New Listeners Are Giving A Lift To Podcasting’s Mainstream Genres, Says Nielsen.


The number of podcasts is still growing – Nielsen’s latest tally shows 2.1 million different series and 91.9 million episodes released to date. But with more than half (51%) of podcast listeners picking up the habit in the past two years, Nielsen says it is seeing changes in what makes it to the top of the list of most listened-to genres.


Comedy remains in the lead, with an estimated 28.4 million consuming a comedy podcast in May. That’s up 44% when compared to November 2019. News stays in second place, with 26.8 million listeners. With True Crime’s audience growing by two-thirds, it now ranks as the third most popular podcast genre according to Nielsen. “It's always been in the top five, but it's definitely become a hot topic lately,” said Nielsen VP Tony Hereau.


During a webinar last week for clients, Hereau also pointed out that the audience for music-based podcasts has more than doubled, putting the genre into the top five for the first time. There was a similar doubling in the size of the reach of Leisure podcasts.


“If you think about all those new people that are coming into podcasting, these are a lot of mainstream listeners and they are interested in mainstream formats,” said Hereau. “That's the type of new growth that podcasting is bringing. And it's lifting some of these more mainstream titles. But as you can see across the board, there's been growth in the audience for every single genre of podcasting.”


Nielsen also looked at how different genres performed for advertisers. Its data shows 57% of Society & Culture listeners find the ads on shows in that genre interesting, while 41% rate them as entertaining, and 40% find ads on those shows authentic. Sports and Comedy podcasts also performed at similar levels.


Nielsen also recently conducted a consumer survey that found 56% of podcast listeners agree that host-read ads get more of their attention. More than four in ten (44%) of all consumers – including those that don’t listen to podcasts – said the same thing. Radio listeners are more accustomed to pre-recorded ads it seems, since a smaller number (37%) of radio listeners said host-read ads get more of their attention.


“If you think about the nature of podcasts itself, and why people are so engaged, it makes sense because they’re already locked-in listening to their favorite hosts and when they’re talking about a product or service, they’re definitely going to be kind of keyed into it,” said Nielsen VP Arica McKinnon. “Across all the data that we've collected from our podcast brand lift studies, the data has shown us that host-read ads really do a great job at driving familiarity, as well as info seek, recall, and brand fit, compared to some of those non-host read ads.”


The Nielsen survey showed even as more new listeners come into the medium, the halo of host-reads continues to benefit the personalities. Six in ten said the live-reads make the host seem likeable, four in ten rate them as credible and relatable, and about a third said the ads make the personalities seem fun.


“What's great to see here is all of these positive attributes,” said McKinnon. “It goes back to podcasts are known for hosts reading the ads and they do come off as more authentic, since typically, that particular talent may have some type of personal experience with the brand. So, it's just natural for them to kind of select a host who comes off as more you know, likeable, relatable to sell a product.”


Nielsen’s data also shows how the number of people who have visited a website after hearing a podcast ad has grown by nearly a third during the past three years. Nearly 30 million podcast listeners said this spring they have done so. About half that number have done so to buy the advertised product, a 37% increase from three years ago.


Nielsen says podcast engagement is also rising among consumers who pay for audio streaming services, as 61% say they plan to increase their podcast consumption in the coming year.


Podcast listeners spend an average of 90 minutes per day in their car according to Nielsen. Yet it also says the data shows that while many consider audio an in-car medium, at-home podcast listening has increased. It credits daily podcast listeners, who are listening more often and to more titles.


Download Nielsen’s latest Podcasting Today report HERE.

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