Podcast Listening Is Growing Says Nielsen, Thanks In Part To Smart Speakers.



Podcasting’s audience size is again growing according to Nielsen Scarborough’s Podcasting Buying Power Service. After a flat 2020, the pandemic and ongoing recovery have inspired millions of new listeners to begin sampling podcasts, particularly from home where the growing smart speaker numbers make it easier to listen.


Nielsen’s latest Audio Today report shows that podcast grazers are now the medium’s biggest audience. Nearly half (49%) of new podcast consumers are described as “light” listeners, those who listen to a podcast one to three times per month. Yet a still-sizable number of podcast newcomers are consuming a lot of content. Nielsen says three in ten report they listen to a podcast ten or more times per month and nearly a quarter listen to a podcast four to nine times.


“It is the Boomers that are making the largest gains from 2018 to 2021, going from 12% to 16%,” said Nielsen VP of Cross Platform Insights Tony Hereau on a recent webinar. “These are not core listeners, but they are the ones exploring podcasting and maybe getting into it for the first time. But make no mistake, it’s Millennials and Gen X that make up the largest portions of listening for podcasting.”


Because podcast listening is typically highly engaged, it does not have the big at-work listening numbers of AM/FM radio or music streaming services. As a result, Nielsen says at-home has traditionally been the place where most people listen to a podcast. What the pandemic has done, however, is make that gap even larger.


Half of all new podcast listeners are listening while at home according to Nielsen’s latest data. And with more people working from home, in-transit listening has declined five points from 40% in May 2020 to 35% in May 2021. At-work listening has held largely steady, and now makes up 11% of listening among new podcast consumers.


“At-home listening because of lockdown is where we saw the biggest growth,” said Hereau. He said at-home is also often where a lot of light podcast newcomers start out. “It’s those heavy and medium listeners that are taking podcasting with them,” he said.


Nielsen’s latest Podcast Buying Power survey found that Comedy was the most popular genre, with nearly 43% of adults aged 18 and older listening to a show from that category. News – which often holds the top spot – slid back to second (36%), followed by Society & Culture (31%).


This fall Nielsen says it plans to release a new Podcasting Today report that will offer a deeper dive into podcasting listening habits.


Elsewhere across the listening landscape, Nielsen says AM/FM radio listening is now at its highest level in 16 months as radio consumers are leading the way in resuming weekly activities at pre-pandemic levels. Despite recent developments around the pandemic, the report also generally details the still mostly dominant tide of optimism that headlines the American experience as we continue to grapple with the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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