Podcasting Delivers a Highly Engaged, Youthful, Diverse Audience

By Westwood One Archives
Cover image for  article: Podcasting Delivers a Highly Engaged, Youthful, Diverse Audience

Podcasting is a major force at work in audio; one that shows no signs of slowing down as it gains steam among the masses.  Everyone is talking about it.  With the recent announcement of the expansion of the podcasting portfolio at Vox Media, and all the announcements coming out of the IAB Podcast Upfront 2018, podcasting is on the verge of a breakout.  Audio isn’t just alive and well, it’s thriving and garnering major attention from content creators and advertisers.

What are they finding so attractive about podcasting?  It starts with the audience.  Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X, each desirable consumer targets, are seeing greater podcast use, attention and engagement than ever before.  Westwood One’s recent Audioscape 2018 report, featuring data primarily from Edison Research’s Share of Ear study found generational and behavioral podcast trends that should make advertisers pay particular attention.

According to Edison’s Infinite Dial 2018, podcast listening by all adults is on the rise.  One in four Americans listened to a podcast in the past month, and the growth has been exponential from 9% of the population in 2008 to 26% in 2018.  “Podcasting has been around for over 15 years, but the medium is seeing a surge in interest not just from listeners but from content creators and advertisers,” said Suzanne Grimes, President, Westwood One and Executive Vice President of Marketing, Cumulus Media.  “We need to better understand the podcast listener, and that’s why Westwood One Podcast Network is now focused on developing the kind of actionable insights found in the Audioscape report.”

How this audience of listeners breaks down by demographics, behaviors, purchasing and affinities is especially interesting.  Here are the takeaways:

Great Demographics

Podcast listening is young.  In the past four years, the percentage of persons 12-24 who listen to podcasts grew +50% while 25- to 54-year-olds grew +88%.  Almost one third of both age groups listen to a podcast in the average month.  This assures future growth for the format with generations that are consistently consuming media wherever and whenever they want.  Notably, the median age of podcast listeners overall is 34 compared to AM/FM radio listeners (46, according to Edison Research) and ABC/NBC/CBS viewers (56, according to GfK, MRI).

Podcasting audiences are also more diverse and female.  Twelve percent of women 18-34 listen to podcasts daily, growing +25% year-to-year, compared to 19% of men 18-34 (+11%).  African American 18-34 listeners (12%) grew +21%.

These listeners have more money to spend compared to total U.S. audio listeners as illustrated in high household income $50k+ (69% vs 55%).  They are also better educated (some college or graduated college 59% vs 54%) and are more likely to be employed (work full or part time 68% vs 51%).

Audio Centric Fans with Wide Interests

Digital audio (including podcasts) is attracting an engaged audience because it can travel with the consumer.  According to a recent IAB article, the multiple touchpoints along the consumer journey is one of the perks of digital audio.  “From waking up, going to the gym, commuting; at work, home or in social settings, digital audio is present,” the article explains.

That makes perfect sense when looking at podcast listeners.  They are avid fans of audio, spending 42% more time with audio daily than average listeners.  They spend the most time with podcasts (28%) followed by AM/FM radio (25%) and streaming (14%).

The range of interests among this audience is especially interesting.  Not only are they music fans, they are also heavy consumers of spoken word audio from news to personalities.  In fact, among podcast listeners, the share of time spent listening to talk/personalities has been growing quarter to quarter.

Big Spenders and Higher Engagement

Advertisers of all kinds will find a range of potential customers within the podcast audience.  According to GfK MRI, podcast listeners are more likely to purchase a range of products such as services from cell phones (227 index), camping equipment (162), sports clothing (159) and fine dining (157) to foreign vacations (151), video games (144), baby furniture and equipment (144).  For advertisers, this indicates a vibrant, youthful lifestyle among consumers making podcasting a part of their go-to media choices.

There is also a level of focus among podcast listeners that enables advertisers to make an impact.  IAB research shows 71% of podcast listeners report a high level of concentration; close to checking for news (76%) and weather (74%) and much higher than those watching shows and episodes (62%) or posting on social media (53%).  Notably, reported concentration with podcasts is more than 1.5 times the concentration on social media, which is such a personal interaction.

There is also higher engagement among podcasting (76%), close to news and weather levels (both 79%) and ahead of watching shows and episodes (56%) and posting on social media (50%).  While they seek a variety of experiences in their media choices, podcasting is the only format where learning and entertainment co-exist.

Interest from Advertisers Is Growing

Advertising on podcasts is poised to explode.  Investments in the format among marketers and agencies is now being discussed by 70% of those executives polled (up from 41% two-and-a-half-years ago) and 43% are considering investing within the next six months (up from 18%), according to a Westwood One commissioned study from Advertiser Perceptions.  Activation is growing, too.  Currently 32% of brands and agencies reported that they currently advertise in podcasts (up from 15%) and 36% will definitely advertise in the next six months (up from 10%).

“As important as it is to understand the consumer, for Westwood One it is equally as important to fully grasp advertiser sentiment,” said Grimes.  “The Advertiser Perceptions data included in this report is valuable.  We want to develop content that speaks to the listener, while at the same time piques the interest of media decision makers thinking about investing in podcasts.”

Advertisers need two things to make an impact: an audience comprised of their target demographic and a means of connecting with them on a one-to-one basis.  Westwood One’s Audioscape 2018 report makes it clear that podcasting provides both.  Not only has the medium tapped into a rich vein of young, upscale listeners, it also offers advertisers an opportunity to gain greater impact with their messaging among a group that is highly engaged.  Podcasting is where audio is evolving.  For maximum impact, advertisers and content creators should continue to evolve along with it.

Photo credit:  Emilio Garcia/Unsplash

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