“Welcome to another episode of the Business Knowledge Podcast. I’m your host, Joe King, and with me, in the studio, today is Melissa Albright. I’m delighted to finally have her here to talk to us about the future of podcasting as a tool for growth. Welcome to Business Knowledge, Melissa!”
If this sort of script sounds familiar, then you’re among the 75% of Americans familiar with the concept of the podcast. Through a series of crucial statistics, we’re going to look at what podcasts are and what they mean for business in 2021 and beyond.
Come on, let’s get started!
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Our Top 10 2021 Podcast Statistics
At least 850,000 active podcasts and 30 million episodes currently exist
104 million Americans tune in to podcasts monthly, and 68 million people listen weekly
The average listener takes in 7 podcasts per week
67% of the podcast audience is between the ages of 18 and 45
Listeners are 45% more likely to hold college degrees
45% of monthly listeners have household incomes of over $75,000 (vs. 35% of the total population)
Podcast listeners are 13% more active on social media
Ads on business-related podcasts can produce 14% increases in purchase intent from their audiences
69% of podcast listeners say podcasts increase their awareness of new products and services
66% of podcasts are found through word-of-mouth recommendations
Where these numbers come from:
Updated numbers come from Edison Research’s Infinite Dial 2021 study released on March 19th, 2021, and from Apple Podcasts. Nielson’s Q1 report, released March 20th, 2018, also helps to provide the basis for comparisons in growth and trends.
What is a podcast?
Quite simply, a podcast is a series of audio essays or recorded conversations on specific subjects or by specific personalities. They’re formed into episodes that, unlike videos or TV shows, focus on listening rather than watching. These episodes can cover topics as broad as society and culture, business, comedy, news, health, and basically every other subject under the sun.
In 2021, as many as 75% of Americans are familiar with the term “podcasting” and what it means.
Hang on, wait just a second.
Does that mean that 75% of people in the USA listen to podcasts regularly? Not yet, anyway. Although this term awareness is up from 70% recognition in 2019, this only means that three-quarters of Americans have heard of podcasting.
However, 55% of Americans report having listened to a podcast at least once in their lifetime. This is an increase from 51% in 2019 and 25% in 2011, so numbers are steadily climbing.
While there is still a podcast bubble, it’s obvious that this idea is creeping into the mainstream consciousness. That’s why now is exactly the right time to learn about podcasting and what it can mean for you!
So how many podcasts are out there?
According to Apple podcasts/iTunes, there are currently over 850,000 active podcasts being broadcast.
This is up from 500,000 registered podcasts in 2018, which represents a huge jump leap in the use of this platform! There is obvious growth in the use of podcasts, and in this article, we’ll discuss why. But it’s clear that more businesses and more fans are responding to this medium.
In fact, actual numbers might even be a lot higher…
After all, not all podcasts go through the Apple ecosystem, and new podcasts are coming online every day. Google indexing reported over 2 million podcasts in 2019, though it’s not clear how many of those might be unique and currently active. Still, it suggests that this growing industry could be more than twice as big as some suspect!
Apple also reveals over 30 million episodes have been produced so far, and of course, that figure continues to climb daily. Even more people seem to have moved into the podcast format during the first half of 2021 because of the ease of podcasting during lockdown measures worldwide.
These podcasts represent episodes in over 100 languages, with English leading the way by a fair margin.
TAKEAWAY: Podcast numbers are increasing, up 70% from 2018!
History Note: If you didn’t already know, the 2004 term “podcast” comes from a mix of “iPod,” Apple’s now more-or-less obsolete personal music players, and “broadcast.” These days, smartphones with massive data storage have replaced iPods, but the term lives on thanks to Apple’s massive market share in this area. Some users have suggested “Portable On Demand” as an alternative, non-branded interpretation of the term.
How many people are listening?
Lots and lots of people!
In the US alone, roughly 155 million people over 12 have listened to a podcast at least once. That’s up from 143 million just last year, representing 4% growth.
But that number doesn’t describe the real podcast audience very well.
What we really need to know is just how many people listen to podcasts regularly, and how regularly. Well, luckily, we’ve got those numbers, and as you may have guessed, they’re all going up!
