Podcasting continues to reach new listeners, but the medium also continues to show healthy fundamentals among its existing fans. The number of heavy podcast listeners – those who consume six or more hours of content each week – reached an all-time high in the latest Podcast Download: Fall 2022 report from Cumulus Media and Signal Hill Insights. It finds 39% of weekly podcast listeners now fall into the heavy listener category, a two-point rise from a year ago.
As might be expected, more hours mean more shows. The survey finds the average number of shows weekly podcast listeners consume has grown to 5.2 per week, up from 4.7 in April. And the average number of episodes rose from 6.2 in April to 6.5 in October.
For the ninth edition of the study, Cumulus and Signal Hill once again commissioned MARU/Matchbox to survey weekly podcast listeners. The data shows so-called podcast pioneers – those who have been listening for at least four years – are 1.3-times more likely to be a heavy podcast listener as they spend on average 16% more time with the medium than newcomers.
In order to listen to more shows, a lot of listeners are making podcasting less of a solitary activity. That is especially true if they have kids. The survey finds 18% of adults with kids listen to podcasts with others, which is nearly double the 10% for people who don’t have children in the household. In a positive finding for producers of kid-targeted shows, MARU/Matchbox finds 48% of parents say they have co-listened to a show with children – and 20% do so frequently.
Nevertheless, podcasting generally remains a headphone – not speaker – media option. Weekly podcast listeners say an average of 87% of their listening time is by themselves, including 83% for heavy podcast listeners.
The study also finds that the definition of podcasting continues to evolve toward the visual. The vast majority (93%) of weekly podcast consumers say they had listened to a show, but 7% said they only watch video versions. That data indicates it is newcomers to podcasting that are most likely to be video-centric. Among those who have started listening in the past year, 22% say YouTube is the place where they consume the most shows.
Yet YouTube is pulling in more longtime podcast fans too. The study says one in five podcast pioneers now consume more podcasts on the video platform than anywhere else. The result is more weekly podcast listeners say they use YouTube (22%) than Apple Podcasts (18%).
But the latest YouTube figures end three years of growth as they are slightly lower than the MARU/Matchbox survey in April when 25% said they used the video platform the most. The coming year will reveal whether video consumption has hit a plateau, or the latest figures are an anomaly.
The report also tracks a growing number of people that are paying to subscribe to a podcast. It says nearly one in three (31%) of weekly podcast listeners and two in five (43%) of heavy podcast listeners now pay for such content.
The biggest motivator is also good news for shows that are not offering subscriptions. It turns out ad avoidance is not all that powerful a driving force with fewer than one in four (23%) saying they subscribe for an ad-free experience. What is appealing is access to original and exclusive content, mentioned by 39% of those surveyed. And another 15% pay in order to gain exclusive access to podcast creators.
In a medium whose shows range from kids programs to racy series about sex, MARU/Matchbox also quizzed podcast listeners to gauge their tolerance for graphic content and the kind of language that is not allowed on radio.
It found that 73% of weekly podcast listeners have no problem listening to a show with content that others might find unsuitable or objectionable. That compares to 27% that would turn it off. There appears to be a bit of wiggle room, however. The survey found that only 7% of listeners would hit the off button if a true crime podcast offered a disclaimer at the start of the show about racy content in the episode.
The MARU/Matchbox results are based on a nationally representative sample of 603 respondents among adults aged 18 and older who spent at least one hour listening to or watching podcasts within the past week. It was conducted from Sept. 23 to Oct. 4. Get a copy of the Podcast Download: Fall 2022 report HERE.