With more than 1.7 million podcast titles available for listeners to choose from at the start of 2021, advertisers looking to add podcasts to their marketing plans are faced with a dilemma: how to ensure that their programs and messages align with who’s listening. A new report from Nielsen examines audience trends for what has become the new audio darling to help focus both advertisers and content creators on where the growth is.
“Podcasting Today” portrays an increasingly diverse audience for the medium. Forty one percent of U.S. podcast listeners are non-White, which makes the podcast audience more diverse than the country’s total population. Driving this diversity are annual growth rates among non-White podcast listeners that notably outpaced the growth of White listeners over the past decade.
Hispanics have gravitated to podcasts more than any other group, Nielsen says, as the reach among this population segment increased six-fold, from 1.1 million in 2010 to 6.8 million in 2019. That’s well above the 4-times rate of growth among Whites.
Along with a faster adoption, the podcast genres that Hispanics engage with are notably different from what other groups listen to. For example, kids and family podcasts rank highest among Hispanic consumers, a genre that doesn’t even rank in the top five among Whites or Asian Americans.
Given their strong family ties and abundance of multigenerational households, the preference shouldn’t come as a surprise, the report notes. Hispanics are the nation’s youngest ethnic group and are 40% more likely to live in a multigenerational household.
Beyond kids and family, the top podcast genres for Hispanic podcast consumers are technology and music. Among Black listeners the top three genres are music, health & fitness, and religion. White podcast listeners favor history, science and society, and culture. For Asian Americans, it’s technology, science, and business.
As podcast audiences continue to grow in diversity, they are seen as the new audio opportunity and that cuts across different ethnic groups. In looking at how Hispanic and Black consumers react to retail advertising they hear in podcasts, Nielsen says Black audiences are notably more likely to take action, including visiting a store to make a purchase.
The report also makes the case that podcasting has withstood the effects of COVID-19. Along with everything else, the pandemic altered traditional audio listening habits. Yet despite the reduced time consumers spent in their vehicles, “the pandemic has proven the resiliency of podcasts,” the report states. While heavy podcast listenership remains somewhat flat on a year-over-year basis – roughly 25% of U.S. podcast consumers listen 10 or more times per month – the lure of podcasting has broadened with notable growth in light podcast users, defined as those who don't listen every day. The latest data shows that more than half (53.8%) of U.S. consumers 18+ listen to podcast at least once a week.
A flattening of usage trends among heavy podcast listeners during the pandemic shouldn’t come as a surprise, Nielsen suggests. These listeners are 24% less likely than the general 18+ population to listen at home and are 50% more likely to listen at work. With much of the workforce continuing to work remotely, heavy podcast listeners are expected to largely remain static in terms of growth.
Heavy listeners do, however, listen out of the home at other locations, including the gym (39% more likely), so they do remain actively engaged with podcasts despite many consumers’ new work-from-home lifestyles. Light podcast listeners, meanwhile, are almost 10% more likely to listen at home, which Nielsen says explains the uptick in this group’s engagement over the past year.
“Regardless of listener type, podcast consumers enjoy variety, which means that brands shouldn’t plan their podcast advertising opportunities in a vacuum,” the report advises. Specifically, only one in four (25.5%) U.S. podcast listeners tune into just one episode in a given week. Almost 40% tune in to four or more episodes each week. “So, while it’s not necessary (or possible) to advertise in all 1.7+ million podcasts, brands should be considering a variety as they plan their reach goals.”