Presently, over a third of Americans over 12 listen to a podcast at least once a month. In early 2021, this represented 37% or 104 million people tuning in to podcasts monthly, up from 32% in 2019. Yes, that’s a 5% growth in just a year.
Starting to see why this is interesting?
On top of that, 24% of the country, about 68 million people, listen to podcasts at least once a week.
Although only 6% or 16 million Americans describe themselves as “avid podcast fans,” the weekly listeners can be considered the core podcast audience because of their influential numbers.
Another important trend to consider is homes that listen to podcasts. Over 50% of American homes report podcast listening in the home. That means podcasts are currently able to reach over 60 million American homes.
This is important, as it could mean that listener numbers are underreported. Many people could be listening to podcasts in their homes without knowing it, thinking that what they’re listening in on is someone else playing the radio, TV, or other video content.
TAKEAWAY: Any way you slice it, 60 million homes or 104 million monthly listeners is a massive audience that simply can’t be ignored.
Who is listening to podcasts?
If you want to know your audience as a potential podcaster or advertiser, it’s crucial to look at the specific 2021 Podcast Statistics of who out there is listening.
Let’s start with age…
As with almost all things tech, podcasts are a young person’s game. Here’s how the audience breaks down:
18% of podcast listeners are 18-24 year olds,
28% of podcast listeners are 25-34 year olds, making these the leading group out there, and
21% of podcast listeners are 35-44 year olds.
This means that 67% of the podcast audience is under the age of 45.
As you might expect, these numbers taper off with age.
16% of podcast listeners are 45-54 year olds,
11% of podcast listeners are 55-64 year olds,
and only 6% of podcast listeners are aged 65 and over.
As for sex, podcast listeners are quite balanced…
52% of podcast listeners are male and
48% are female.
Though women listen to podcasts slightly less than men, this seems to be equalizing.
In 2021, 39% of men in America are monthly podcast listeners, while 36% of women listen monthly. In 2019, the numbers were 36% of men and only 29% of women. So we can see more growth in women listeners (7%) than in men (only 3%).
TAKEAWAY: With a full 67% of the podcast audience under 45 years of age, and women’s listenership rising 7% in the past year, these are the target demographics to watch!
Who are these people?
Let’s get more specific.
Who are the people that are listening to podcasts regularly, potentially also hearing about new products and services? The more details you know about this group of people, the more likely you’ll be able to find a use for podcasting in your business.
Let’s start with income…
In general, we can say that the average podcast listener is better off than a non-listener. These people have more income and net worth, with the corresponding increase in disposable income and purchasing power.
On average, 45% of podcast audiences who listen at least monthly enjoy household incomes of over $75,000. This compares to 35% of the total population.
Wealthy people are also more likely to listen to podcasts.
Podcast listeners are 45% more likely than non-listeners to have average household incomes of $250,000 or more.
Does this mean that listening to podcasts makes people richer? Unfortunately, there has been no study to figure out which way this correlation goes, but we can definitely say that the podcast audience is wealthier than the average person on the street!
What about education?
Here again, podcast listeners are a generally more highly-educated bunch than the average.
People who listen to podcasts are 45% more likely to have graduated from college than non-listeners. They’re also 56% more likely to currently be studying undergraduate degrees.
And the podcast audience member is 68% more likely to hold a Master’s or Ph.D. than the average non-listener.
How can we summarize these stats?
People with more education have a greater interest in podcasts. And college students consume podcasts a lot, possibly even as an alternative to textbooks and other traditional learning materials.
These important demographics also lead us into the how and why people consume podcasts, and why consumption is on the rise.
TAKEAWAY: The podcast audience is wealthier and better educated than the average of the American people.
Where and how are people listening?
Now that you know who your audience is, it’s just as crucial to understand how they behave in order to predict the key trends going into the future. Whether you want to start your own podcast or use an established podcast as a marketing platform, it’s great to know where and how they might be listening. And here’s the first big clue.
Home is where the listeners are…
At 49%, nearly half of podcasts consumed are listened to at home.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is followed up by 22% of podcasts being listened to while driving.
