Diversity Hands 220

Podcasting continued to become more mainstream in 2021 as the number of monthly listeners hit 116 million Americans according to Edison Research, an increase of 12 million compared to a year earlier. Nielsen says “light” listeners – those who listen anywhere from one to three times per month – are now fueling the growth. That is not only different from five years ago when someone who listened to every episode from their favorite show was responsible for podcasting’s growth, but it is also a reflection of a greater diversity of podcasting’s listener base.

Nielsen Podcast Buying Power data shows that there is a broad spectrum of content being listened to. While Comedy and News are the most listened-to among Americans overall, a deeper dive shows that is not the case among Black, Hispanic, Asian, LGBTQ+ or people with disabilities. And even as the average weekly hours spent listening to podcast is fairly uniform at roughly three hours, the amount of time each group listens to a podcast ranges from nine to 12 times per month. Even listening location fluctuates. People with disabilities are the biggest at-home listeners. Nielsen says two-thirds (67%) of their podcast consumption comes at-home, while Asian Americans are most likely to listen outside the home. The data shows 43% of Asian Americans listen to podcasts most often while at home – a 24-point spread.

In terms of content, Nielsen says the Podcast Buying Power data reflects that listeners are most likely to consume shows that accurately articulate and illustrate their lived experience. Thanks to a greater focus on content diversity, with big producers like iHeartMedia creating verticals such as The Black Effect Podcast Network and My Cultura, never before has there been such an abundance of podcasts to meet the listener where they live. For instance, Kids & Family is the second biggest genre among U.S. Hispanics, who research has shown have larger families than other demographic groups. Podcast listening among Hispanics 25-39 has doubled in the last three years, Nielsen points out. And the number of Asian American podcast listeners has grown five-fold over the last decade.

“Especially for diverse audiences, content that connects isn’t just on-screen; these audiences want to hear from trusted voices with similar backgrounds or that have similar interests. Most importantly, the topics need to be inclusive and of interest—from credible sources with original voices,” says Nielsen in a blog post.

The transformation toward increased engagement with podcasts over the last decade has created the opportunity for all audiences to find more content that resonates. And while the positive momentum of podcasting is enticing more celebrity involvement and even fueling original TV content, podcasts are attracting big ad dollars, says Nielsen. “Notably, podcast advertising—particularly when read by the host—drives stronger brand recall punch than more traditional forms of advertisements.” It points out that Nielsen’s podcast ad effectiveness studies have found that host-read ads drive a brand recall rate of 71%, which subsequently creates high levels of consumer interest, purchase intent and recommendation intent. 

Among Black listeners, Nielsen says they are streaming audio more than other audiences, while listening more closely when brands reach out—averaging a 73% brand recall for podcast ads. “As podcasts more authentically appeal to a wide range of audiences, brands and agencies can track engagement with them and leverage targeted opportunities within marketing strategies and campaigns,” it says.