Podcast listening slips slightly in USA as people return to school and work

In America last week Podcast Movement held its ‘Evolutions’ Conference as a live in-person event in Los Angeles, as well as virtually online.

Some key points from the conference:

  • Podcast consumption has shifted since the pandemic, according to findings in the US Infinite Dial report, discussed at the conference. For the first time monthly podcast listening dropped slightly due to audiences going back to school and work. See more from Tom Webster’s session below.
  • Youtube remains keen to continue hosting audio content, saying “we think Youtube can be tremendously valuable to podcasters, over the next few months you will hear some announcements about how we plan to continue supporting the podcast ecosystem.”
  • The inventor of RSS feed that power podcasts said the reason people hated the blog company he started was that they were expecting to get rich by making money form their blogs, but most never did. Dave Winer says he never promised them money when he developed free blog hosting, but they assumed they would get it. Will amateur podcast creators eventually think the same about podcast hosting companies?

The Infinite Dial’s Tom Webster said online monthly audio listening increased by 68% as listening habits changed during the pandemic. Podcast listening previously increased, but has recently dropped again as people returned to school and work after pandemic lockdowns ended.

Many people, especially in young age groups, no longer have a radio in their homes, but they do listen to radio, they just listen on phones and smart speakers.

Last year, advertisers wanting to reach 50% of all weekly podcast consumers would have needed to buy ads on the top seven podcast networks. Now, after consolidation from acquisitions by the big companies, advertisers can now reach 50% of weekly listeners in America by advertising on just four podcast networks: Sirius XM Media, Spotify, iHeartRadio and NPR.

The stats:

  • Seventy-three percent of the U.S. 12+ population (an estimated 209 million people) have listened to online audio in the last month, up from 68% in 2021.
  • Weekly online audio listening rose to 67% of the U.S. 12+ population, up from 62% in 2021.
  • 62% of those age 12+ in the U.S. (an estimated 177 million people) have ever listened to a podcast, up from 57% last year
  • In-car podcast listening also showed growth: 32% of those age 18+ who have ridden in or driven a car in the last month now listen to podcasts in-car, compared to 30% last year
  • TikTok usage has soared, with 36% percent of those in the U.S. age 12+ currently using the social media service. This is a 57% increase over last year, placing it third for overall social media reach behind Instagram (46%) and Facebook (63%). Among those age 12-34, 61% use TikTok, second only to Instagram (72%). Among those age 35-54, TikTok now surpasses Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn with 34% of those in the U.S. age 35-54 using TikTok.
  • Thirty-five percent of those in the U.S. 12+, an estimated 100 million people, now own a smart speaker. Amazon remains the dominant brand as 23% of Americans own an Amazon Alexa, 11% own a Google Nest, and 2% own an Apple HomePod.
  • Audio-based social media platforms are beginning to become more well-known, with 12% of those in the U.S. age 12+ aware of Twitter Spaces, 10% aware of Clubhouse, and 9% aware of Greenroom
  • Audiobook listening stayed flat as 45% of those age 12+ in the U.S. have ever listened to an audiobook.
  • Watching live stream video games is growing. 17% of people have watched a live streamed video game, slightly more now that young people have gone back to school.

Opening Tom Webster’s session Jen Sargent, CEO of Wondery, said: “The podcast industry has grown and changed immensely in the past two years as people’s daily lives changed… The Infinite Dial and the Edison Research team are a great resource in helping Wondery dive deep as we continue to innovate on behalf of our listeners, advertisers, and creators.”




In another session Will Ferrell discussed two podcasts he is launching on iHeartMedia: The Big Sexy Interview Show with Michael Bolton and The Feed.

The Feed will be a stand-up comedy series, in which a new comedic talent takes over your feed in a character of their own creation each month. Some of it will be  scripted and some will be  ad libbed. Will, along with comedians Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers, will curate the line-up.

Reprising his comedy news anchorman persona, Ferrell will also launch a new series of the Ron Burgundy Podcast. Listen to the preview here.

Podcast subscriptions are seen as a growing method of making money from your podcasts. In a session hosted by Podnews’ James Cridland, podcast business leaders Jon Schnaars from Pushkin Industries, Emily Rasekh from Sony Music and Donald Albright from Tenderfoot TV discussed the growing influence of paid subscriptions in podcasting.

In a sign that podcasters might not be perfectly in line with what audiences want, Triton Digital figures revealed that the most downloaded categories were News, comedy and business, but the most produced categories were Music, News and Sports.

Replays of conference sessions are available here.

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