Why Do People Listen to Podcasts?

May 12, 2023

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Demographics & Audiences | Industries | Media & Entertainment | Youth & Gen X

About half of American adults say they’ve listened to a podcast in the past year, according to recently-released survey results from Pew Research Center. With podcasts gaining in popularity in recent years, the survey examines reasons why Americans tune in and the influence that podcasts have on their behaviors.

The results indicate that listeners engage with podcasts for a variety of reasons. Some 88% say that they listen to podcasts in order to learn, while an almost-equal 87% say they tune in for entertainment. Close behind, 81% engage with podcasts to have something to listen to when doing something else, while 71% do so to hear other people’s opinions.

The most common “major reason” for listening, though, is for entertainment, as cited by 60% of respondents. Some 55% say that learning is a major reason for listening, and 52% say a primary reason is to have something to listen to while they do something else.

These primary reasons for listening – entertainment and education – are reflected in the most common podcast topics among listeners. The leading topic is Comedy, which almost half (47%) say they regularly listen to (in line with previous research), followed closely by Entertainment, pop culture, and the arts (46%). Politics and government (41%), Science and technology (40%) and History (40%) also figure prominently among the most frequently listened-to podcast topics.

Interestingly, there’s an age dynamic at play in the reasons why people listen to podcasts. The younger the adult, the more likely they are to say that entertainment is a major reason for tuning in, and the same pattern is apparent for listening to podcasts as a diversion.

By contrast, older listeners are more likely to listen to podcasts for educational purposes – and in fact this is the leading reason for listening among those ages 50-64 and 65+. Older listeners are also more likely than younger listeners to engage with podcasts in order to stay up to date about current events.

More Than 1 in 4 Listeners Have Made A Purchase Due to a Podcast

Among podcast listeners, the most common response (among the options given) to a podcast they listened to was to watch a movie, read a book, or listen to music, as cited by 6 in 10 adults who had listened to a podcast in the previous year. A majority (52%) also say they’ve followed the social media account of a podcast or its host, while more than one-third (36%) have made or tried a lifestyle change – such as a workout, new diet, or journaling – as a result of listening to a podcast.

Meanwhile, more than one-quarter (28%) have bought something promoted or talked about on a podcast, which aligns with prior research findings.

Looking again at age differences in these responses, the results show that listeners ages 18-49 are more likely than those ages 50 and older to have made or tried a lifestyle change due to a podcast they listened to, and also more likely to have bought something because it was promoted on a podcast, with around 3 in 10 professing to have done so.

Finally, almost one-fifth (19%) of podcast listeners ages 18-29 report having paid for a subscription to a podcast.

For more, check out the report here.

About the Data: The results are based on a December 2022 survey of 5,132 US adults (18+). Listeners are defined as the 49% who reported having listened to a podcast in the previous year.


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