Commentary

Podcasts Are The New Black, With Many Shades Of Grey Within

It’s been widely acknowledged that podcasts have hit a tipping point. Usage is growing across all demographics, even older ones initially more resistant to the medium. And media companies are responding with content galore.

As of December 2019, it was reported there are over 800,000 shows and over 30 million podcast episodes available — up more than 60% from just 18 months earlier. It would seem that all one needs to do is launch a podcast and start reaping the benefits.

However, a study we fielded among affluent respondents (note: household income $125k+) in Q3 2019 suggests nuances podcast providers need to know to ensure success with consumers and advertisers.

While podcasts are hot, understanding the important differences across listeners' gender and generation can make or break your podcast strategy.

Growth is clearly being driven by the foundational attributes of the medium. Its on-demand, mobile nature fits the modern way people consume media, and aligns with any busy schedule. It’s also clear that the ever-growing quantity and variety in content is a benefit, as well — demonstrated by the wide dispersion of genres consumers are listening to, without any one being dominant.

However, each of these factors — listenership, genre, willingness to pay — are all very much driven by audience. And, some of the most interesting differences are between genders.

Men are significantly heavier podcast listeners than women. They’re twice as likely to be heavy listeners than women (5+ hours/week). Proving their commitment to the medium, men are over 3X more likely to pay for podcasts than women (however, women are almost 50% more likely to say they listen to every episode of a podcast than men). Nevertheless, it’s important for media companies to offer plenty of free content, which is still critical for all audiences.

Also interesting are the differences in the ways in which each gender discovers content. While recommendations rule for both men and women, men are almost twice as likely to leverage social media for recommendations, while women are nearly three times as likely to get them in person. Men also are twice as likely to discover new content via advertising on other podcasts, social media and other media.

Podcast producers/distributors should utilize a strategy to leverage recommendations and social media to help drive adoption, especially when targeting men.

While comedy is the top listening genre for both genders, the similarities end there. Men’s listening in general is more eclectic and varied than women’s, consuming everything from spirituality to business and politics to sports. Women tend to keep their listening lighter, with a greater focus on entertainment and music, plus a heavy dose of true crime.

It’s important for content developers and providers to truly understand their prospects for audience and advertising planning.

There are also key generational differences, as well. Millennials and Gen X are the heaviest podcast consumers, making up seven out of 10 podcast listeners. Over 1/3 of both generations identify as regular podcast listeners. And while Gen X has more heavy users, Millennials are almost 30% more likely to pay for their podcasts.

When it comes to genres, millennials are the most eclectic, with culture/society and education being their top genres of choice. For both Gen X and boomers, the number one is sports, followed by politics.

The upcoming year is certain to be another growth year for podcasts. If you’re in the podcast game, it will be more important than ever to recognize and leverage the shades of gray that best fit your audience strategy.

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