentage of drivers who listen to podcasts when not in their car,” Webster predicted.
The Diversity Success Story
Efforts by podcasters to recruit more diverse creators and launch shows and networks that appeal to a wider range of listeners are paying off. Edison says podcast listeners are now broadly aligned with the population at large. Hispanics make up 16% of monthly podcast listeners, up from 11% in 2017. Black people now make up 16% of the audience, up from 12% in 2017, and Asian Americans make up an additional 3%, the proportion of listeners whites having fallen from 66% to 59% over the last five years.
“The diversity of the podcast space has been one of our medium’s greatest successes,” Webster said. “What has grown the space the most over the past five years is diverse creators reaching segments of the population that have been underserved by other media. And that message is really starting to get out. He thinks the medium continues to grow; it is likely to become even more diverse than the population as a whole.
The gender gap in podcasting still exists
Unlike the general population, listening to podcasts still leans towards men in a proportion of 53% to 46%. That’s actually a higher number for men than Infinite Dial showed a year ago, in part because the number of monthly female podcast listeners has declined more than among their male counterparts. Webster points out, however, that when they first started tracking podcast listeners, it was two-thirds male. “We continue to see the monthly podcast user’s gender balance start to move closer and closer to the American population,” he said.
In terms of age, Edison’s data shows that podcasting still has its greatest reach among younger listeners. Half of 12-24 year olds surveyed said they had listened to a podcast in the past month, compared to 43% of 35-54 year olds. And among people aged 55 and over, Edison says 22% had consumed a podcast in the past month – down from the 26% recorded a year earlier. “There’s also more to do in terms of creating content for people 55 and older,” Webster said. “This content is not about pension funds. It’s the same content you do for 35-54 year olds, except it’s not age-old.
Listening can be social, not solitary
Listening to podcasts often conjures up images of people wearing headphones. But an adjustment may be in order. “Not all of us listen to podcasts with headphones,” Webster said. “About half of the population say they at least sometimes listen to audio with other people – this also goes for spoken audio.” One in five respondents (19%) said they listened frequently with others and 28% said they did so sometimes. Younger demos were more likely to listen to audio with other people. Overall, one in four said they never listen to audio with other people.
Eight is the average number of podcasts
For a second year in a row, Edison says eight is the average number of podcasts weekly podcast listeners said they consumed in the past week. But that includes 18% who have listened to 11 or more podcasts and 16% who listen to six to ten. The age of the listener seems to be one of the main determining factors. Edison says that while those aged 12 to 34 had an average of 8.3 podcasts and those aged 35 to 54 had an average of 8.9, those aged 55 and over listened to an average of 4.9 podcasts.
Edison says that among this older age group, about three-quarters (77%) said they had listened to one to five podcasts. Webster says the numbers show 35 to 54 is “the wheelhouse” for podcasting with the highest percentage of people saying 11 or more in this demo. But he thinks there is a “huge opportunity” to increase consumption by listeners over 55.
The Infinite Dial is based on a national telephone survey of 1,502 people aged 12 and over in English and Spanish.
Download the full study HERE.