The Infinite Dial 2021 report from Edison Research and Triton Digital has been released, and it’s packed with great news for podcasters! For the uninitiated, Edison has been surveying American’s about their media consumption patterns since 1998. There’s a lot more in the report other than podcasting, but I know which side of your toast to butter.
Twisted metaphors aside, let’s dive in!
222 Million Americans Are Familiar With Podcasting
It likely won’t surprise you that 78% of the population won’t look at you (too) funny when you say you have a podcast. That percentage is up compared to last year’s report and has been steadily increasing since 2016.
The jump to this year from last is a little smaller, but last year was weird. So I’m not reading much into that. Also, 78% is a big number. It’s an asymptotic curve to reach saturation, and it’s possible we’re already on that knee.
162 Million Americans Have Listened To A Podcast
Not just aware of podcasting, but report having listened to at least one episode of one podcast at some point in the past. That’s 57% of the population and marks yet another year of marked percentage-points growth, a growth trend that started in 2014.
Again, the bump is a bit smaller than seen in previous year-over-year examinations. But did I mention last year was weird?
116 Million Americans Listen To Podcasts Monthly
I call these people “occasional” listeners. They certainly don’t have the habit, but they’re not opposed to including podcasts as a part of their media diet when the need suits them. Monthly listeners continue to climb year-on-year as they have since 2016. But truly big percentage-points-gains were first noticed in 2019.
Even with the weird year that was last year, 41% of the population listens to podcasting on a monthly basis.
80 Million Americans Listen To Podcasts Every Week
These people, likely you and me, have the podcast listening habit. Weekly listeners have seen marked year-on-year percentage-point-gains every year since 2013. But those gains have become much steeper in 2019, ‘20, and ‘21.
In fact, even comparing ‘21 to the weirdness of last year, the report shows the second-biggest gain in percentage points since the streak started. Today, 28% of Americans say they listen to podcasts on a weekly basis.
That’s great news, but it also means that 72% have yet to develop the weekly habit. So we all have some work to do.
Most Of Podcasting’s Growth Comes From The Kids and The Olds
For the purpose of the report, Edison creates three buckets based on the age of respondents. The middle-tier, 35 to 54 year-olds, is often seen as the more important demographic, if only for their buying power. Strangely, podcast consumption—when viewed as a percentage of that population—was slightly down. In 2020, 40% listened to a podcast in the last month. In 2021, that number dropped to 39%.
Why? Well, correlation is not causation, but it stands to reason that a good portion of 35-54 year-olds have school-age kids at home. And last year, they were really at home. Coupled with working from home and other pandemic-induced restrictions, and I’m not terribly surprised that occasional media consumption was curtailed.
However, the two buckets on either side had vastly different showings in this year’s survey.
The 55+ group (of which I am edging closer to each year) jumped from 22% saying they listened to at least one podcast in a month to 26%; a huge boost! It gets more eye-opening when we extrapolate those percentages into actual population estimates.
In 2016, an estimated 10 million Americans 55+ reported listening to a podcast in the month preceding their answers to the survey. This year, that number is 24 million. That’s more than doubling the size of that audience in just five years!
On the other side is the 12-34-year-old bucket. Five years ago, 49% of them said they listened to at least one podcast the month prior to taking the survey. Today, that percentage has jumped to 56%. Huge! And if we once again apply estimated population numbers, we see growth from 28 million to a jaw-dropping 65 million of 12-34 year-olds who listened to at least one podcast in the prior month. That’s nearly 3x growth. Staggering!
Using the same methodology of applying the percentage of survey respondents to the estimated US population, the slight dip in the percentage for 35-54 bucket is wiped clean, as the total size of the audience in the middle-tier almost doubled from 19 million in 2016 to 34 million in 2021’s report!
Let’s Keep The Streak Going, Podcasters!
If you take only one thing away from this article and the report, let it be that podcasting is healthy and growing. It appears we’re converting the casual monthly listeners to more serious weekly listeners, so breathe a sigh of relief if you were concerned the audience was slipping.
But it’s more important than ever that we each keep up that pressure. 59% of the US population didn’t listen to a podcast at all in the last month. And 73% don’t have a weekly podcast listening habit. We should all assume that the person listening on the other end is either brand new to podcasting or a casual podcast listener, and we need to hook them in with great content they can’t get from any other medium.
That’s your homework for the next year. And mine. We’ll all be graded by The Infinite Dial 2022. Share this article with your podcasting peers so they understand the stakes and opportunities we’ll all have if we keep doing our part to make more podcast listeners.
If you found value in my analysis, you can express your gratitude with a virtual coffee. Head to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and buy me a cup, five cups, or even set up a monthly recurring virtual coffee buy. That’s nice!
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
Podcast Pontifications is written and narrated by Evo Terra. He’s on a mission to make podcasting better. Allie Press proofed the copy, corrected the transcript, and edited the video. Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media.