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Podcast Content is Growing Audio Engagement

3 minute read | February 2020

Unlike the fixed amount of time in a given day, our media diets still have room to grow. In fact, as new media options like streaming and podcasts mature, U.S. consumers are opting to add them to their daily routines instead of simply replacing the traditional fare. And when it comes to audio, podcast listeners actually listen to more broadcast radio than people who don’t listen to podcasts at all.

The media industry has more than a significant opportunity here. In most industries, it’s common for consumers to embrace new products and services at the expense of existing ones. In the media space, new options are actually encouraging consumers to spend more time with media—and they’re opening complementary engagement channels in the process.

According to the latest Nielsen Total Audience report, U.S. consumers 18 and older now spend almost 12 hours each day engaging with media, which is up almost one-and-a-half hours from a year ago. When we look at the audio universe, we see tremendous podcast listener growth—and it’s not coming at the expense of other audio options. 

In fact, the second release of Nielsen’s Podcast Listener Buying Power database found that light podcast listeners listen to 10 hours and 13 minutes of radio each week. That’s 43 minutes more than the average American; heavy podcast listeners tune in to radio 22 minutes more. Findings from the database attribute much of the increased podcast engagement to existing listeners who are migrating from light use to heavy use—a strong testament to the content being offered to listeners.

The latest release notes that the number of heavy podcast listeners—those listening every day—grew by more than 3.6 million. Concurrently, the average number of episodes heard per week increased by 10%. But podcast engagement isn’t just growing among heavy users. The total podcast audience is growing at a compound average growth rate of 20%.

Podcast Audience Growth Rate

Amid the array of media options consumers have available to them, podcasts, like broadcast radio, are portable and are a constant companion when viewing a screen isn’t an option. That makes audio the media of choice during transit times (either in a car or public transportation). Smartphones are driving podcast engagement, as more than 36 million Americans now access podcast content this way. The heaviest podcast listeners are also most engaged when they’re away from home.

Where heavy podcast listeners tune in

While smartphones are the main tech platform for listening, however, smart speakers are playing a bigger role in growing podcast audiences. Across platforms, smart speakers are more likely to attract audiences of more than one, which, from an impression perspective, is a key insight for advertisers.

Smart speakers extend podcast audiences

Content has always been king, but the abundance of available media content today is nothing short of overwhelming. Consumers in the U.S., however, have yet to reach a breaking point, and continue to grow their media diets as new options become available. Given the abundance of options, content creators, marketers and advertisers are tasked with delivering content that truly resonates. If it doesn’t, there are plenty of other options to choose from, and consumers are more than willing to engage with it.

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