The growth of daily news podcasts and special shows like those dedicated to the coronavirus last spring have helped podcasting make inroads into Americans’ news habits. Forty-three percent of those surveyed for Pew Research’s annual report on news consumption said they get news from podcasts on their smartphone, computer, or tablet. That includes six percent who said they “often” get news from podcasts while they are using a digital device.
Pew found a stronger overlap between the use of podcasts and digital devices than between broadcast radio and the new technology. It found 41% of people who at least sometimes get their news from podcasts report they only get news from digital devices. The audio connection is strong, however, with a majority (57%) of those podcast news listeners saying they get news from both digital devices and AM/FM radio.
Pew’s report, titled Measuring News Consumption in a Digital Era, shows the research firm is still sorting out where podcasting fits in and what is the best way to ask Americans about their podcast habits. The authors say some of the responses they got in the 2020 report may be about the sequencing of the questions, such as how podcast questions were follow-ups to digital device answers. That could explain why some of the podcast numbers are lower than what may have been expected for a medium now reaching more than 100 million Americans per month. “Even though people are generally familiar with streaming devices, they do not commonly think of streaming devices when considering ways to access news,” the report says. Pew says adding podcasts as a separate item in future survey questions about news consumption may add clarity to the overall picture of news consumption habits.
Podcasting perceptions also seem to be lagging perceived usage, with some listeners not thinking about podcasts as a news source per se. It is a similar phenomenon seen with social media and search engines. The data does provide a data point on which to measure future results.
“Several participants omitted podcasts and search while initially discussing their news habits until these were explicitly brought up, particularly among people who do not use these platforms regularly for news,” the report said. “Participants generally thought of podcast and search as digital gadgets that are possible ways to get news and information if one wanted to rather than as an original source of news or as being tied to a particular news organization, similar to the way respondents largely understood social media.”
Among those who do turn to podcasts for news, four percent said in the week prior to the survey they listened to a podcast between five and seven days a week. That was slightly better than the number of days per week they said they typically listen to a news podcast.
Overall, Pew found television (47%) and broadcast radio (13%) were most often used for news, with print now third (11%). But it also said that digital devices now hold a majority 52% share of news consumption.
Download Pew’s complete Measuring News Consumption in a Digital Era report HERE.