Women Podcast Listeners: Closing the Listening Gender Gap

By Megan Lazovick

Thirteen years ago, when the only ways to listen to a podcast were through a computer or by transferring it to an iPod, someone from Edison Research added a question about podcast listening to our annual study Infinite Dial study. Thanks to the foresight of that hero of an audio geek, Edison has a unique look at the history of the growth of podcast listening in the U.S.

And throughout that history, we have observed that the number of women podcast listeners has trailed behind the number of men listeners. In the earlier years of podcasting, the gap was significant (in 2008, the percent of women who ever listened to a podcast lagged behind men by 25%). Today, podcasters are inching toward closing that gender listening gap (in 2018, the percent of women who ever listen to podcasts only lags behind men by 9%), and we at Edison would like to provide some information that might help close the gap further. To do so, we’ll look at some of our previously published studies to take a closer look at the women in those data sets to understand podcasting’s role in women’s lives.

The Infinite Dial

The 2018 Infinite Dial® Study from Edison Research® and Triton Digital® covers the latest research in digital audio, social media, mobile, smart speakers, and podcast consumption. 2018 was, amazingly, the 20th anniversary of the Infinite Dial, making it the longest-running survey of digital media consumer behavior in America.

According to Infinite Dial, in 2018 just over one quarter (26%) of the 12+ U.S. population are monthly listeners. The Infinite Dial estimates show that men’s monthly podcast listening was flat from 2017 to 2018. While women are still behind men in monthly podcast listening, they did grow from 21% in 2017 to 24% in 2018 – which makes for an estimated 34 million women listening.

Women monthly podcast consumers overall are younger than the 12+ population, with 44% of them under the age of 35 compared to 37% in the total population. Women age 25-34 are the really sweet spot for podcasting listenership, with over a third of them saying they’ve listened to a podcast in the last month. There is still a lot of room for growth among in the other age groups, especially with women age 55 and older, with only 13% saying they’ve listened to a podcast in the last month.

Compared to the total population, age 18+, women podcast consumers have a higher annual household income. Fully 44% have a household income of $75,000, compared to only 38% of the total population. Women podcast consumers are also more likely to have obtained higher education than compared to the total population. Thirty-six percent of women who are monthly podcast consumers have attended at least some graduate school (vs. 23% of all Americans). So, women podcast listeners are pretty well-off and highly educated: two very sought after demographics for advertisers.

One number that we really see grow year after year is the amount of time these weekly listeners spend listening to podcasts. In 2018, women podcast consumers that reported listening in the last week (15% of U.S. women), listen to an average of 5 hours and 37 minutes of podcasts per week, which is up from 4 hours and 29 minutes in 2017. Women weekly podcast consumers listen to an average of seven podcasts per week, up from five per week in 2017. These data along with and in-person interviews with podcast listeners all indicate that when someone becomes a podcast listener, he/she spends a lot of time listening to podcasts. Edison Research’s Share of Ear® study looks more deeply at time spent listening.

SHARE OF EAR

Edison Research’s Share of Ear® quantifies the reach and time spent with of all forms of audio. It is the only single-source measurement that puts broadcast radio, Internet-only streaming audio, podcasting, satellite radio, TV music channels, and listeners’ own music collections together. More information about the study is available here.

Americans age 13+ spend an average of four hours per day listening to audio. When you break out those four hours, we see 46% of that time goes to AM/FM Radio listening, 14% to streaming audio, 12% owned music, and 3% to podcasts. But, what’s really powerful is when you look at the Share of Ear among women podcast listeners. As seen below, a whopping 27% of their listening goes to podcasting and AM/FM Radio listening drops to 24% of their time. So, when women start listening to podcasts, the majority of their overall listening time is dedicated to podcasts. But how do you convert non-podcast listeners into podcast listeners?

