Podcast listeners are the fastest-growing media audience, but demographics are shifting

by | Jul 22, 2021 | Public Relations

The pandemic may have brought much of the world to a screeching halt, but did not slow podcasting down—and new research from podcast production and monetization firm Stitcher offers a comprehensive look at who and where these listeners are, behavioral patterns, trends shaping the medium and the factors contributing to its growth.

In its second annual Stitcher Podcasting Report, the firm finds that podcast listenership is skyrocketing, with 57 percent of Americans having listened to a podcast—and these listeners offer a window into consumer behavior that has shifted greatly over the past 15 months.

Podcast listeners are the fastest-growing media audience, but demographics are shifting

Report highlights include:

Moving beyond the coasts

New listeners are younger, more diverse, and spread out across the entire nation.

Celebrities turned to podcasting for connection when film production shut down

Twenty-two of the top 200 podcasts in 2020 were hosted by celebrities, most notably Rob Lowe, Jason Bateman, and Zac Braff.

Cultural moments influence listener interest

From the Black Lives Matter movement to the Presidential race, 2020 was a year of major cultural events and the top search terms on Stitcher reflected listener interest to seek out information on trending topics in podcast form.

Times have certainly changed

Pre-pandemic, top listening hours aligned with peak commuting times, which have been replaced by a shift to lunchtime/early afternoon (11 a.m. – 2 p.m.). Similarly, household chores and gardening have replaced commuting as the primary activity that listeners do while listening to podcasts.

Generational favorites

Based on user “favorite” activity, younger generations gravitated to comedy and talk content (age 13-34), while news and politics did better with older generations (age 35+).

Podcast listeners are the fastest-growing media audience, but demographics are shifting

“Podcasting is a powerful medium that has not only prevailed, but thrived, in the midst of a global pandemic, as people sought a sense of connection during periods of isolation,” said Amy Fitzgibbons, chief marketing officer at Stitcher, in a news release. “The [report] examines the podcast listener in-depth and what their behaviors teach us. With listening behaviors more diverse than ever, we know that podcasting is where consumers continue to turn to for reliable, trusted content.”

Other key findings include:

People are more invested than ever

Median monthly hours per listener per month rose from 7.5 in 2019 to nearly 8 in 2020

Podcast listeners are keyed into the zeitgeist

People look for news and information in their podcasts, and their searches reflect it. Searches related to the following skyrocketed during their respective moments in 2020:

  • Pandemic and COVID-19 searches were the top most searched terms for the year, with listeners turning to podcasts for the latest on major global events
  • Similarly, searches for and related to ‘Black Lives Matter’ made the Top 10 searches in 2020
  • In March 2020, there were nearly 10,000 searches on Stitcher for Joe Exotic, when the Tiger King documentary launched
  • When the 1619 podcast focusing on the history of slavery in the U.S. launched in June, Stitcher saw a spike in searches on the show, making it the 8th most searched term for the month
  • “NFL” was the second highest cultural search term in 2020—despite a shortened season and inability to attend games, fans still wanted to get involved and turned to podcasting to do so

Podcast listeners are the fastest-growing media audience, but demographics are shifting

Some states are more dedicated

Washington, Minnesota, Oregon, Wisconsin, Utah, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Montana, Vermont, North Dakota and Alaska all rank higher in listening hours than they do in the total number of listeners. People in those states listen more.

Habits differ by gender

Men have a slight edge in the average number of shows listened to and hours listened per week, whereas women continue to have more favorites. Women are also more likely to listen to podcasts for entertainment, while men tend to seek news/information.

Podcast listeners are the fastest-growing media audience, but demographics are shifting

Read the full report here.

To compile this report, the Stitcher data team analyzed nearly 2 years of content and listener behavior data collected directly from the Stitcher App and combined it with user-reported data and demographics from our Stitcher Listener Survey.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter