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Podcasts: A Small but Significant Audience

Podcasts still have a ways to go before catching up with traditional radio. As marketers try to reach the growing audience of digital audio listeners, podcasts stand out in a few key ways.

We estimate that 76.4 million people in the US will listen to podcasts this year, accounting for 37.3% of digital audio listeners.

By comparison, that’s less than one-third of traditional radio’s audience, which is expected to reach 234.7 million US listeners this year, maintaining its 91.5% share of the adult population.

We forecast US ad spending on traditional radio will reach $13.90 billion this year, though growth is in decline. While we do not currently forecast podcast ad spending, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) expect US podcast ad revenues will grow 110%, to $659 million, by 2020.

And a growing number of US marketers and agency professionals have added podcasts to their budgets. In May 2018, 32% said they already advertise in podcasts, according to Advertiser Perceptions and audio media company Westwood One. Thirty-six percent had plans for podcast advertising in the next six months.

Podcast Listeners Are Dedicated

A survey conducted in January 2019 by CivicScience found that 7% of US internet users ages 13 and older claimed to be daily podcast listeners, and 8% listened weekly.

While these numbers are still fairly low, additional third-party surveys have found that frequent listeners are highly engaged. Among US weekly podcast listeners, more than one-fifth reported listening to four or five podcasts within the past week, according to a February 2019 poll conducted by Edison Research and audio tech company Triton Digital. Close to one-third said they listened to six or more podcasts.

Relevant Ads

Podcasts ads are generally low frequency, nonautomated and contextually relevant. While pre-roll and mid-roll ads exist, a good amount of spots are still read by the podcast hosts themselves. Per Nielsen’s recent Podcast Ad Effectiveness benchmarks, 64% of listeners generally agree that ads are a good fit for podcast content. The Edison Research/Triton Digital survey also found that 54% of podcast listeners were either somewhat or much more likely to consider a brand after hearing it advertised on a podcast.

Marketers Can Reach the Subscription-Only Audience

Podcasts could also be a way for marketers to reach listeners on ad-free streaming platforms, which are becoming increasingly popular with digital audio listeners. Spotify and Pandora are the two largest streaming services in terms of audience, and both are investing in podcasts. Spotify, as of February of this year, has roughly 26 million Premium subscribers in the US who cannot be reached on the platform by advertisers. However, they will still hear third-party ads that are placed within podcast episodes. And according to Edison Research/Triton Digital, 43% of US podcast listeners use Spotify.