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New Acast-Nielsen Survey Shows Podcasts ‘Are The New Soundtrack Of Our Lives.’

Podcast listening is on the rise according to a new study from Acast in partnership with Nielsen. Not only has the number of U.S. adults who consume podcasts at least monthly increased this year, so has the amount of time they spend listening. Half (52%) of listeners report increasing their podcast listening time during the past six months – and 41% predict they will bump up their podcast listening hours in the coming six months.

“This really shouts from the rooftops that podcasts are the new soundtrack of our lives,” said Nick Southwell-Keely, U.S. Director of Sales and Brand Partnerships at Acast. “Obviously, everyone's lives have been uprooted and changed over the last almost two years, but the one thing that is pretty clear is that podcasts are here to stay and really provide a real source of inspiration and entertainment for listeners.”

The Nielsen data shows that fears of disrupted habits causing less listening have mostly not materialized. Just one in ten podcast listeners have reduced listening time. By comparison, 17% said they cut AM/FM radio listening – although even radio’s impact is muted by the fact that twice as many (36%) said they’ve been listening to more radio during the past six months.

Acast says younger listeners and men were most likely to have increased podcast listening time. For those that consumed fewer podcasts, lack of time was the key reason. The upside is that consumption might return when their situation changes.

In an encouraging sign for podcasters, the survey finds 41% expect to listen to more podcasts in the coming six months. That’s a better predicted growth rate than for any media – including AM/FM, which was 32%.

“Over the last kind of two years, but more specifically during the last six to eight months, we've seen that people are really reevaluating how they spend their time,” said Southwell-Keely.

The research shows podcasting to be an under-saturated market, as consumers desire more content than is being produced. For example, three quarters of respondents say they listen to podcasts weekly — but just 43% of podcasts currently publish on a weekly cadence.

Episodes Get Second Listens

Episodes may seem fleeting to producers but the study also unearthed a new finding: a majority (57%) of listeners consume episodes more than once. That includes roughly one in three podcast listeners who said they either “often” or “sometimes” listen to a podcast again and another quarter that “sometimes” does. The reasons most commonly cited were to better understand the content (41%), to refresh their knowledge (38%), and to see if they missed anything the first time (36%). A quarter said they wanted to have a social listening session with other people.

“People are going back and listening again and again to the same episodes, to their favorite, bingeable shows,” said Southwell-Keely. “It really does present a very unique opportunity for brands entering the space in terms of engagement because the audiences are so loyal, they trust what the hosts say, and they lean on every word. That's really propelling the opportunity forward for brands.” He thinks the interest in re-listening to an episode may also reflect ad load fatigue that Americans have with other mediums like radio and television, with podcast ad loads much lighter.

Lower Ad Fatigue Scores

The study found that there are low levels of advertising fatigue for podcasts compared to other media. A quarter (25%) of listeners said there are too many ads on podcasts, compared to half (50%) who think that about cable TV.

Few people are skipping podcast ads, however. That data shows three-quarters (76%) listen to ads with nearly as many (73%) reporting they have taken an action after hearing an ad.

Yet with one in four podcast listeners believing there are too many commercials, Southwell-Keely said it sends a message to the industry that it needs to up its ad game. “We always have to be mindful of the tone and not repurpose radio content in the podcast space, ensuring that it is tailored and very contextually relevant so it's going to resonate with those audiences,” he said.

Half of all respondents said advertising on a podcast is the best way for a brand to reach them, and 55% say they developed a more positive opinion towards brands that advertised on their favorite podcasts.

Southwell-Keely says numbers like that are an indication that if done right, more ads could be tucked into episodes. “As long as we're mindful of finding the right tone, there is the opportunity for those clever brand integrations to increase those moments of conversation that can really resonate for brands,” he said.

Consumers are three times more likely to prefer listening to ads than paying a subscription fee for podcasts, the study also showed.

The online survey of 1,980 U.S. adults aged 18 and older who consume podcasts at least monthly was conducted in July.

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