Now Mainstream, Podcasting Builds Audience Among Young, Diverse Listeners.


The number of Americans who say they listen to podcasts on a weekly basis has jumped 17% during the past year. The annual Infinite Dial report from Edison Research and Triton Digital found 28% of listeners aged 12 and older consume podcasts each week, a figure that translates to roughly 80 million Americans.


“Podcasting has grown significantly, especially with weekly listeners,” said Edison Research Senior VP Tom Webster. “We have a lot of daily podcasts that have driven frequency, but really it is podcasts of all topics and genres that are driving this,” he said during a webinar unveiling the annual study on Thursday.


The Infinite Dial 2021 shows weekly podcast listeners tune into five series per week, consuming an average eight episodes a week. But the range shows a much wider variety of habits. One in five weekly podcast listeners said they consumed 11 or more shows in the past week. The same number said they listened to between six and ten episodes. The smallest share – just one in ten – said they listened to just one episode.


Another of podcasting’s growth metrics is familiarity, since someone clearly needs to know what a podcast is before they can hunt one down on their smartphone. On that front, the Infinite Dial shows more progress has been made. The data shows 78% of the 12+ population is now familiar with podcasting, an increase of three points from a year ago.


“More than three-quarters is familiar with the term podcasting and generally know what it is,” said Webster. “It’s well into the mainstream.”


The trend line shows just how dramatic the past few years have been for podcast exposure. Since Serial’s breakout season caused a media buzz in 2014, the number of Americans familiar with podcasting has jumped from 125 million in 2014 to 222 million in 2021.


The result of that growing familiarity is a majority (57%) of Americans aged 12 and older now say they have ever listened to a podcast. And 41%, or 116 million, say they listen to podcasts monthly.


“Where we have seen continued growth is among 12-34 year-olds, that continues to be the biggest story in recent growth in podcasting,” said Webster. The data shows more than half (56%) of teens and young adults have listened to a podcast in the last month. That compares to 39% among 35-54 year-olds and 26% among those aged 55 and older.


Men still have a slight edge when it comes to podcast consumers as 51% of monthly podcast listeners are male compared to 46% female (3% non-binary). But Webster noted that is more in line with the overall population breakout. “Fifteen years ago, it was about two-thirds men, so every year that gets a little bit more gender equitable,” he said.


The complexion of podcast consumers is also changing. “We have also seen podcasting get less white,” said Webster. The 2021 data shows a majority (57%) of monthly listeners identify as white, but that is down from 68% a decade ago.


Black monthly podcast listeners dipped in 2021 but have remained mostly steady through the years. The biggest growth has been among Hispanics, with their share of monthly podcast listening growing by 45% during the past decade to 16% in the latest report. That is largely driven by the gains among young people, who are less white than the population overall.


“The demographics of podcast listeners continues to diversify,” said Triton Digital President of Market Development John Rosso. “In 2021, the composition of female listeners reached an all-time high. While podcast consumers continue to be mostly white, the medium exhibited very strong gains with Hispanics and with Black listeners and podcast audiences now very nearly reflect the diversity of the U.S. population.”


The pandemic colored some of the data released in the Infinite Dial 2021, including a drop in the number of people who said they had been in a car in the past month. Eighty-three percent of Americans aged 18 and older said they had been. Yet among that crowd, podcasting had the only increase in in-car media usage. Among that group, the number who said they listened to a podcast rose to 30%. That was up from 28% last year.


“It’s been an unusual 12 months,” said Webster. “One of the things that we discovered, after that initial disruption, was that audio of all forms came roaring back, especially podcasting.”


The Infinite Dial 2021 is based on a nationally representative telephone survey of both mobile phones and landlines among Americans ages 12 and older. A total of 1,507 persons were interviewed from January 4 to February 2. The survey was offered in both Spanish and English.


Download a copy of the Infinite Dial 2021 HERE.

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