How the Pandemic Affected Podcast Listenership

By Laura DiCaprio

Although podcasts themselves are nothing new (they’ve been around in some shape or form since the 1980s), the nuances of the medium are continually changing and evolving. Knowing who listens to podcasts, their media habits, and what programs are offered to allow us media folks to make informed decisions as to whether or not to include them on our media plans. Podcast listenership has shifted again since the COVID pandemic but in a positive way.


Who Listens to Podcasts?

In short, everyone! Podcast programming formats have expanded and cover a vast variety of topics, appealing to a wide range of people. Demographically, podcast listeners are generally split evenly male/female, have a higher than average household income, and are college-educated. When podcasts really began to take off about four years ago, the medium most appealed to the young-to-middle aged; while A25-54 were tuning in, older adults 55+ were not as interested. This trend has drastically changed in the past year, and now 22% of A55+ are active podcast listeners:


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So why the sudden jump in Podcast listenership in 2020?

Is it due to the COVID pandemic, since people are staying in and looking for new ways to be entertained? Or is it due to the growth of content variety of podcasts offered? One can argue it’s a mix of both. According to a recent Scarborough survey, two-thirds of workers began working from home at the start of the COVID pandemic. This new schedule lead to a shift in media habits:


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53% of remote workers reported listening to “spoken word audio content” at least once per week. This is a huge audience just waiting to be reached, and advertisers are listening.


How are advertisers responding?

Compared to five years ago, when less than 20% of advertisers would consider adverting in podcasts, there has been tremendous growth in the interest in this category. Now, 46% of advertisers would consider advertising in podcasts. This shift in attitude is a direct correlation of the growth in audience size and formats available. With a larger audience to cater to, and more podcast formats to fit their products and/or services, podcasts are another way to strategically reach both niche and mass audiences.

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What are the key takeaways?

  • Podcast demographics are widening: Young adults, middle aged adults, and older adults all enjoy podcasts and with growing content, there’s something for everyone.
  • Podcast listenership is growing: With more people at home and looking to add variety into their media day, podcasts are seeing a surge in activity.
  • Advertisers are taking note: As more people tune in, you can bet more advertisers will want to add podcasts to their media plans in order to reach these audiences.