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Beyond Just Listening, Podcast Fans Seek Greater Engagement Via Social Media, Special Events.

There's good news on the podcast front, with results from the latest in an ongoing series of MARU/Matchbox studies from Cumulus Media and Signal Hill Insights focused on podcast listener engagement – more specifically, how consumers are engaging with shows outside of listening.

The analysis of the October 2022 study of more than 600 weekly podcast listeners age 18 or older in Westwood One's weekly blog notes that they are not only listening to more shows (5.2 on average, up 11%) and episodes (6.5, up 5%) per week compared to April 2022, with the share of listeners of six or more hours weekly up to 39%, they're seeking out more opportunities to connect with their favorite hosts.

Podcast listeners are really hungry for more and more content,” Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group VP, Advertiser Measurement & Insights Lauren Vetrano says. “People are listening more, and they're consuming a huge number of podcasts in an average week.”

The study shows that nearly six in 10 (56%) of weekly podcast listeners follow a host on social media, with Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter the leading platforms for such, mentioned by anywhere between 54% and 64% of respondents. “It's a great way for them to connect and feel like they're personally engaging with the people that they love to listen to,” notes Vetrano.

Additionally, more than half (55%) say they are very or somewhat likely to attend a live virtual event for their favorite podcast, while close to half (47%) are on board for a live in-person event. “[It's] another opportunity for podcasters and hosts to really hone in on their audience, and a way to bring something that they love closer to them,” Vetrano says.

While most podcast content is free, nearly one-third (31%) of weekly listeners and almost half (43%) of heavy listeners are paid subscribers, as in either paying a regular subscription fee or a one-time donation to a platform like Patreon. For more than half (54%) of listeners, exclusive original content or exclusive access to creators and hosts would most influence their decision to pay, vs. 23% who would be more tempted by commercial-free content. “While an ad-free experience is nice to have, it's not really going to move that needle, [as] podcast listeners really are looking for our exclusive content that they can't get elsewhere,” Vetrano says.

Content-related exclusive benefits such as bonus episodes, access to extended episodes and behind-the-scenes content top the list of benefits podcast listeners say they'd pay for in a subscription. “This is a group that wants to absorb and listen to as much as possible,” Vetrano notes, “and they would pay for it if that's what it took.”

Another sign of heavy engagement with podcasts is MARU/Matchbox's finding that nearly three-fourths (73%) of weekly and 82% of heavy listeners consume new episodes within 24 hours of their release. “That's great for topical content or time-sensitive material that's out there,” Vetrano says. “[It's] another way podcast listeners are really engaged, they want to listen to it as soon as humanly possible.”

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