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Podcast listenership and lockdown

By Amelia Moore | Account Executive

Space & Time


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This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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April 6, 2021 | 6 min read

2020 was certainly a peculiar year. To resist the cabin fever of isolation, many of us had to find new ways to keep ourselves occupied, which can be seen reflected in various media trends across the last 12 months.


While most lockdown 'hobbies' seemed to fall to the wayside, one trend that has remained consistent is the popularity of podcasts and how easily they slot into lockdown life: on the daily walk, hoovering the lounge or queuing up outside of Sainsbury's, you can just slide on a pair of headphones and drift off to the chatter of strangers – an unlikely luxury when you're limited to only seeing your household.

Although podcasts have been around since 2004, the last few years have seen a continued increase in listenership, with the events of the last year lending themselves to this surge. Throughout 2020, 18% of us listened to podcasts each week, which is double the number who listened two years previous. In fact, according to Acast’s latest figures, we now listen to almost 60m hours of podcasts per week, which is over twice what we did two years ago and seventeen times what we did in 2015.

Like radio, podcasts are a form of ‘opt-in’ media, as people actively search for new content to match their interests. Whatever the genre or motivation, users are typically highly engaged when listening to podcasts. Almost half of all our listening takes place at home, with the smartphone being the preferred device; and, in contrast to most other media consumption, it is very much a solo activity with 92% of listening happening alone. This, along with the increased surge of users integrating the audio activity into their lives over the last year, has turned the format into a highly attractive space to advertisers.

podcast share

Who are these users?

While the overall listening share of podcasts still lags behind both streaming and radio, podcasts can provide advertisers with a valuable group of consumers who are less likely to listen to other forms of audio.

According to the 2019 Acast Listener Report:

  • 87% of podcast listeners are either light or non-commercial radio listeners

  • 66% have a premium Spotify account

  • 42% use an ad-blocker

  • 39% more likely to have a bachelor’s degree

  • 39% more likely to be in senior management

  • 38% more likely to be in full-time employment

  • 76% have acted on a brand message within a podcast

  • 41% more likely to be a business decision-maker

  • 134% more likely to be an early adopter

have listened

Unsurprisingly, the upward trend in listenership is primarily driven by younger audiences. Recent data from the Mediatel Connected Survey demonstrates a clear upward trend for the 16-44 range, along with 42.8% of 16-34-year-olds reportedly having listened to a podcast in the last 12 months.

While there has been considerable growth in audiences around the 55-plus age range, it is far smaller in scale than younger audiences, proving that podcasts are another great way of targeting a younger demographic via audio.

How do we reach users?

Some advancements in targeting options for podcasts are as follows:

  • Dynamic audio allows advertisers to personalise ads on demand, based on factors such as location, device type, and listening platform.

  • Dynamic reads soon to be launched by Acast using the same technology, the advertiser can run dynamic creative but in the context of presenter voiced sponsorships.

  • Keyword targeting allows you to curate a collection of podcasts to advertise in. This also allows a brand to exclude themselves from any environments that they would not want to be associated with.

Spotify increased by 11% and 12% respectively in 2020 to become the second most popular service on which people listen to podcasts. In the fourth quarter of 2020 alone, Spotify recorded a doubling in podcast listening hours; the platform now has 155 million paying customers and saw its total monthly user base, including those on its free, advertising-supported tier, grow 27% year-on-year to 345 million.

So, it seems that podcasts have proved themselves a lucrative format for streaming services. According to a Feb 2021 article by The Guardian: “A quarter of all users engaged with podcast content in the final three months of 2020 in what Spotify sees as validation of its decision to spend millions on a roster of new talent in a strategic shift beyond music."

These new users are present and actively listening, making the format an exciting space for advertisers to occupy moving forwards; advertising revenue is expected to grow by 36% in 2021 to a total of £44m, and £75m by 2024. It is certainly a space to watch, and a new format to start folding into media plans in the post-lockdown world.

If you would like to discuss the use of podcasts or would like more information on this option, please get in touch here, and our digital specialists can discuss how this platform could work for you.

Amelia Moore, account executive, Space & Time

Marketing Agency Marketing Services

Content by The Drum Network member:

Space & Time

Space & Time is a growth marketing agency, enabling clients to secure optimal value from every part of the customer experience and their marketing investment. We form long-term partnerships with clients through our business empathy and commercial alignment, working within fully managed, hybrid or in-house models to deliver best-in-class expertise across media, technology, performance creative and training, driving market-beating long-term growth outcomes.

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