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Podcasting ‘Super Listeners’ Give Medium 11 Hours Per Week. But Ad Load Concerns Appear.

Podcasting’s biggest fans are finding more time in their day to listen to shows. But this subset of the medium’s top customers is also highly sensitive to advertising and the latest Super Listeners Study from Edison Research includes some warnings for podcasters.

One of out of two so-called super listeners – those that reported listening to podcasts for five or more hours per week – said that podcast advertising was the best way for a brand to reach them. That is up from 37% who said that in 2019. But the number of super listeners who think the total number of ads in podcasts is increasing has also grown.

Edison says 59% of super listeners think compared to a year ago, the number of ads on podcasts they regularly listen to has increased. That is the biggest increase to date in the three-year old study. The number of super listeners who said it is important for them to limit their exposure to advertising also rose nine points, to 59%.

“Though we have seemingly not yet ruined podcast with advertising, we have to note that these people are conscious of the number and amount and quality of messaging that they are receiving in all of their media and they’re noticing it,” said Edison Senior VP Tom Webster during a webinar Wednesday.

More than one in five (22%) super listeners agree there are “way too many” ads on podcasts, which is more than twice the 10% who said that in 2019. Despite the jump, Webster noted it is still a smaller number than for other media like television (37%) or broadcast radio (33%).

“This is the cautionary tale,” said Marshall Williams, the CEO of radio and podcast ad agency Ad Results Media. “We just need to be prudent about placing good quality ads in the podcast and not serve three, four, five ads in sequence to a consumer that is not used to that. They’ll simply go somewhere else,” he said during the presentation.

The silver lining in the ad data was that podcast’s super listeners think that the ads they are being served are more relevant than in the past. They also still say they are more willing to consider products and services of podcast advertisers than other media, including three-quarters that have visited a website based on a podcast ad and two-thirds that have considered or purchased a product based on a podcast ad.

“The podcasting space absolutely works,” said Williams. “There are very few things that have greater connective tissue with their audience than podcasting.”

For now, the ad impact seems minor, if any. Weekly time spent listening to podcasts increased seven percent last year among super listeners. Edison says they spent an average of 11.2 hours listening to podcasts, up from 10.5 hours a year earlier. And three in ten said they listen to 12 or more hours of podcast content per week.

“These super listeners are finding more time in their day to listen to podcasts,” said Webster, who pointed out the average has increased by more than an hour during the past two years.

One factor could be more people are working from home during the pandemic, and it is easier to listen to a podcast when not in the office. Webster said that could prove beneficial even as people head back to the workplace. “As people adopt this habit, it becomes part of their life,” he predicted.

The survey found that 68% of super listeners subscribe to an audio service. A quarter (26%) said it was to avoid advertising -- a five percent increase year-to-year. “What we’re seeing is a slightly increased sensitivity to advertising,” said Webster. But the bigger factors were to gain more control over their listening content (39%) or to gain access to content that they cannot get free elsewhere (35%).

Super listeners are audio-driven more than the average American, and among that crowd the survey found 87% said they would be willing to use a specific app if their favorite podcast became exclusive to the service. And 62% said they would be willing to pay for the service if a subscription became necessary to listen to the show.

The survey also showed YouTube is playing a greater role even among super listeners. A majority 55% said they have listened to podcasts using the video streaming service. And in a switch from previous reports, more super listeners are discovering new shows from YouTube than from friend or family recommendations by a 19% to 17% margin.

Williams said podcast’s biggest listeners are largely younger listeners who grew up with a mobile device in their hand. He thinks YouTube serves as a de facto search engine. “That’s why you see that jump,” he said.

Edison’s Super Listener Study is based on 1,000 online interviews conducted in Nov. 2021 among people who reported listening to podcasts for at least five hours per week.

Download the full report HERE.

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