Weekly Insights · July 21, 2022

Podcast Listening: A Mid-Year Check-in

By Gabriel Soto

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By Gabriel Soto, Edison Research Senior Director of Research

Many of us combat our anxieties by obsessively tracking indicators for positive news. If you are like me, you might find yourself checking your Robinhood stock portfolio to make sure you haven’t lost everything. If you are like my girlfriend, you might spy on your cats via your new cat cam while you are out to dinner to make sure they’re okay. Today we are checking in on podcast listening. 

Earlier this year a statistic from The Infinite Dial® 2022 from Edison Research, Wondery, and ART19 caused much anxiety. To the dismay of many creators and others in the podcast industry, the report revealed a 3-point decrease in U.S. monthly podcast listening since last year. 

Furthermore, the largest decline in monthly listenership since last year occurred among Americans 12-34 years old. 

When these findings were published in March, many podcasters scurried to rationalize what this dip meant for the medium, and many still are. “Is this the beginning of the end for podcasting, or am I overreacting to an observation of a cutback not seen in years?” 

To get the next temperature read on podcast listening from Infinite Dial, one will have to wait until next year’s edition. However, by tapping into Share of Ear®, a national survey of 4,000 Americans 13+ updated quarterly, one can find some reassuring evidence that this reduction in listenership perhaps does not equate to the arrival of the pod-pocalypse.  

Share of Ear is a diary study in which a national sample of Americans report what audio they listen to in a preassigned day. Share of Ear yields an estimate of daily podcast listening in comparison to the Infinite Dial’s monthly estimate. As seen in the graph below, when one compares Q1 2021 to Q1 2022, daily podcast listening among 13 to 34-year-olds follows a similar trajectory to Infinite Dial’s monthly listening among 12 to 34-year-olds, that is, we see a drop. 

In Q1 2021, 28% of 13-34-year-olds (and 15% of the U.S. population 13+) were reached by podcasts daily, according to Share of Ear. In Q1 2022, one year later, that number among the 13-34 population dipped to 22%, corroborating the decrease we saw among 12 to 34-year-olds in Infinite Dial. 

Since then, in our latest release of Share of Ear data a quarter later, in Q2 2022, the number of 13-34s who listen to a podcast daily has rebounded to 29%, driving the total population estimate of daily podcast listeners up to 16%.  

It’s reassuring to see a mid-year bounce back in daily listening among the age group that reported this year’s largest reduction in podcast listening.    

Ultimately, a mid-year check-in points to a normalization of podcast listening instead of a complete downturn. Podcasters will find this data promising of an upward direction in listenership, but something that I’ve learned as a novice investor is that micro-changes to my stock portfolio, such as hourly ones, don’t always indicate what the value will be at closing. We can’t say U.S. podcast listening will break through the ceiling like it has in recent years, but what we can say is something my girlfriend always says with relief after checking in on her pets at dinner: the [pod] cats are doing alright.  

Gabriel Soto will be keynoting at Podcast Movement 2022 next month in Dallas, sharing Edison Research’s latest findings on emerging opportunities in podcasting. You can register here, and catch up with Gabriel in-person on all things podcasting. 

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