As the host of a podcast myself and producer of a few others, understanding listeners is a constant rabbit hole.
There are a lot of blogs and videos out there that will tell you a million ways to attract more listeners to your podcast show.
The problem is, a lot of them are referencing what has worked for them years ago... or worse a keyword that will help their video rank on YouTube.
What we're going to do in this post (and the video if you prefer that format) is take a dive into some real data and statistics about how people discover new podcasts in 2020.
Table of Contents
Podcasts are pandemic proof
The headline key finding from the Westwood One Podcast Network Fall 2020 Report says:
Podcast listening is pandemic proof. Since COVID-19, over 90% of weekly podcast listeners reported spending about the same time or more time with podcasts. Podcast Newcomers (those who started listening to podcasts in the past 6 months) are more likely to say they have been spending more time listening to podcasts since COVID-19.
This seems obvious. What is hiding in the data is that this increase in listening was trending upwards anyway. More people listen to podcasts year over year. As we will see in a few sections, listeners that are moderate listeners (they listen about 1 hour a week) are the most likely to be increasing to heavy listeners (listen 6+ hours a week). This trend has been happening steadily since 2017.
The takeaway here isn't that the pandemic spiked podcast listenership. The takeaway is that the pandemic didn't negatively change listening habits.
The fastest growing podcast audience demographics
The fastest growing podcast audience demographic is millennial women. Podcast Pioneers (those that have been listening "before it was cool" were primarily men. That makes sense as many of the early popular podcasts were hosted by men about "men stuff."
That isn't to say there weren't already a lot of women listening. Within that Podcast Pioneer group identified by Westwood One Podcast Network, 48% were women.
Within the last 7-12 months, however, the number of new listeners that are women has skyrocketed to 67% compared to 33% new male listeners.
My initial thoughts were that more women are hosting podcasts. Antidotally that seems to be true, but based on some more research women hosts are still far outnumbered by men hosts.
The number of women listening to podcasts reflect the number of women actually producing podcasts and hosting shows. Currently, studies show that women only host 22 percent of podcasts
This listener trend shows up in my own podcast analytics. While Spotify Podcasts only makes up 15% of my listeners, this trend shows up on Facebook and Apple Podcasts as well.
PODCAST LISTENERS CONTINUE TO CONSUME MORE HOURS
This should give you hope f you're just starting out and wondering if there is space in the growing podcast marketplace for you. Heavy podcast listening is growing.
Not only are more and more people listening to podcasts, but also the people who already listen to podcasts are listening for longer.
An interesting thing to note is that light listeners has remained about the same. The increase in heavy listeners has come from the pool of medium listeners.
So listeners that were already listening for 3-5 hours a week, have now started to pick up a few more podcasts and listening to podcasts for more than 6 hours a week. Meanwhile listeners that tune in for less than 3 hours a week seem to be content.
Why do people listen to podcasts
According to the Fall 2020 Report by Westwood One, the top reasons people listen to podcasts are:
These three categories blow all other answers out of the water. The question was a checklist, so these answers were likely all mixed with other answers as well. The report gives us a clear indication to the average reasons listeners tune into podcasts.
It stands to reason that if you create a podcast that entertains by telling interesting stories while teaching something, you'd fair pretty well.
We've seen this in the shows we manage. Taking a storytelling approach resonates with people.
If you are entertaining, tell some entertaining stories.
If you are teaching, teach through stories.
An easy way to create content like this is to interview interesting and entertaining guests. Alternatively interviewing experts and giving them a chance to tell stories works well too.
how do people find new podcasts in 2020?
The question any budding podcast host wants to know: how do people find new shows?
The Westwood One Fall 2020 Report has some great insights that may be helpful. As a marketing coach, my recommendation would be to look at these top discovery methods and sink all your effort into those. Ignore the rest until you've had some success in the most effective methods.
Answers from surveys like these aren't always the most helpful. When someone responds and says "Word of Mouth," what does that mean?
That could be a post on a friend's social media page. It could be sitting in the car as a friend or family is listening to a show. We'll just assume it means having a friend or family member directly suggest a show.
How can you use this to grow your show?
When first starting the Happy You Are Here Podcast, we ran a contest asking listeners to share each episode with ONE person they think might find it helpful.
They would take a screenshot of that message and submit it on a form on the website. We would draw from that pool of entries every week and give away an Amazon Gift Card and a personalized book recommendation.
Social media is where most newcomers discover new shows.
This means spending your efforts collaborating with guests that will share your podcast on their pages, posting to Facebook groups, and using hashtags effectively will likely score you some new podcast listeners.
For the Happy You Are Here Podcast, most of our listeners watch the video podcast interviews on Facebook. Turns out some people will actually watch a full 40 minute video interview.
Creating audiogram videos with subtitled "baked-in" with the app Descript has also helped us reach new listeners. These short audiograms are very sharable.
In the near future we will be experimenting with creating clips from each longer episode. This is how many find out about Joe Rogan shows on YouTube through bite-sized JRE Clips.
Collaborating with other podcasts is a double win.
A large portion of heavy podcast listeners discover new shows from other podcasts and social media.
If you guest on a podcast that is larger than your show or even a smaller audience that hasn't heard of you yet, that can be an opportunity to introduce your show to people who already listen to podcasts regularly.
By creating audiograms or easily sharable videos, you also make it easy for guests on your show to share with their audience.
Swapping interviews with other podcasts appears to be the most tried and true, statistics-backed way to find new listeners for your podcast.
How will you apply this information?
All the statistics in the world are useless without action. What action will you take after reading this post? Other than sharing obviously ;)
Without Knowledge, action is useless and knowledge without action is futile.
― Abu Bakr
Video version of this post
Full Westwood One Report