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Hear This: New Data about Podcast Listeners

6 min read

Podcast Data

With the breakout popularity of shows like Serial and StartUp at the end of 2014, many Americans have been re-introduced to podcasts as a convenient way to consume audio content. Historically seen as a geeky and tech-laden concept, Edison Research now reports that 17% of Americans have listened to a podcast in the last month and 10% have listened to a podcast in the last week.

In a recent report, Edison characterized the podcast audience as a group of consumers who are affluent and well-educated, skew younger, follow brands closely, and actively use social media. Anticipating that listenership will continue to grow, the space is drawing interest from advertisers keen to explore emerging markets and untapped opportunities.

Always eager to understand how people publish and consume different types of media, at Known we conducted some of our own research on the podcasting market to learn more about the people who regularly listen to podcasts and audio content.

Who listens to podcasts and audiobooks?

While we can’t claim to have the most scientific or representative sample of podcast listeners, we were able to grab some interesting insights through our own survey of audio consumers. During the week of March 23rd, 2015 we solicited responses to a questionnaire about audio consumption. The survey was part of an interview screener we distributed for audio consumers.

Our survey sample

During the week, we gathered responses from 247 individuals. Our sample of respondents ranged in age from 17 to 67, with a mean age of 35. Of those, the mix was almost split between men (44.5%) and women (55.5%). 

Edison cites a higher level of education as a characteristic of podcast listeners, something that makes them an attractive audience to many marketers. In our questionnaire, respondents were asked to select the highest level of education achieved. Their choices included: didn’t complete high school, high school diploma or GED, some college, Associate degree, Bachelor’s degree, and Graduate degree. 

The largest percentage reported having a Bachelor’s degree (38.5%), with just under 25% reporting “some college” as the next most popular option.

Listening to and discovering podcasts

We were very curious to know which devices people used. It’s easy to assume that podcast listeners are primarily Apple owners; the name podcasting is heavily tied to iTunes, and the iPod originally introduced many people to the medium. However, it’s been ten years since Apple added the podcast directory to iTunes, and in that time the world of audio devices has expanded. 

When asked which mobile devices audio consumers currently use, the Android phone was the most common choice (23.7%), followed closely by the Apple iPhone (20.4%). Participants could select more than one device in their response.

Mobile devices used
Mobile devices used

When selecting the mobile device that they regularly use, the majority of respondents listed more than one. Those listing just one mobile device amounted to 40%, while 29% listed two devices, and 22% listed three.

Thirty-four percent of respondents reported that they listen to podcasts one to three times a week. Among the heavier listeners, 21% said they listen 4–6 times a week, and 17% said 7 or more times a week. Following this survey, we interviewed some of these more frequent podcast consumers to better understand their habits and experiences. 

How often do you listen to podcasts?
How often do you listen to podcasts?

Curious about how people learn about shows, we also asked participants how they typically discover podcasts. Results varied, but social channels were dominant, with 155 respondents listing that they discover podcasts through social media, and 134 listing that they find podcasts through a friend’s recommendation. Participants could select more than one choice here.

How do you discover podcasts?
How do you typically discover podcasts?

We also asked where participants had gone to download or stream podcasts. Again, respondents could select more than one source. In a world seemingly dominated by iTunes, listeners most commonly downloaded or streamed podcasts from the show’s own website. iTunes and the iOS Podcasts app were also top sources.

Where have you gone to download or stream podcasts
Where have you gone to download or stream podcasts?

Listening to audiobooks

In addition to podcasts, we wanted to learn more about audiobooks and their listeners. We asked survey participants how many audiobooks they’ve listened to in the last year. Of the participants surveyed, 29.6% reported listening to two or three audiobooks in the last year.

How many audiobooks have you listened to in the past year?
How many audio books have you listened to in the past year?

We also asked participants where they got audiobooks to listen to. Here again, respondents could select more than one answer. Of the choices, 185 selected Amazon/Kindle as their source of audiobook content. iTunes was next with 90 responses, followed by the library/Overdrive and YouTube.

Where do you get audiobooks?
Where do you get audiobooks?

Education level and listening frequency

With the information that we collected on education and listening frequency for podcasts and audiobooks, it’s easy to wonder if there’s a relationship between education and how often people consume audio content. Maybe audiobook aficionados and public radio enthusiasts are educated philomaths. Does how often someone listens to podcasts each week depend on how much education they achieved?

With the data we collected on education level and listening frequency, I wanted to check for a relationship. I dusted off the part of my brain that used to know statistics and ran a chi-square goodness of fit test for the data we had on education level and how often respondents listen to podcasts each week. Based on the data collected, there isn’t a relationship between education level and podcast listening frequency.

(For the math nerds out there, χ²= 13.822, with 16 degrees of freedom. For the education categories, I rolled respondents who selected “high school degree or GED” and “didn’t complete high school” into one category, as only two respondents chose the later answer.)

We could also ask the same thing for audiobooks. Is there a relationship between education level and audiobook listening? Again, I grabbed our education data and info on how often people had listened to an audiobook in the last year. Like the podcast results, there was no relationship in our data between education and audiobook listening. (For this chi-square test, χ²=10.609, again 16 degrees of freedom.)

Getting personal with podcast listeners

This survey was small, but it gave us some interesting details around devices, discovery, and listening frequency. We are especially curious to learn more about those people who report listening to podcasts more often, at least four times a week. To get deeper insights from these heavy listeners, we followed up our survey with a series of personal interviews.

Our next post will focus on some of the common trends articulated by the podcast listeners that we spoke with. To round off this series of posts, our third article will touch on details gathered from people who create podcasts.

If you like podcasts and audio content as much as we do, check out some of our favorite episodes — compiled in playlists — over at Wavelist.