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Here Come The Gen Z Listeners. And They Have Plenty In Common With The Old Guard.

The oldest Gen Z-er is now 25 years-old and during the next several years the second generation of digital natives will continue to age into spoken word content and that has big implications for podcasters as a new crop of listeners arrive and makes their content demands known. Edison Research VP Megan Lazovick said nearly half of Gen Z is already monthly podcast listeners. “They already have a relationship with podcasts, but when you hit the age of 25, something happens and you just start consuming more spoken word,” she said. “When you are a teenager music is so important to you – but as you age and you are in your later 20s, that’s when you start to discover other types of content. Gen Z is about to tick-off that 25 box, and a lot is going to change as more of them age into this next age demo.”

Speaking at the Podcast Futures conference in New York, Hala Taha, who hosts the Young and Profiting podcast, said she has seen that phenomenon first hand as her audience has grown beyond Millennials to include more Gen Zs as they begin to have greater interest in issues like personal finance.

“I have heard people saying verbatim that they are listening to podcasts now that they are older,” said Taha. “I’m having a lot of listeners reaching out and saying they graduated from college and need a new place to learn -- and of course, audio is a great place to learn.”

Despite the age gap, podcasting’s old guard may have more in common with Gen Zs than they think, according to Libsyn VP Rob Greenlee. He thinks they align to the values and origins of podcasting.

“It’s a generation that is very compatible with podcasting. It’s authentic, it’s real, it’s spoken with passion and heart,” Greenlee said. “I’m really excited that generation is coming through because they’re going to maintain the values that built this community.” He believes the pandemic may have also helped that, since many young people used podcasts as a way to remain engaged and socially connected during the past few years.

Appealing To Gen Z

To appeal to Gen Z, Taha said she looks for topics that she would have been interested in at that age. And despite having most of her expert guests older than 40, she said Gen Zs have shown they have no problem with listening to people that are not in the same age group. But the biggest adjustment is promoting her show on the platforms where Gen Zs are most likely to be found, like TikTok.

Lazovick said Edison’s research has shown that Gen Z is a very open-minded generation. “They’re not going to judge people and they appreciate older generations. It’s just that they don’t want to be talked down to,” she said. “Authenticity is so important to this generation. You need to be authentically you in a way that they can appreciate.”

Gen Z may not be the first digital native generation, and with that Taha thinks it could also lead to an evolution in how they access content. “They’re not going to stick to Apple or Spotify if they’re not in that habit. They may need to find a new podcast app,” she predicted.

Edison’s qualitative research also suggests that Gen Z’s flexibility means that they have relatively positive feelings about broadcast radio too.

“They don’t necessarily listen to radio, but they think it’s cool because they have nothing against it,” Lazovick explained. She said nearly everything they asked Gen Zs about were labeled “cool” rather than “cringe,” demonstrating how much more open-minded this age group is. “There is not a lot of negativity on things at all, even if they don’t personally like it, they’re not going to knock it. That’s a double-edged sword for radio,” Lazovick said. “It’s great that they don’t have an issue for it. It would be better if they actually listened to it more than they do. But it’s at least half the battle.”

Greenlee predicts more radio companies will embrace podcasting as a way to survive in the future. As they do, the listeners they find will be different than those who have tuned into podcasts so far. Greenlee believes an inflection point occurred when the Serial phenomenon occurred, spurring interest in storytelling content creation, particularly among older Gen Z podcasters who were hearing things they could be passionate about.

“It's a significant development in podcasting to have this generation to join us,” he said. “Gen Z is the future.”

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