Who’s listening to podcasts in the US? And what’s stopping other consumers from trying them?

We recently surveyed over 2,000 Americans aged 13 to 49 in the US about their podcast habits and awareness, and found that the majority had either already listened to podcasts or are open to the idea. To get a deeper understanding of the landscape, we did a deep dive on four segments – current listeners, potential listeners, lapsed listeners, and podcast rejectors. Here’s what we learned:

Current podcast listeners – those who have listened in the past three months – tend to be affluent, tech-savvy, and male.

Some current listeners are really invested in podcasts, spending at least 4 hours a week with podcast content. These heavy listeners are more likely to be male, higher-income, and slightly older. They listen to an average of 11 different podcasts per month.  Lighter listeners, on the other hand, tend to be younger and female. They listen to an average of 5 podcasts monthly.

Potential podcast listeners like the idea of podcasts, but need more information about what they are and how to use them.

Potential podcast listeners are more likely than other groups to be African American as well as conservative. They are evenly split on gender. Lack of awareness is their biggest barrier to podcast listening, with 8 in 10 saying they were unaware of podcasts prior to the survey.

Potential listeners also need information about how podcasts work. Many were unsure of whether payment was required, if podcasts must be downloaded and saved, and if creating an account or downloading an app was necessary.

Beyond learning about podcasts, potential listeners need a reason to get excited about them. Hearing the benefits of podcasts could help them past their preference for other media and convert them into podcast listeners. Word-of-mouth, followed by TV shows and advertisements, have the most potential to inspire potential listeners to try podcasts out.

Lapsed listeners lack urgency around podcasts, and struggle with content discovery and navigation.

Lapsed users haven’t listened to a podcast in the past three months. This group tends to be female. On average, they are slightly younger and less affluent than current and potential listeners.

This group is not lost to podcasts – most of them simply stopped listening and haven’t had a chance to return. Since podcasts are available anytime, anywhere, and on any device, there can be a lack of urgency to listen.

Some lapsed listeners stopped listening due to a lack of appealing content. Many had difficulty navigating podcast platforms and discovering new titles of interest.  While this presents an issue, many lapsed listeners plan to return to podcasts when they have more time, and claim that word-of-mouth would be the best way to entice them.  Therefore, there does seem to be an opportunity to convert these lapsed listeners back into active ones.

Podcast rejectors are less engaged with media.

Those who have never listened to podcasts and aren’t interested in trying them tend to be female and slightly younger on average than current or potential listeners. They also have lower engagement with media in general.

Many were unaware of podcasts before taking the survey, but weren’t interested even after hearing the concept. They prefer other types of content – music, radio, movies and TV – to podcasts. Others in this group expressed a lack of desire to learn more about podcasts or try them out, likely due to time and energy constraints.

So, in summary, people engage with podcasts to varying degrees. While some aren’t currently listening and aren’t interested in trying podcasts out, the majority are open to becoming listeners if they’re not listening already.  To expand the podcast audience, it’s important to educate people on what podcasts are and how to use them, and to offer the right mix of marketing and content.