 

Podcast Listening Barriers study

While the Infinite Dial provides a lot of information about podcast listeners, and Share of Ear gives us an idea of how much women podcast listeners listen, we wanted to know more about those women who do not listen to podcasts. So, we conducted a separate survey with those who are familiar with the term podcasting, but are not listeners. That data has been previously released as part of Tom Webster’s “Podcasting’s Next Frontier: A Manifesto for Growth,” but we’ll, again, look at this data by women to better understand the roadblocks podcasters face in picking up never-before listeners.

While all the women who participated in the study said they were familiar with the term podcasting, 31% of them said they “don’t really understand what a podcast is.”

There is also a lack of a clear understanding about the technology needed to listen to a podcast. Thirty-eight percent of our women respondents said they “aren’t sure how to listen to podcasts” and 66% said they “don’t know where to start.” We have heard these sentiments repeated in multiple in-person interviews and focus groups with non-podcast listeners. In our interviews, women were overwhelmed by the number of choices. They need someone to curate and recommend to them what content they might like.

Three-quarters of women who do not listen said they don’t have a podcast app. We know that, indeed, most DO have a podcast app (at minimum Spotify or Pandora); they are just are unaware.

Pretty much all podcast listeners know that one can download and play a podcast later, but that information hasn’t been passed down to non-listeners: Sixty-eight percent of women familiar with the term “podcasts” but who do no listen thought that podcasts would use up their data plans.

Sixty-one percent said they would listen if there were topics they were interested in, and this could be a case where they are not familiar with the content that’s out there for them, or perhaps podcasters can do more to create content that appeals to women.

Sixty-percent of women familiar with podcast but don’t listen say “podcasts just aren’t for me.” Perhaps many of them are “music-only” people. We know from Share of Ear that not everyone likes speech-based audio. However, hearing such a large percentage of women saying “it’s just not for me” could just indicate that the podcasting industry has not done a good enough job in explaining what’s available to potential listeners.

So what will we see in 2019? Will we see that podcasting has finally closed the gap between men and women listeners when Edison Research and Triton Digital released the Infinite Dial in 2019? Will we see more women-focused podcasts and women-produced podcasts? Will there be more shows universally liked across all demos that are so appealing to non-listeners that they overcome some of the obstacles that have kept them from listening previously? We are not in the business of predicting the future at Edison, but we do have some recommendations to help close the gender listening gap.

First, explain the content, not the tech.  We have done qualitative research that shows quite clearly that non-listeners, even if they say they have heard of a podcast, don’t quite understand what a podcast is. So keep that in mind when you are telling someone why they should to listen to your podcast. In interviews with podcast listeners, people tell us that they listen because they enjoy learning new things because they connect with the hosts, they even tell us how the shows they listen to make them feel. Focus your messages on what you know makes your podcast great, and challenge yourself to write a version of your pitch that does not use the word “podcast.”

Second, get to know your listeners. How much do you know about your listeners? There are so many ways to learn and interact with them. Certainly knowing basic demographics will help you sell sponsorships. But, there are other ways to learn about them too. Listen to your listeners. Invite them to email their thoughts or send audio files or interact with them on social media. Build time into your day EVERYDAY to listen to your audience. If you understand your audience, you’ll learn how to better serve them, which in the end, will better serve you too.

Lastly, invite listeners into your club. You are more than a podcast. You are a club, a community, a group of like-minded people looking to connect. Have you ever met a stranger and somehow found out that you like the same podcast? Did you instantly feel like friends? It’s an amazing phenomenon. You need to think about your podcast as just touchpoint for your entire community of listeners.

Everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something. Allow people to be a part of your club. Ask them to do something more meaningful than rate your show or write a review. Maybe ask them to contribute ideas or perhaps there is a cause that is important to you and your listeners that you can support together. Be more than just a podcast by inviting others to join you in doing something. And if you can’t tell what your something is, then maybe you should work on that. Because the best shows out there are more than just shows.

 

 

Americans and the Gig Economy

Click here to download the Edison Research Marketplace Poll Gig Economy report 12.12.18

Almost one-fourth of American adults earn money in the gig economy, and the ones who earn their primary income in the gig economy are much more likely to have anxiety and feel financially insecure than non-gig workers.