Audiences are only listening to 11% of podcasts while at work, and 4% while doing non-driving commuting, 7% while exercising or walking around.
This leaves 7% of podcasts being consumed while listeners were doing “other” activities (we can only speculate on what these might be, unfortunately, since the 2021 podcast statistics don’t provide us with any more details).
This is incredible! Or is it?
Think about the TV watching you do or the time you spend on social media, and you’ll probably find similar trends for those activities as well. But is podcast listening different in any significant way?
The 22% done while driving and 7% while exercising are particularly important here. This shows us that podcasts are definitely a good choice for activities that require some focus on another activity but leave the listener at least partially able to concentrate on listening at the same time.
And of course, smartphones are the leading platforms for podcast listening…
Between 2014 and 2018, the number of people listening to podcasts on their smartphones increased by 157%. This should come as no surprise as the number of people owning internet-connected phones continues to rise in America.
At home, you can imagine the activities audiences might be engaged in while listening to podcasts, from cooking to washing the dog. But it’s interesting to note that more and more users are bouncing their podcasts through smart speakers (like Amazon Alexa or Google Home) and are more likely to use and own these devices.
As of 2021, 33% of podcast listeners have listened to at least one podcast on a smart speaker.
To us, this signifies an increasing mainstream acceptance of podcasts as a medium for entertainment and learning. When people are bold enough to play their podcasts through speakers for others to hear, rather than keeping them in the privacy of headphones, this shows us that podcasts are not a flash in the pan, but a force to be reckoned with.
TAKEAWAY: Most people are listening to podcasts on their smartphones while at home or driving.
So what are people listening to?
With something approaching a million podcasts, there has to be something for absolutely everyone. No matter what you’re interested in, it’s guaranteed there is at least one podcast about it by now.
According to our numbers, the top five categories of podcasts are Society and Culture, Comedy, News and Politics, Business, and Health.
In general, people are listening to podcasts for four overwhelming reasons…
A whopping 74% of listeners listen to podcasts to learn new things.
71% listen for enjoyment’s sake.
60% listen to keep up with the news, and
51% listen for relaxation.
Don’t be fooled – these categories can and do overlap. You can learn and have fun at the same time, after all! But in general, audiences approach podcasts with open minds looking for education and enjoyment.
So how much are audiences consuming?
The majority of podcast listeners subscribe to an average of 6 podcasts. The average listener takes in 7 podcasts per week. This is a 40% increase from 2017!
It also equates to an average of 6 hours and 37 minutes of listening time per week.
Podcasts have no strict limits on length, with episodes varying anywhere from a few minutes to three or more hours. However, one hour is becoming a standard episode length.
So if an average listener listens to 7 episodes a week, why is that less than 7 hours?
This can happen for two main reasons. One is that 48% of subscribers don’t listen to full episodes. Understandable, considering the multitude of distractions present in modern life.
The other reason which might be surprising is that 19% of listeners sometimes increase the playback speed in their players so that they can listen to episodes in a condensed period of time. We can imagine that this is probably true of listeners who are multi-tasking and not just relaxing!
TAKEAWAY: Podcast audiences listen about an hour per day to content that’s fun and educational.
Podcast listeners do what?
By now, we’ve managed to nail down who is listening to podcasts the most, how this audience listens, what they listen to, and how much engagement they give this form of media. Does this target group have any other important behaviors for us to consider?
Firstly, people who listen to podcasts regularly (at least once a month) are more active on social media like IG, Twitter, and Facebook than the average person out there. In fact, 94% of listeners are active on at least one social media platform, compared with only 81% of the general American population.
On top of this, podcast listeners are more likely to follow the companies or brands that they like on these same social media platforms. They are also more likely than the average person to hold subscriptions to video-on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Let’s add one more very crucial statistic…
About 69% of podcast audiences felt that podcast ads increased their awareness of new products and services, and over 54% of listeners considered making purchases after hearing these ads!
What does all this mean for businesses?
This tells us that podcast listeners are engaged in their podcasts and highly trusting of the content and/or hosts. They are willing to consider purchasing the products and services advertised on the podcasts they like, which means directed advertising really works in the podcast media!
