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Research: When Americans Covert To Podcasts, It Becomes Their Top Audio Source.


Whether it’s a neighborhood restaurant or a new podcast, success is built in the number of people who keep coming back. And newly released data in Cumulus Media’s 2024 Audioscape report shows podcasters are excelling at return business. In fact, when someone starts listening to podcasts, the medium becomes their top audio source.


Edison Research’s Share of Ear data shows podcast listeners spent a third (32%) of their audio listening time with podcasts. That beats out AM/FM radio by ten points and it’s well above streaming music (18%) or satellite radio (5%).


Edison says podcasting’s appeal has only grown since 2016. Eight years ago, podcasts had already become the top audio media for people who had adopted the podcast habit. But the gap with second place AM/FM radio was a smaller four-point spread.


Edison’s data shows that podcast listeners have maintained their time with broadcast radio, but they pulled time away from their owned-music collections. In 2016, Edison says owned music accounted for 13% of podcast listeners’ audio time. In 2023, that had fallen to just 3%.


“One of the early days’ findings from Share of Ear was that when people actually started to listen to podcasts, it became their most listened-to audio channel. We saw that in 2016. And we see that today,” says Pierre Bouvard, Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group Chief Insights Officer. “If you listen to podcast, one-third of your tuning minutes go to podcasts. It is a very sticky kind of content.”


The Audioscape report examines the latest podcast consumer trends as well as the remarkable growth of the medium in recent years. It points to Edison’s Share of Ear data showing a third (32%) of Americans aged 25-54 listened to podcasts on a daily basis during the fourth quarter of 2023. That was up from 29% at the end of 2022. And in 2016, 6.4% of Americans 25-54 listened to podcasts in an average day.


Weekly reach is even higher — 44% of this age group that advertisers are most focused on listen to podcasts, while Edison says the monthly reach climbs to 59%.


“For marketers who are not yet jumping into podcasting because they fear that podcasting is too much of a niche and doesn’t have any scale, think again,” Bouvard says. “Because podcast audience growth has been on a tear.” On a webinar detailing the podcast findings, he says the pandemic may have been “very good” for growing podcasting’s daily reach, but the industry’s gains did not stop once life returned to normal.


“The growth has been nothing short of stratospheric,” Bouvard says. “So podcasting is now a major media platform with significant scale.”


Edison’s data shows the median age of a podcast listener is 34, which is less than broadcast radio (47) or broadcast television (56).


“Some are now calling TV the media that’s playing in God’s waiting room,” Bouvard says. “Remarkably, the median age of the podcast audience has basically remained the same at 34. Despite all of the audience growth, this is the Dorian Gray of media, where the median age really hasn’t changed.”


As podcasting has brought in new listeners, it continues to over-index among people who are white-collar, have higher education degrees, and earn more than $75,000 a year.


“There is a kind of a top market skew to the podcast monthly audience,” Bouvard says. Nielsen Scarborough data shows that people in the top 10 U.S. cities are 13% more likely to be podcast monthly listeners, while people living in markets outside the top 50 are 19% less likely to be podcast listeners. “There is an opportunity outside of the top 50 to kind of develop podcast as a media platform and grow audience,” Bouvard says.


Salt Lake City remains the big metro area where podcast listening is the strongest. People there are 42-times more likely to listen to podcasts than the typical U.S. adult. Other tech hubs like San Francisco, Seattle, and Austin are also among the metro areas where podcast consumption rates are the highest.


Cumulus Media’s 2024 Audioscape report shows two-thirds (65%) of all podcast tuning minutes occur at home, and they are spread throughout the day. About a third of listening minutes occur in midday, with about a quarter of listening in mornings, and 18% going to both afternoons and evenings.


“Podcasting now represents a third of all ad-supported tuning minutes on smart speakers,” Bouvard says, noting AM/FM radio remains No. 1 with a 46% share of smart speaker listening minutes among ad-supported media. But while radio has held its own with a little less than half of smart speaker time, the growth story has been podcasts. In 2016, only 7% of smart speaker time went to listening to podcasts. Bouvard says the “real loser” of smart speaker time has been Pandora, which has seen share collapse from a third to 8% in the most recent data.


Download Cumulus Media’s 2024 Audioscape report HERE.

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