Acast and Nielsen’s latest research shows how the podcast landscape is rapidly evolving and outlines the top reasons why podcasts are becoming a key media channel to advertise on. Here they share their key findings.
Podcast growth is increasing exponentially, and is only predicted to rise further.
But what are the reasons for this growth? And what makes podcasts so special?
Acast and Nielsen conducted in-depth research with 2002 podcast listeners (who listen at least monthly) to delve into the podcast landscape and understand the answers to these questions — comparing podcasts to other media, across areas such as receptiveness to advertising, attitudes to each media, and views on diversity and inclusion.
Global research has been conducted to gain a holistic view of the podcast landscape across the US, Australia, and the UK and Ireland. This article outlines the key findings for the UK and Ireland.
How many people in the UK and Ireland listen to podcasts?
A lot has changed over the past two years, including the podcast listening landscape. We might have assumed that lockdowns and the pandemic were the reasons for increased growth in podcast listening — and that, as the world slowly returned to normal, people would pack up the podcast and return to their pre-Covid lives and routines. But that’s not the case. Podcasts are a habit people are keeping.
Our research shows that, while 55% of respondents started listening to podcasts more than 12 months ago, 45% started listening within the last 12 months — illustrating that podcast listening has no intention of plateauing or slowing down. 37% are listening to podcasts once a day or more, with a staggering 70% listening more than once a week. Furthermore, 58% are listening to three or more podcasts a week, signifying that podcasts are a growing medium attracting an engaged listenership.
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What podcasts are people listening to and why?
We found that the top three reasons to listen to podcasts are: relaxation (42%), entertainment (40%) and education (36%). Other key podcast genres include comedy, news, music, education, TV and film, government and politics — 40% of respondents listened to the categories weekly.
When it comes to the creators people want to listen to, it’s not just well known celebrities and influencers; 38% listen to comedians, 32% listen to YouTube/ social media influencers and 29% listen to radio/TV personalities. But podcast listeners also enjoy listening to less well-known hosts too, with 29% currently listening to these creators.
What are people’s preferences towards podcasts?
81% of listeners feel the ideal podcast length sits between 15-45 minutes, with seven in 10 listeners expecting to see new episodes released within seven days of the last. Understanding the length and frequency of episodes helps ensure podcast listeners are getting the content they want, when they want it — and it’s encouraging to see that 71% listen to all/most of the episodes they download, regardless of episode length. This is reflective of podcasts accommodating their listeners’ moods, and listeners being engaged in the content. It presents an opportunity for brands to sponsor pre-, mid- or post-roll reads, with the knowledge that podcast listeners are consuming the majority of each episode.
What are people’s attitudes towards podcast content and podcast hosts?
Seven in 10 listeners enjoy the podcast content they listen to and look forward to listening to podcasts. Just over two thirds of listeners feel podcasts offer a wide range of variety for all interests.
As well as being engaging, six in 10 listeners say podcasts have a positive impact on their mental health, provide them with companionship and help to combat screen fatigue. Two thirds of listeners say podcasts give them a break from other media.
A key factor in this is the podcasts’ hosts. 67% of listeners believe the podcast host they listen to is authentic, 61% feel the host aligns with their own values, and 59% feel a connection with hosts — with more than half saying their favorite podcast host feels like their friend.
This authenticity and engagement with the hosts translates to just under two thirds of listeners finding podcast hosts trustworthy — respondents trust hosts (80% agreement) almost as much as family (85%) and friends (84%) for podcast recommendations. For brand and product recommendations, podcast hosts are trusted 15% more so than celebrity ambassadors, and 18% more than radio hosts.
What makes a podcast ‘good’ and how do listeners discover new ones?
To capture an audience, core elements of a good podcast include engaging guest interviews (70% agree), panel discussions (63% agree) and opening banter from the host (58% agree). When it comes to discovering new podcasts, the most important things are genre (78% agree), clear descriptions (78%), ideal length (75%), and recommendations (67%). There’s a strong opportunity for ads that help educate listeners about similar content from trusted hosts — something Acast offers through its Sponsorship+ ad product.
How do podcasts stand out vs other media?
Listeners were asked about overall time spent on each of the various mediums including; TV, radio, podcasts, audio books, streaming services, social media and watching films – and if this had changed in the last six months, they revealed that podcasts have increased 41% — more than any other audio media. And this growth is here to stay, with listeners stating that their podcast consumption will continue to increase by 32% in the next six months – again, a greater increase versus other audio media.
Podcasts also have the strongest associations versus all other media when it comes to learning, being mentally engaging, a good use of time, and capturing listeners’ full attention.
In terms of attention and focus, while cinema — something viewers pay to consume — unsurprisingly ranks highest (66% agree they are always/usually focused), podcasts take second place (55%), and again higher than all other forms of audio. This shows the engagement, attention and focus podcasts provide.
What are people’s views on advertising?
When it comes to advertising, podcasts (and audio books) outperform other audio and media, and are least likely to be ranked as having too many ads. Four in 10 pay attention to at least half of the ads in podcasts, with a quarter of listeners paying attention to most/every podcast ad they hear. With humans having increasingly lower attention spans, that’s pretty good.
Fitting with short attention spans, more than three quarters of listeners like succinct, 30-second ads, while more than a third are open to longer form advertising. For brands, it’s important to tailor ad lengths to suit the campaign and consumer requirements.
If it’s an awareness-driving campaign, for example, opt for shorter ads — but for a brand comprehension and understanding campaign, longer ads can be used to get key messages across. A whopping 85% are happy to listen to ads if it means they get their podcasts for free, or have no preference either way – so brands need to ensure their ads are engaging.
How inclusive are podcasts vs other media?
It’s positive to see that just under two thirds of podcast listeners think podcast content is inclusive of minority audiences — again more so than any other audio media surveyed. And, among all media — audio and otherwise — podcasts rank second or third for each area of inclusivity (race minorities, gender minorities and sexual orientation minorities).
As you can see, there’s a lot to be said about podcasts. If there was ever any doubt on using them as part of your media strategy and media mix, we hope this has dispelled any myths and provided proof points and rationale as to why they’re loved by listeners, brands and agencies — and why they’re a growing media channel that’s here to stay.
You can download Acast and Nielsen’s Listener Landscape research in full here.