TAKEAWAY: Podcast listeners follow more businesses on social media and pay attention to ads on their preferred podcasts.
More on advertising
We’ve been looking at the most interesting and pertinent 2021 podcast statistics, focused on the behavior of listeners and how their numbers are steadily swelling. We also know that podcast listeners are more likely to follow and make purchases from businesses that advertise on podcasts.
How else can podcasts help your business?
Let’s get specific. When audiences listen to podcasts, they are suggestible and open to hearing about new products. Across the top five content genres, advertisers can see real increases in purchase intent from these audiences.
Advertisers which promote products on podcasts in the following areas see these corresponding increases:
Comedy = 7.3% increase
Society and Culture = 9.2% increase
Sports = 9.3% increase
News and Politics = 12.8% increase
Business = 14% increase
That’s right, advertisers on business-related podcasts can produce 14% increases in purchase intent from their audiences!
So how does advertising on podcasts work?
Advertisements can be worked into podcasts in three different ways. First, the podcast can take a break and play a pre-recorded advertisement, just like familiar radio ad spots. Next, ads can be integrated into the podcast program, either with scripts read out by the hosts or through the direct endorsements of guests.
These integrated ads account for 58% of podcast advertising.
A final and more subtle form of advertising is to have episodes that focus on particular products or services and which recommend their sponsor businesses. This editorial form of advertising is just like “advertorials” commonly found in magazines and on websites.
However, rather than waiting for a popular podcast or trusted host to invite them on to talk about their products, many businesses simply start their own podcasts. This way, they can promote themselves while providing a controlled platform for fans or supporters to discuss their products or services in public ways.
After all, any publicity is good publicity!
TAKEAWAY: Whatever form of advertising is used, podcast advertising works to lift purchase intent and gain brand exposure.
How do podcasts get listeners?
This is a very important question, but it could also be rephrased as ‘how do listeners find podcasts?’
Because of the brand, you probably won’t be surprised to find that 60% of podcasts are downloaded through the Apple ecosystem. After all, this is the company that started the concept and the name.
In fact, 54% of American users download their podcasts onto devices running iOS, compared to 43% on all Android devices and 3% other.
But Apple isn’t the only place to find podcasts…
Podcast hosting platforms such as SoundCloud, Anchor, Libsyn, and Megaphone host plenty of podcasts and are growing along with the general growth trends we see in this industry. Audio on-demand service, Spotify, is also a fast-growing hotspot for podcasts.
Last year, 43% of listeners used Spotify to search out and listen to podcasts.
So that’s where podcasts are in general…
But how do audiences search out new podcasts to subscribe and listen to?
It turns out, 43% of podcast listeners ask around on social media platforms or other online communities for recommendations. A further 23% of users ask someone else who they know shares similar interests directly.
That means a full 66% of podcasts are found through word-of-mouth recommendations!
Compare that to 16% found by searching through a podcast app or host’s directory, 12% found through Google searches, and a mere 6% found through looking at charts for top podcasts. You can see that in this realm, social media and recommendations are crucial.
So podcasts can try to give themselves more brand exposure by registering in multiple app directories and getting great feedback to push them onto the charts. However, it’s personal contact that drives interest in this form of media.
And this makes sense…
People who are looking to learn new things in specific subject areas are generally going to use their friends and contact as filters. This can help audiences save time by avoiding time wasters and uninteresting content, and help them tune into what they’re really interested in.
TAKEAWAY: While most content is found in the Apple environment, podcasts are popping up all over, and audiences are directed to them via social media and personal recommendations.
How are podcasts produced?
One reason why podcasts are currently booming is that they are very simple to start up and produce. For a basic podcast, no special recording equipment is needed outside of a smartphone! This leads podcasts to be amazingly easy to start up and produce.
Popular podcasts, most especially those for which sound quality is integral, such as music-related programs, for example, can start to use more sophisticated equipment. This can include high-quality microphones, editing equipment and software, and even decked-out recording studios.
But what equipment do most podcasters use?
