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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. The report shows that not only has the number of U.S. adults who consume podcasts at least monthly has 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, entertainment for listeners and that's really reflected by the findings of the study and the increased consumption that we've seen.”

The Nielsen data shows fears disrupted habits would mean 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 hit 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 for any media -- including AM/FM, which was 32%.

“Over the last kind of two years, but more specifically, the last kind of six to eight months, we've seen that people are really reevaluating how they spend their time,” said Southwell-Keely. The research shows that podcasting is an undersaturated 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 -- that a majority 57% of listeners consume a podcast 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 oneself with the content after a long time (38%), and to see if they missed anything the first time (36%). But 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 just in terms of engagement. Because the audiences are so loyal, they trust what the hosts say, they lean on every word. And there's really that symbiotic kind of relationship between a listener and a creator. That's really propelling the opportunity forward for brands.” He thinks the interest in relistening 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 types of media. A quarter (25%) of listeners said there are too many ads on podcasts, compared to half (50%) who said 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 ads, 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.

Other key findings include

  • 45% of respondents said they started listening to podcasts in the past year

  • 70% of listeners say they enjoy listening to guest interviews

  • 58% of listeners say they enjoy listening to panel discussions

  • 55% of listeners say they enjoy listening to host banter

  • News, music and comedy content are most frequently consumed, with nearly two thirds (64%) of podcast listeners listening to news shows every week.

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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