Even Newer Listeners are Super Dedicated to Podcasts


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

We talk a lot about podcast listeners on this blog - for instance who they are, why they listen to podcasts, and what in particular they like about their favorite shows. Today we're going look at some recent data and examine trends around podcast adoption and increases in podcast listening over time.

Specifically, how long does it take people who are new to podcasts to become monthly or weekly listeners? And how do their listening habits change over time? We'll take a look at a new Edison Research survey to see what we can conclude about these trends, and discuss the important takeaways for podcast sponsors.


A third of podcast listeners say they started listening in the past year

PodConsumer2018 Years Listening To Pods - Weekly.PNG

Edison Research asked a new and very interesting question for the 2018 Podcast Consumer study (a more detailed breakout of the 2018 Infinite Dial survey that we talked about here.) They asked respondents who had listened to a podcast in the past week when they started listening to podcasts. Their responses are to the right.

What are we seeing here? As one might expect, more dedicated listeners (who have listened in the past week or month) are more likely to have started with podcasts a while ago. But if we look at the right side of this chart, for both monthly and weekly listeners, we see that a substantial portion - 30% of weekly and 33% of monthly listeners - have started listening to podcasts within the past 12 months.

This is significant, given our previous discussion about the "gap" in podcast listening - between people who've listened to at least one podcast before and those who say they're regular listeners. To have a third of monthly and weekly listeners indicate that they're recent adopters of the medium means there's a healthy pipeline of new audiences in podcasting.

What does this mean for podcast sponsors? This data confirms what we already know to be true anecdotally - podcast audiences are no longer just technology first-adopters or software engineers. Podcasts have become a widespread activity that more and more people continue to pick up. As such, audiences have become larger and more diverse, and better reflect the American adult population as a whole. Sponsors shouldn't worry that their product or service won't "fit" with podcast audiences. There are enough podcast shows and audiences that advertising of nearly all types of products will work on a podcast.


Weekly listeners are listening to more podcast audio hours than ever before

PodConsumer2018 Mean Listening Time Weekly.PNG

Not only are more people coming into podcasts each year, but those weekly podcast listeners have increased their density of listening. Edison Research asked respondents who self-identified as weekly listeners about how much content they consumed per week. For many years, this number in the Infinite Dial survey has been just under five hours of podcast audio per week. In 2018, the mean consumption was 6 hours 37 minutes, a 32% increase in a single year.

What's driving this uptick? The percentage of respondents who are listening to five hours of audio or more has jumped to about 30%. We can call these people "super listeners" - the extra-dedicated listener type we spoke about a few months ago.

We have a number of theories as to why people are increasing their listening density per week. One is the advent of the daily news podcast format, like The New York Times' The Daily podcast. These short podcasts of 10-20 minutes update listeners on the most important news stories of the day. As well, the increasingly popular trend of hit podcasts to release in batches, like WBEZ's S-Town or the LA Times' Dirty John, encourages Netflix-like binge listening and drives up listenership.

What does this mean for podcast sponsors? A higher listening density of podcast means more ears for ads. It also means that listeners are hearing more ads delivered in a week than before, so sponsors need to work with hosts to create compelling ads to stand out. However, sponsors will still benefit from the "halo effect" given by a host's recommendation, and the fact that listeners see ads as part of a show's content, not as interruptions. 


Podcast listeners are regularly listening to more podcast episodes and completing nearly all of them

It would seem somewhat intuitive that as listeners spend more time consuming podcast audio, the number of discrete podcasts they consume weekly will also climb. Some points like extra long podcasts above 90 minutes can cause these two metrics to move away from one another.

However, The Infinite Dial 2018 found that the total number of distinct podcasts consumed per week, which had been stuck at an average of 5 podcasts for many years, is now up to 7. See the comparison of 2018 to the 2017 survey:

2017 NumberofWeeklyPods.PNG

And recall from our previous discussion about Apple Podcasts' analytics data that listeners overwhelmingly finish episodes they start. This fact shows up in the self-reported Infinite Dial data as well:

Pod Consumer 2018 Podcast Completion Rates.PNG

What does this mean for sponsors? To recap, podcast consumers are still quite new to the medium, but they are still very dedicated to it. They have increased their average weekly listening time as well as the number of shows they consume, and they continue to listen to most if not all of the podcast episodes they start. For sponsors, this means more ads being served to listeners, and a near guarantee that no matter the ad slot, audiences will hear the ad. 


Another listening data point: playback speed

One final point from the Podcast Consumer survey is a question about playback speed. Edison Research asked respondents "Do you ever increase the speed of your podcasts in order to listen to them faster?” The results show that "speed listening" is more common among younger listeners and heavy podcast consumers:

This is a fairly new trend (and a new technology on most podcatcher apps), and its impacts on the industry thus far are unclear. It doesn't seem to impact comprehension of content or of ads, and mostly allows listeners to consume more podcasts in the time they have.

That's it for today! Check back soon for another look at new data from Edison Research, including the question "Is Americans' audio listening time a zero-sum game?"


More people are listening to podcasts than ever before. Reach new customers by creating a podcast ad campaign today. Contact us to learn how easy it is to get started advertising with Backyard Media's podcast partners.

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