As Podcast Listening Goes Mainstream, Audiences of All Ages Are Tuning In

October 27, 2021
Nielsen US Adult Podcast Listener Age Distribution Oct2021

Podcasts continue to increase in popularity, with 6 in 10 Americans saying they have listened to a podcast. Some adults are listening often, with a new report [download page] from Nielsen disclosing that 3 in 10 (29%) adult listeners tune in to podcasts at least 10 times a month.

Data collected in May 2021 indicates that although a fairly large share of podcasts listeners are heavy listeners (29%; 10+ times per month), the largest share (49%) are light listeners — listening to podcasts 1-3 times per month. Light listeners are also the group that has seen the most growth in the past three years, growing from 39% of total listeners in August 2018 to the current 49% of total listeners. 

Where Americans are listening to podcasts has also changed in the past few years. Podcast engagement is now more likely to take place at the home than in transit, at work, or in another setting. Back in August 2018, the start of the analyzed time period, at-home use was rivaled by transit use.

Although logic may dictate that the growth of at-home listening was facilitated by the pandemic and Americans spending more time at home, Nielsen’s data indicates that the most growth in at-home listening occurred between November 2020 and May 2021 when many stay-at-home mandates had been lifted in the US. 

Older Listeners Play A Greater Role

Podcasts are increasingly appealing to all generations. In fact, while the largest share of adult podcast listeners remains 25-39-year-olds (38%; down from 40% in August 2018), older adults have steadily increased their share of the audience.

Known for being late adopters, older adults (ages 55+) represented 16% share of total adult podcast listeners in the US in August 2018. By May 2021, that share grew to 20%. In the meantime, adults ages 40-54 have maintained the same 27% share of total podcast listeners in that time period, while the share represented by the 25-39 and 18-24 brackets has declined slightly.

Among the very diverse podcast audience, Black adults ages 55+ represent about one-fifth (21%) of total Black adult podcast listeners. However, this age group makes up a much smaller share of all Hispanic (11%) and Asian (7%) listeners. Also, Asian adults in the 25-39 age bracket make up a much larger share (50%) of total Asian podcast listeners than that age group does across all ethnicities and races.  

Podcast Advertising

Data from PwC shows that the podcast advertising market is predicted to grow by 30.6% this year. As advertisers invest more in this medium, they are seeing the benefits. Nielsen reports that podcast advertising drives a 12 percentage point lift in brand awareness and a 5 percentage point lift in purchase intent.

The report also shows that not only do host-read ads drive a brand recall of 71%, the length of the ads also matters. Lift scores are 40% higher for longer ads (60 seconds or more) than shorter ones for purchase intent and recommendation intent. 

The full report can be found here.


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