T­­­wenty-four percent of Americans earn at least some income from “gig” work, such as driving for Uber or Lyft, selling products or services online, or working in some type of freelance capacity. Gig work may be the primary or secondary source of income, and as this study shows, those who rely on the gig economy as their primary source of income are more likely to have high anxiety levels, fear unexpected expenses, and feel financially insecure.

The Marketplace-Edison Research Poll is a regular series of surveys that examines how the U.S. population feels about their personal economy and financial situation in the landscape of the larger U.S. economy. The Economic Anxiety Index is a tool designed by Edison Research and Marketplace to measure the amount of stress a person feels about their individual financial situation through a series of twelve questions regarding job security, saving and expenses, and general financial anxiety.

Only 24% of those who are employed (not in the gig economy) have an Economic Anxiety Index score over 50. Almost half, 45%, of those who rely on gig work as a primary source of income have an Economy Anxiety Index score over 50.

“Our research shows that there are really two gig economies: one where gig jobs serve as the primary livelihood for employees, and one where they provide supplemental income. The 44% of Americans working in the gig economy who depend on gig work as their primary source of income show deep economic anxiety, which merits further study,” said Edison Research President Larry Rosin.

Key findings include:

  • 24% of Americans earn some income from the gig economy.
  • For 44% of gig workers, their work in the gig economy is their primary source of income.
  • For 53% of gig workers aged 18-34, their work in the gig economy is their primary source of income.
  • Men are more likely to be employed in the gig economy than women. Thirty-one percent of men say they earn money through the gig economy compared with 18% of women.
  • 31% of Hispanic adults 18+ earn money through the gig economy,compared to 27% of African Americans and 21% of White adults.
  • 45% of those who rely on gig work as their primary source of income have an Anxiety Index Score over 50, compared to only 24% of those employed but not in the gig economy.
  • 80% of gig employees whose gig work is the primary source of income say that an unexpected expense of $1,000 would be difficult to pay.
  • 28% of those who rely on gig work as their primary source of income say they are not financially secure compared to 20% of those employed but not in the gig economy.
  • 51% of gig workers say they work harder for their income than those in traditional jobs.

How the study was conducted:
Edison Research conducted a national survey of the United States population aged 18 and older. There were 1,044 interviews conducted via landline phone, cell phone, and online. Interviews specific to the topic of the gig economy were conducted from February 14, 2018 to February 20, 2018. This is the first time that the Marketplace-Edison Research Poll has included questions about earning money through the gig economy.

About Edison Research:
Edison Research (www.edisonresearch.com) conducts survey research and provides strategic information to a broad array of commercial clients, governments and NGOs, including AMC Theatres, The Brookings Institute, Disney, The Gates Foundation, Google, the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, Oracle, Pandora, The Pew Research Center, Samsung, Spotify, Sirius XM Radio, and Univision Communications. Edison Research works with many of the largest American radio ownership groups, including Bonneville, Emmis, Entercom, and Radio One. Another specialty for Edison is its work for media companies throughout the world, conducting research in North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Since 2004, Edison Research has been the sole provider of Election Day data to the National Election Pool, conducting exit polls and collecting precinct vote returns to project and analyze results for every major presidential primary and general election. Edison conducts more than 100,000 interviews in a single day for this project. Edison provided exit polls and tabulated the national vote across every county in the United States for ABC News, CBS News, CNN and NBC News in the 2018 U.S. elections and will do so again in 2020.

Podcast Diversity 2008 - 2018

Podcasting and Race: The State of Diversity in 2018

Recently, my colleagues Melissa Kiesche and Megan Lazovick gave a presentation at WerkIt – A Woman’s Podcast Festival. Their presentation, Closing the Listening Gender Gap, presented some new data on the composition of the podcasting audience and also some of the reasons why some women don’t listen to podcasts. You can download the full presentation here–it’s terrific–but it reminded us here at Edison that it’s a good time to revisit another aspect of this evolving medium: the growing diversity of podcast listeners.

