The Podcast Boom in Canada


Welcome to The Yard, a blog by Backyard Media that explains the podcast industry and podcast advertising.

This is the first in a three-part series about the state of podcasting in other anglophone countries, as compared to industry trends in the United States.  

Podcasting has experienced a huge surge of interest in the past three to four years. We've talked about that here, here and here. But much of the coverage of this podcasting boom has been about the United States.

On its face, this makes sense: many of the the most popular podcasts are American, the new private podcast studios are based in places like Brooklyn, LA, and Austin, and many established American media organizations like The New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR are creating podcast-first content. But as we've seen in the industry research, podcasting is not only taking off in the US. Today, we'll look at two studies that give us a clue as to how podcasts are doing in Canada.


Canada is a smaller podcast market

The landscape of Canadian podcasting is still maturing in terms listeners, money, and podcast studios. The biggest players in 2018 are the country's 86-year-old public radio organization, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), media critic Jesse Brown's independent network Canadaland, and a few smaller boutique studios. The CBC currently lists over one hundred podcasts on its site, and Brown's studio counts four successful shows and a robust subscription-based funding model.

When it comes to quantifying just how many Canadians are listening, we should look to a study from late 2017 conducted by Ulster Media and the Globe and Mail. That study (download link here) notes that between 7 and 10 million Canadians are listening to podcasts, depending on which listening metric you use. Canada has a population in 2018 of over 36 million people, meaning between 19% and 27% of citizens are podcast listeners.

Canada's smaller population makes scalability for Canada-specific studios and shows more difficult, but as we'll see below, Canadians are still an incredibly valuable group of podcast consumers that are worth reaching.


There may be fewer Canadian podcast listeners, but they are more dedicated

The other survey we're using is The Infinite Dial. Edison Research, the same firm that has done the Infinite Dial survey of Americans' digital media habits since 1998, expanded it to Canada in 2018. They sampled 1000 people in both English and French about their media habits. Here are a few interesting tidbits from that report:

Familiarity with podcasting as a medium is lower in Canada, but the all-important metric of monthly listening is higher compared to the US. 28% of respondents said they had listened to at least one podcast in the past month vs 25% for the US. Notably, the popularity of podcasts among the 18-34 Millennial demographic is very high - 41% of respondents said they had listened to a podcast n the past month. Weekly listening, an interesting but less stable metric of consumption, has Canada higher at 19% vs 17% of American respondents. As in the US, Millennials outstrip all other age brackets with 27% of respondents listening every week.

Second, Canadian respondents listen to podcasts on their computers at a much higher rate than Americans, because they listen overwhelmingly at home instead of in the car:

Canada ID 2018 Pg 45.PNG
Canada ID 2018 Pg 46.PNG


Why this lack of podcast consumption in the car? It could be due to more consumers choosing to listen to other audio sources, like AM/FM radio or their own music, but the Infinite Dial Canada showed that Canadians are just as likely as Americans to list podcasts as their main source of in-car audio (3% of respondents for both groups). One likelier explanation is the relative lack of in-car dash "infotainment" systems in Canada:


Canada ID 2018 Pg 35.PNG

So, Canadians are choosing to listen more at home than in the car because there's friction in listening to podcasts through their car dashboards.

Despite this, the survey found that Canadians are incredibly loyal podcast listeners. We've spoken about how podcast listeners almost always complete an episode once they start it, but it might be the case that Canadians are the quintessential example of this fact. We can tell this using the "podcast completion" metric that the Infinite Dial asks in its survey.

When asked how much of an episode they complete once they start it, Canadians and Americans are equal in either completing the "entire episode" or "most of the episode." But Canadians complete the podcast episode at a noticeably higher rate than Americans:

Canada ID 2018 Pg 48.PNG

It's hard to say if this is due to Canadians' tendency to listen at home (meaning they have less of a need to switch locations and possibly stop their podcast). But this metric says a lot about the effectiveness of podcast ad delivery for Canadian audiences - wherever an ad shows up, Canadians are going to hear it.


Canadian podcast listeners are valuable because they're a hard-to-reach demographic for advertisers

One point from the Ulster Media survey that is particularly relevant for podcast advertisers is the kind of audience that podcasts tend to attract.

First, podcasting audiences skew wealthier than the average Canadian. 29% of households earning $100,000 or more said they were regular (i.e. monthly) podcast listeners. 23% of households earning $50,000-99,000 said they were regular listeners, and a slightly lower 21% of those earning under $50,000 said they were. As a medium, podcast listeners in Canada, much like in the US, already have more disposable income than the average consumer and are thus an excellent audience for sponsors of all kinds, from digital-first products to luxury brands to other consumer goods.

Second, podcast listening is correlated with higher educational attainment. Here's a very striking slide from the Ulster Media survey:


Ulster Media Education Listening.PNG

Ask any Canadian podcast listener their highest level of education, and they are much more likely than the general public to have a university education. For comparison, Statistics Canada reported in 2016 that about 24.7% of Canadians had a post-secondary degree. This makes sense, given the correlation of education and higher income, but drives home the value of the type of person that is tuning into podcasts in Canada.

Finally though, as with much of the data we have on US listeners, Canadian podcast listeners skew much younger. We alluded to this a bit earlier when speaking about Millennial listeners, but the different among age cohorts in the Ulster survey is particularly stark. We've put the Ulster data below, along with the same data point from the Infinite Dial:

Ulster Media Listening by Age.PNG
Canada ID 2018 Monthly Listening Age.PNG

These younger listeners represent a coveted, yet difficult to attract audience for digital marketers. Podcasts are in many ways still a platform for younger people between the ages of 18 and 34. This also implies a big growth opportunity in the later Generation X and Baby Boomer cohorts. As we discussed in our last blog, the industry needs to create more content that holds on to occasional listeners better, and older listeners are just the cohort to target.


The Great White North has huge growth potential

Having looked at the data from these two surveys, it's clear that Canada needs to do a lot of growing to resemble the same kind of widespread appeal as the American podcast market. Its smaller population means that in terms of raw numbers, Canadian podcast audiences won't ever be the same size as those in the US. However, one data point in the Ulster Media study shows that Canadian podcast studios (and by extension, their advertisers) could do well by doubling down on a niche of Canada-focused podcasts.

That's because Canadians say they want to hear more Canadian podcasts. 47% of Ulster Media respondents said they would like to hear more Canada-based content. As well, when asked to list their top podcast shows, Canadians' top 10 included four Canadian shows. So there exists an incredible hunger for domestic content that doesn't seem to be adequately met by the current landscape of the CBC and a few podcast studios like Canadaland.

In part two, we look at the state of podcasting in the UK, and see what the research tells us about British podcast consumers and the dominant studios there. Read that post here.

In part three, we analyze the state of podcast listenership in Australia using additional survey data from Edison Research. Read that post here.


Podcasting is booming everywhere. Take advantage of this explosive trend by including podcasts in your digital marketing campaigns today. Contact us to learn how easy it is to get started advertising with Backyard Media's podcast partners.

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