According to podcasters themselves, most improve their sound quality by investing in quality microphones. Popular mic brands include Rode, with 19% of the market, followed by Blue with 17% of mic sales to podcasters.
Podcasters generally use dynamic mics (35%), basic USB mics (33%), or condenser mics (29%).
While 74% of podcasters use headphones to monitor their recordings, the remaining 26% don’t monitor their playback at all during recording sessions.
Surprisingly, only 10% of podcasts are broadcast live. The rest enjoy some post-production and editing, or at least the time to do so.
Editing software for podcasts is widely available and includes most of the same apps used to edit music and other audio files. Audacity is by far the most common app, with 48% of podcasters using this program for their editing. Adobe Audition follows with 31% of the podcaster market.
TAKEAWAY: Most podcasts are affordably produced using just inexpensive microphones and sound editing software.
Types of podcasts
In case you were wondering, there is more to the podcast world than simply recording speeches or conversations. Podcasters are now branching out into video, live-casting, and more!
Podcasts with video included are known as vodcasts. Although this form of the medium is new, and only 17% of current podcasters include video, this area is expected to grow.
“Enhanced podcasts” include image links rather than video. These links are timed to the podcast and pull up images as they are talked about. That makes the podcast something like a slide show with audio!
“Podcast novels” are another branch of this medium. Authors use podcasts to read parts of their novels, like a chapter per podcast. This is similar to normal audiobooks except that the novel is turned into serialized podcasts.
As mentioned earlier, only roughly 10% of podcasts are recorded live. But “live podcast” can also mean a podcast recorded in front of a live audience. This is one way to increase audience engagement, and also can generate income for the podcast through ticket sales.
TAKEAWAY: With Live Podcasts, Vodcasts, Podcast Novels, and Enhanced Podcasts, this medium is expanding and re-shaping itself. What’s coming next?
Throughout this article, we’ve focused on 2021 podcast statistics for America, which, after all, has the largest podcast audience.
But what about the rest of the world?
As reported in 2019, podcast listening is growing fast in many countries around the world. This is especially true in the Spanish-speaking world. Podcast audiences grew last year by nearly 84% in Chile, 55% in Argentina, 49% in Peru, and 47% in Mexico. That’s huge!
Perhaps surprisingly, China also saw 43% year-on-year growth last year.
Turning to engagement with this medium, a whopping 58% of South Koreans reported in 2021 that they had listened to at least one podcast in the past month! The same goes for 40% of Spain’s population, 36% of Swedes, and 33% of Australians.
TAKEAWAY: It’s plain that podcasting is taking off not only in the USA, but around the world, too!
Looking for some superb equipment to Podcast with?
Well, you’ll need a quality microphone, so check out our reviews of the Best IOS Microphones, the Best USB Microphones, the Best Microphones for Youtube, the Best External Microphones for iPhone, and the Best Condenser Microphones currently on the market.
Rode and Blue are leaders in the podcast microphone sales, so it is also worth checking out our in-depth reviews of the Blue Yeticaster, our Blue Yeti X review, the Blue Snowball USB Microphone, our Blue Yeti Nano review, the Blue Baby Bottle, our Blue Yeti review, or the Blue Snowball Ice.
As for headphones on a budget, take a look at our reviews of the Best Headphones under 100 dollars and the Best Bluetooth Headphones for under 100 dollars currently available. Or if you’ve got more to spend, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, or even the Best Headphones with Microphone if you want an all-in-one solution?
You’ll also probably need a few of the Best XLR Cables for Microphones, and if you’re going for very high-quality audio, one of the Best Audio Interfaces or the Best USB Audio Interfaces you can buy in 2021.
2020 Podcast Statistics – The Final Word
With 75% of Americans aware of podcasting and 37% as regular users of this medium, it’s clear that podcasts are turning mainstream. Whether you’re interested in joining the swelling ranks of the podcast audience, creating your own podcast, or using podcasts as a platform for marketing, this is a medium that can’t be ignored.
Really all it takes to get involved is to download an app to your phone and start subscribing. Or get an app and a decent microphone and start recording. So what are you waiting for?!