First of all, let’s take a look at a comparison of the U.S. Population in 2018, and our most recent Infinite Dial data on monthly podcast listeners:

Podcast Listener Composition by Ethnicity

Podcast Listener Composition by Ethnicity

Here’s what is notable about the comparison of these two pie charts: absolutely nothing. And that’s wonderful news for the medium–the podcast audience today looks nearly identical to the population in general, and that means podcast producers have a wonderful opportunity to create an equally diverse portfolio of content. With the podcast audience essentially mirroring America, podcasters truly have an entrée into winning over The 52–the 52 million Americans who have heard of podcasting, but haven’t yet taken the podcast plunge.

Now, here is why two nearly identical pie charts have me so encouraged about the near term prospects of Podcasting: it didn’t used to look that way. In fact, it used to look really different:

Podcast Diversity 2008 - 2018

Just one short decade ago, the podcast audience was nearly three-quarters White, which was as much a reflection of the types of content being produced at that time as any other explanation. But over the last 10 years, podcasters themselves have become more diverse, and with that so has the universe of available content.

A lot has changed in just 10 years. Just think–back in 2008, we didn’t have Spotify, Snapchat, Uber, GPS on your phone, or Ed Sheeran. But for the ethnic diversity of podcast listeners to change so much over the last ten years is a tribute to the great democracy of podcasting: anyone with a story to tell, can tell that story. Increasingly, America–and the world–is listening.

Marketplace Edison Research Poll

Marketplace and Edison Research Reveal a Dramatic Shift in How Partisans Perceive Economic Data

The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was famously quoted as saying “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” In the case of economic data, however, this may not be true. In the October 2018 edition of the Marketplace/Edison Research Economic Anxiety Index poll, we asked a sample of Americans how much they trusted data about the economy that is reported by the Federal Government. 60% said that they at least “somewhat” trust the data, up from 55% in October 2016. And the most extreme reaction, “Do not trust it at all,” declined from 25% to 14%.

However, if we dig a little deeper into this question, we find something remarkable. The October 2016 survey was, obviously, fielded right before the Presidential Election, in the waning days of Barack Obama’s administration. The competing worldviews in the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could not have been more different: while Clinton ran on a platform of continuing the policies of the Obama administration, Trump ran under the argument that America was not, as surveys frequently ask, “on the right track.”

At the time of the October 2016 survey, U.S. unemployment was at roughly 5%, a number which is certainly below average (i.e., more towards full employment) compared to historical trends (by comparison, five years prior to October 2016, the unemployment rate exceeded 9%). So, with the government reporting “good” news, those who were currently aligned with the administration were more likely to believe that news. However, economic prosperity is never evenly distributed, a fact that then-Candidate Trump used to his advantage when he campaigned in pockets of America that had seen significant declines in manufacturing and well-paying jobs. If you lived in Youngstown, Ohio, or Flint, Michigan, your local economy was not doing well, regardless of what the national statistics said.

As a result, there was a sharp disparity between how Clinton supporters felt about government statistics, and how Trump supporters felt, as we reported back in 2016. Then, the 55% trust/45% distrust by the total sample masked a significant partisan divide. While 86% of Clinton supporters trusted government economic statistics, only 31% of Trump supporters felt the same—indeed, 48% of Trump supporters indicated that they didn’t trust these stats at all, compared to 5% of Clinton supporters. With Republicans and Democrats overall, these differences were still highly significant: 78% of Democrats trusted government economic data, compared to 38% of Republicans.

How you interpreted this disparity likely depended on where you personally identified yourself politically. If you were a Democrat, you likely would have been inclined to cite Senator Moynihan’s quote, above. But if you were a Republican, you would likely have made the argument that the facts on the ground are different; that, despite what the national statistics say, there are significant pockets of America that are economically only getting worse. Both sides, in other words, were demanding to be entitled to their own facts.

