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Podcast Listening Is Again Growing In 2022 Says Reuters, But News Habits Are Changing.

Podcast usage is again climbing after what the Reuters Institute says was a “pause” in that growth rate a year ago as seen in its worldwide report on media usage and news consumption habits. “Podcast growth has resumed this year in more than half of our markets after COVID-19 had disrupted the commute to work, negatively affecting news consumption,” it says in a just released report. Reuters reports across the 20 countries including the U.S. where it is confident the term “podcasting” is now well understood, 34% of the people it surveyed said they had listened to a podcast in the past month. That is a three-point increase from a year ago. And 12% of those surveyed said podcasts are now one of the ways they access news.

In the U.S., podcast listening is even higher. By Reuters measure, 37% of Americans said they listened to a podcast in the past month.

The gains come despite what Reuters says are some worries about the reliability of the content. “I listen to Joe Rogan a lot, but he’s not a reliable news source. He’s just some guy with a podcast,” a 23-year-old American man who took the survey said.

Even so, Rogan’s home of Spotify is one of the winners in the report. “Our data show Spotify continuing to gain ground over Apple and Google Podcasts in a number of countries and YouTube also benefiting from the popularity of video-led and hybrid podcasts,” Reuters said.

Podcasts are likely also benefiting from one of what Reuters says is a clear throughline in this year’s report – the changing habits of younger people, especially those under age 30. It says the pandemic and other shocks of the past few years have also accelerated structural media shifts toward digital and mobile media.

“Young people like a range of formats and media, from text to video to audio, and are drawn to information that is curated for them,” the report says. On top of that, many young people have a wider definition of what news is. Reuters says its qualitative research reveals that younger audiences use a much wider umbrella to decide what fits the definition than older demos.

Reuters says it is not only podcasts that are driving audio consumption. It also credits new voice interfaces and devices such as smart speakers and in-car infotainment systems. Smart speakers now reach 13% of Americans, it says, but news numbers are so far “disappointing” as just 4% of those surveyed listen to news on the device in the U.S.

News Fatigue Sets In

Overall, Reuters says compared to a year ago it finds a “slightly less optimistic picture” for the news industry compared to a year ago when the coronavirus was driving news consumption. The survey data shows interest in news has fallen sharply across markets, from 63% in 2017 to 51% in 2022. Meanwhile, the proportion of news consumers who say they avoid news, often or sometimes, has increased sharply across the globe. In the U.S. the data shows 15% have disconnected. And less than half the Americans in the sample (47%) say they are very or extremely interested in news compared with 67% in 2015.

Trust in the news has fallen in almost half the countries in the survey, including in the U.S. where the 26% trust level is the lowest of any country tracked by Reuters. Only 41% of Americans say they trust the news they themselves use.

“We find that interest in news and overall news consumption has declined considerably in many countries while trust has fallen back almost everywhere -- though it mostly remains higher than before the coronavirus crisis began,” the report says. “We’re also seeing news fatigue setting in – not just around COVID-19 but around politics and a range of other subjects – with the number of people actively avoiding news increasing markedly.”

Reuters survey data shows Americans tend to think their news outlets are more partisan than in most other countries. There is also a growing focus on individual journalists rather than news brands. While that is something that may help podcasters in the future, none currently make the grade in any country where surveys were conducted with most coming from television.

The study was commissioned by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and conducted by YouGov using an online questionnaire during January and February. The U.S. sample size was 2,036.

Download the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2022 report HERE.

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