Podcast Engagement Growing Among the Middle-Aged

May 4, 2022

While affinity for podcasts has traditionally been highest among youth, middle-aged adults are increasingly getting in on the act, according to results from the latest Infinite Dial report [pdf] from Edison Research, produced in partnership with Wondery and ART19.

Mixed Trends in Podcast Reach

This newest 2022 edition of the report finds that 79% of US respondents ages 12 and older are familiar with podcasting, up a point from last year. The podcast audience also continues to expand, as 62% of respondents say they’ve ever listened to a podcast. This figure has climbed virtually ever year since 2006, and is up from 40% in 2017.

However, while more people have listened to a podcast than ever before, regular engagement with podcasts has slipped, which the report attributes to a return to pre-pandemic routines. As such, this year 38% of respondents report having listened to a podcast in the last month, down from 41% in last year’s survey. However, this figure remains higher than those registered in 2020 (37%) and 2019 (32%) as well as in prior years.

Likewise, weekly podcast listening has also dipped slightly. This year 26% report having listened to a podcast in the previous week, as compared to 28% last year. Once again, this year’s result continues to be higher than in 2020 (24%), 2019 (22%) and earlier years.

Middle-Aged Adults Buck the Trend

The percentage of Americans ages 13 and older who listen to podcasts on a monthly basis declined across age groups and genders, with one exception: 35-54-year-olds. Instead, the proportion of Americans in this age group having listened to a podcast in the previous month ticked up from 39% last year to 43% this year. By comparison, the percentage of 12-34-year-old respondents listening in the past month fell from 56% to 50%, while for those ages 55 and older it dropped from 26% to 22%.

Meanwhile, slightly fewer male respondents this year (41%) than last (43%) had listened to a podcast within the prior month, with engagement also dipping among female respondents (39% to 36%).

Another measure of podcast listening also shows that the middle-aged group are quite heavily engaged. Though the report doesn’t break out the percentage of respondents who listened to podcasts in the previous week by age group, it does look at the number of podcasts listened to among weekly podcast listeners by age. The results here show that although one-third (33%) of weekly listeners ages 12-34 listen to more than 5 episodes in the previous week, that figure rises to 38% among 35-54-year-olds. Indeed, the number of episodes that weekly podcast listeners tuned into during the prior week averaged 8.9 among the 35-54 bracket, compared to 8.3 for the 12-34 group and 4.9 for the 55+ group.

Recent study results suggest that Comedy is the most popular genre among 25-54-year-old podcast listeners, followed by News, Society & Culture, and True Crime.

As for weekly listening, MarketingCharts’ 8th Annual Media Audience Demographics Report indicates that about one-third of adults ages 18-24 (32%) and 25-34 (33%) listen with that frequency, as do 29% of adults ages 35-44 and 21% of those ages 45-54.

Who is the Monthly Podcast Listener?

Men are over-represented in the monthly podcast listening audience, according to the Infinite Dial report. While they account for 48% share of the 12+ population, they represent 53% of monthly podcast consumers of that age, compared to 46% share for women and 1% for non-binary/other. However, men’s share of the monthly podcast listening audience has edged down over the years, from 55% in 2017. A recent report from Nielsen has also found an increase in female listeners, noting that the number of heavy female listeners – those tuning in 10+ times per month – almost doubled between November 2019 (5.38 million) and November 2021 (9.27 million).

As for the age distribution of monthly podcast listeners, a declining share are ages 12-34 (47%, down from 51% in 2017). The share who are ages 35-54 remains flat from 2017 at 33%, while the share who are ages 55 and older has grown from 16% to 20% during that period. This also aligns with research from Nielsen, in which adults ages 55 and older have been found to represent a growing share of the podcast audience at the expense of younger adults.

As for the race/ethnicity of monthly podcast listeners, this year’s study finds that 59% are White, down from 66% in 2017. Some 16% are African-American, up from 12%, while another 16% are Hispanic, up from 11%.

Online Audio Engagement Rises

Unlike with podcasting, the percentage of US respondents ages 12+ who listened to online audio in the previous month rose this year, reaching 73% after spending the past couple of years at 68%. The rise was particularly noticeable among the 35-54 (81%, up from 72%) and 55+ (52%, up from 46%) age groups.

Weekly online audio listening (referring to AM/FM radio stations online and/or streamed audio content available only on the internet) also climbed to reach two-thirds (67%) of respondents, up from 62% last year and 60% the two years prior.

For more on the audience breakdown of online radio and podcast listeners, purchase MarketingCharts’ 8th Annual Media Audience Demographics Report.

About the Data: The results are based on a January survey of 1,502 people in the US ages 12 and older.

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