This year we had a remarkable opportunity to revisit this phenomenon, once again just prior to a significant election, only now under a Republican administration. As noted above, the degree of trust in government statistics did tick up by five percentage points, and it should also be noted that unemployment today is even lower (currently 3.7%) than it was two years ago. While the percentage of those who trust government economic data did rise modestly from 55% to 60%, that rise once again masks a significant partisan divide.

Trust in Economic Data by Party

The October 2018 data show that the “trusters” have completely flipped positions from 2016. Today, 73% of Republicans trust government data (compared to 38% in 2016) and 51% of Democrats trust these data (compared to 78% in 2016.) This is truly a remarkable shift in just a two-year period. The percentage of Republicans who “do not trust [government economic data] at all” declined from 37% to 7%. And the “somewhat distrust” figures for Democrats rose from 12% to 32%, nearly tripling in two years.

The opportunity to revisit this question under a new administration has given us a profound insight into how Americans from either side of the aisle perceive government communications. While one might have been tempted in 2016 to proclaim that Republicans were willfully ignoring “good” economic news, the truth is that both sides are inclined to believe “facts” when they are presented by their party, and less likely when they are presented by the opposition party. Yet, the underlying data is the same: unemployment statistics tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just as they have been since 1948.

All of which brings us back to Senator Moynihan. Perhaps we are all entitled to our own facts, after all.

Election Day

Powering Democratic Gains: First-time Midterm Voters

A report from Edison Research Exit Polls for the National Election Pool

After any election, analysts and pundits debate the “narrative” created by who won and who lost.  For the 2018 midterm elections, there is a vital parallel story: The explosive increase in turnout over previous midterm elections.

The current count shows approximately 114 million people voted in this year’s midterms.  This compares to about 83 million people who voted in the 2014 elections.

In this year’s National Exit Polls we asked respondents if this was the “first time [they had] ever voted in a midterm election.”  Fully 16% of respondents said so.  This represents about 18 million people voting for the first time in a midterm election.  That’s about the same number of people who live in the state of New York – all voting for the first time in a midterm election.

This means that 60% of the boost in voting since 2014 came from first-time midterm voters (the remainder presumably having not voted in 2014 but in some previous midterm).

The first time midterm voters are extremely young – 47% of those who voted for the first time in a midterm are 18-29 years old; 36% are 18-24 – most of whom were not eligible to vote in 2014.

At the same time – fully 27% of these first-time midterm voters are 45 years old or older.

The first-time midterm voters tilted strongly to the Democrats.  While nationally 53% of the midterm electorate voted for the Democratic candidate in their House election, among the “first-timers” 62% chose the Democrat.  This means that nearly 20% of all of those who voted for Democrats around the country were first-time midterm voters.

 

Related to the race of this group – first-time midterm voters are significantly less white than the electorate as a whole – 46% of first-time midterm voters are non-white vs 28% of the electorate as a whole.

While the significance of the outcome of the elections can be debated, there can be little debate about their ‘success’ from a participation standpoint.  Many millions came to the polls for a midterm for the first time, and most anyone would interpret this level of engagement with a democracy as a good thing.

 

About Edison Research:
Edison Research (http://www.edisonresearch.com) conducts survey research and provides strategic information to a broad array of commercial clients, governments and NGOs, including AMC Theatres, The Brookings Institute, Disney, The Gates Foundation, Google, the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, Oracle, Pandora, The Pew Research Center, Samsung, Spotify, SiriusXM Radio, and Univision Communications. Edison Research works with many of the largest American radio ownership groups, including Bonneville, Emmis, Entercom, and Radio One. Another specialty for Edison is its work for media companies throughout the world, conducting research in North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Since 2004, Edison Research has been the sole provider of Election Day data to the National Election Pool, conducting exit polls and collecting precinct vote returns to project and analyze results for every major presidential primary and general election.  Edison conducts more than 100,000 interviews in a single day for this project. For the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections, Edison will provide exit polls and tabulate the national vote across every county in the United States for ABC News, CBS News, CNN, and NBC News.