What are the elements of a podcast that draws listeners in?

We surveyed over 2,000 Americans aged 13 to 49 in the US about the podcast to find out what features are most important to them in a podcast as well as its advertising. Here’s what we learned:

Entertainment value, ease of access, and good sound quality inspire potential listeners to check out a podcast.

When asked what influences the decision to try a new podcast, listeners aged 13 to 49 said entertainment value (66%), ease of access (60%), good sound quality (57%), being informative (56%), and having ads that don’t interrupt the flow (47%) are most impactful. For kids 8 to 12, these criteria are even more important. For listeners of any age, these elements are the pillars of a quality show in the crowded podcast marketplace.

The ideal podcast length depends on the listener’s age.

Younger listeners enjoy shorter podcasts, with kids 8 to 12 preferring shows of about 23 minutes and teens finding 20 minutes the perfect length. People 18 to 24 are open to a longer format – 35 minutes – to have as a companion during daily tasks like work and chores. And 25- to 49-year-olds want a podcast that’s long enough to digest important news, but short enough to fit into their busy schedules, with 27 minutes as the ideal.

A relatable and familiar host with a nice voice lends a competitive edge.

Nearly all listeners (97%) say the host plays an important role when deciding which podcast to listen to. What do they look for in a host? Someone they can relate to (87%), who has a pleasing voice (86%), and is familiar (72%).

As for their preferred type of host, listeners under 25 gravitate toward YouTube stars and other social media influencers, as well as celebrities like actors, musicians, comedians, or athletes. Listeners aged 25 to 49 like hosts with credibility and experience, such as newscasters, radio hosts, and subject matter experts.

Most listeners aren’t bothered by ads – and often listen to them, especially if they’re funny and informative.  

For the most part, listeners don’t mind ads because they support the podcast (81%).  In fact, 30% said they rarely or never skip podcast ads and 47% only skip ads sometimes. They say they’re most likely to give an ad their attention if it’s funny (87%), closely related to the podcast topic (86%), or informative (86%). As for where in the podcast ads are placed, listeners prefer them at the beginning or middle of the podcast. They enjoy host-read advertising the most and are drawn to ads that reflect the host’s personality and experience with the product or service.

In summary, to set a new podcast up for success, it should be entertaining and well-produced, as well as the right length for its target audience. Finding the right host is essential for drawing listeners in and developing engaging advertising on the podcast. And finally, listeners don’t mind ads and don’t make a habit of skipping them!