HDC Lead

Podcasting is gaining traction in the UK with the same gusto that the industry is witnessing stateside. A comprehensive new study, “The Power of UK Podcasting” from podcasting consultancy 4DC, finds a potent audience: “switched-on, high-spend, discerning; listeners and customers who are ready and willing to engage with brands through a special kind of medium.” Further, the report advises: “Brands need to see that early-bird potential like this doesn’t come around often.”

The 40-page report deems this dedicated podcast sector “A-Listeners,” further tagging it as “an audience that’s unique and multiplying; that’s active, loyal and connected. And whose spend power has to be broken down to be believed.”

Between 2013 and 2018, the UK podcast listener base has doubled, from 3.2 million to 5.9 million, accounting for 11% of the total UK adult (15+) population, according to 4DC/Ofcom. In autumn 2018, RAJAR (the UK equivalent of Nielsen) put the figure at 6.9 million adults or 13%

of the adult population. And Reuters believes listenership could be higher still, reporting that 18% of Brits access a podcast “at least once a month.” (It notes that BBC iPlayer and ITV streams, YouTube videos and paywalled newspaper podcast content are not typically reported as such).

In the UK – as in the U.S. – Millennials and Gen Z are at the top of listening. Half of all regular UK listeners are under 35 (49%) while the biggest year-on-year surge in listenership is in teens and early 20s, 4DC reports. And looking at overall growth of the platform, the organization cites an exponential and steady increase in listening: +6% in 2015, +7% in 2016, +8% in 2017, +11% in 2018 and +15% in 2019. The forecast for the next two years: +20% in 2020 and +26% in 2021—four times the growth in 2015.

Listening Habits

4DC found that the majority of listeners (90%) tune in alone, via smartphone (77%) while the most popular listening opportunities are while commuting (51%), while doing housework (40%), while driving (22%), while exercising (20%), during lunch (19%) and while working (18%).

The UK podcast gender split is 63% men and 37% women. 4DC says that podcasts that focus on sports, comedy, music and news are preferred by males; and comedy, music, TV/music and news by females. Comedy is the No. 1 genre across a wide swath, 16 years old up to 44 years old; while music dominates 45+.

Discovery continues to be the medium’s greatest challenge, as has been widely acknowledged. In “The Power of UK Podcasting” study, 32% of those surveyed find new programs through word of mouth, an even 32% discover them by researching online, while 29% count on recommendations from friends.

The study also reveals that podcast listeners are “more audio active” in general. Some 42% of weekly podcast listeners also listen to live radio via a radio; 6% listen to live radio on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone; 2% access on-demand radio programs; 13% listen to streamed online music; and 12% lean on their own personal digital music or audio collections.

4DC, with Audioboom, also sought to determine podcast advertising’s effectiveness using a UK sample audience. A panel of listeners were played two popular 20-minute podcasts, “Beyond The Grid” and “No Such Thing As A Fish.” Each included host-read advertisements. Upon completion, the sample audience was tested on brand recall and brand perception. “The numbers are pretty resounding,” 4DC notes: In terms of brand recall, following “Beyond The Grid,” more than two thirds of listeners (67%) correctly recalled the ad brand was Bose, despite the spot appearing at the very beginning of the broadcast. And recall for The Economist in “No Such Thing As A Fish” was slightly less (60%) but still three in five, “and still a huge majority.”

Finally, the podcasting report found that within the platform’s core 25-34 age group, listeners outspend non-listeners by as much as 99% on non-essentials. In addition, 80% of podcast listeners are more active on social media than the general public, and are more likely to remember and engage with podcast advertisers. 4DC found that 80% of respondents see podcasts as a more effective advertising platform than traditional media platforms.

The methodology behind the report comprises interviews with 3,126 respondents: 1,112 non-podcast listeners and 2,014 podcast listeners, aged 16+. Research was conducted from March 3 to March 13, 2019.