More than half of U.S. adults say they are listening to podcasts more often, with the habit picked up by many during COVID lockdowns showing little sign of abating as the country travels further down a path to more normal life and media consumption patterns.
In the latest wave of its Consumer Sentiment Study series, Nielsen says a majority of those surveyed (56%) said they are listening to podcasts more frequently compared to two years ago when the pandemic began. Another 41% said their listening frequency has held steady, while three percent said they are listening less.
Even as some people are simply listening to more of the podcasts they already know and love, Nielsen says most of the people it surveyed (52%) reported they are now listening to a greater number of shows than they did two years ago, while 44% are consuming about the same number. Perhaps most important is that just four percent say they are listening to fewer shows despite relaxed pandemic restrictions allowing them to get back out into the world.
Nielsen’s survey also reflects the impact that the pandemic likely had on the introduction of podcasting to many Americans. More than half of the adults it surveyed said they started listening to podcasts within the past two years.
“That suggests that their podcast listening was clearly influenced by the pandemic and their lifestyle changes,” said Bill Rose, Senior VP of Audio Customer Solutions at Nielsen. “So the pandemic certainly added a certain amount of adrenaline to the growth of podcast listeners.”
The new numbers are from the eighth installment of Nielsen’s Consumer Sentiment Study series, fielded in March 2022 via a national online survey of 1,000 persons aged 18+. The latest wave of data measuring the pandemic mindset has shown that podcast listeners, as well as broadcast radio listeners, are now returning to their normal lifestyle habits. The data shows podcast listeners are more likely to go out for dinner or meet friends in-person.
The data also points to why marketers looking to reach consumers in the market for various purchases might be well-advised to place ads in audio media. It shows 43% of podcast listeners plan to make a trip and 34% plan to buy a new car – both higher purchase rates than the public overall.
“Both radio and podcast listeners are more likely to plan a major purchase in the next year,” said Rose. “That’s all good news for the economy in general, and obviously for audio in general.”
When Nielsen conducted its first survey in April 2020 to measure the impact of the pandemic lockdown on consumers, it identified three distinct groups – a “wait and see” group that isn’t ready to resume most normal activities; a “proceed with caution” contingent carefully preparing to resume some (but not all) normal activities; and a “ready to go” crowd less concerned about virus risk and intending to resume most normal activities. While each of those groups was roughly the same size two years ago, today Nielsen says an overwhelming 83% is in the “ready to go” group versus 13% in the “proceed with caution” camp with four percent taking a wait-and-see approach.
“It’s a really remarkable recovery for where we were, not just at the peak of the pandemic during the lockdown, but even where we were just a year ago,” Rose said.