SheListens: Insights on Women Podcast Listeners

Click here to download SheListens: Insights on Women Podcast Listeners

Edison Research Senior Vice President Melissa Kiesche gave the following presentation on October 12 at She Podcasts LIVE in Atlanta.

It’s 9am on Saturday morning. While I know that pie charts and bar graphs may not be everyone’s favorite (although, totally mine!), I love that it is data that can help frame our conversations and direct change.

My talk today is entitled – SheListens. While we’ve spent much of the last day or so focused on how to encourage more women to host, produce, write and edit, what we can also do as women in this industry is to bring more women listeners to all this fabulous women-created content.

Thirteen years ago, we added podcast questions to our annual Infinite Dial® study.  In 2006 the ONLY way to listen to a podcast was to search for content and then listen on your computer speakers or download it to your iPod. It was a tech-heavy ask for people who were used to just popping in a CD, or tuning their radio dial or maybe listening to an Internet radio station via their desktop. So, it makes sense that this was an industry born from the depths of male tech culture.

In addition, content was forever heavily male focused, so it’s not really surprising that women have lagged far behind in their interest in and adoption of podcasting. But, for the most part, these barriers have gone away. You can listen to podcasts in a dozen different ways – none of which require you to use one device to download to another. And, anyone that has spent any time looking at podcasts on iTunes or Spotify knows that there is ample content out there for anyone and everyone.

So, why is it that women are still lagging behind men when it comes to listening? We’re going to spend a little time today on this. We’ll look at women who are familiar with podcasting, but are NOT listeners, as well as compare some key podcast metrics between men and women listeners.

Beyond the buttoned up quantitative research we do, we take a lot of pride our qualitative research – it really gives us a chance to get in front of podcast listeners and pick their brains about their listening habits.

To go back a moment, for those of you that are unfamiliar with our Infinite Dial study. It’s really our flagship study, where we track a whole range of digital media consumption habits and behaviors and have been doing so for 22 years. It’s a nationally representative study, conducted using the highest standards in market research.

And, for podcasting, Infinite Dial has become the industry’s annual report card. An opportunity to understand where we came from and hypothesize on where we are going.

So, let’s start with the good news. All those metrics I talked about, they are up! We were super excited this year to say that after years of 1-2 percentage point increases, now over half of Americans (144 million people) say they have EVER listened to a podcast.

 

That’s a seven-percentage point increase over last year. And, just under one-third of Americans (90 million people) say they have listened to a podcast in the last month. A six-percentage point increase over last year.

But, today we’re talking about listeners who identify as women. And, when you break it down, we see that women are quite a bit less likely to have listened in the last month: 36% of Men vs. 29% of Women have listened in the last month.

This means that when you look at the composition of monthly podcast listeners, 54% are Men and 46% are Women.

 

And yet, the familiarity of the term podcasting is just about equal – 72% of Men and 69% of Women are familiar with the term, where up until 3 years ago, there was about a 10 percentage point gap.

So, while the gap is closing, Why the persistent lag? If they know what a podcast is, why haven’t they tried listening?

What’s unique about women in terms of their consumption habits, their content preferences? What can we learn about women that will help convert them from a non-listener to a listener and from a casual listener to a more voracious one?

Let’s start with those who are familiar with podcasting, but are not listeners. We had the opportunity to sit down with people who were familiar with the term podcasting but did not listen. So, let’s learn more about the non-listeners.

It was those conversations that lead us to include questions to non-listeners in our annual study. So, we asked people if the following were reasons they did NOT listen to podcasts.

 

First off, which I think is great news, is that this does NOT seem to be a content problem. Women are LESS likely to say that there aren’t podcasts that cover topics they are interested in. So, even non-listeners are aware of all that is out there for them to listen to.

But, much of this suggests there is still a bit of a tech hurdle to gain additional women listeners. And, for sure, that was originally the case. But, that is now starting to go away. A podcast app is NOT the only way to listen to a podcast. In addition to apps, listeners can access content via Spotify, Pandora, YouTube and direct links on social.

And, as the content (that you are all producing!) continues to get out into the world it will be worth it for new listeners to do whatever they need to do to access that content.

Now, back to our actual listeners. For Podcast Movement this year, we took a deeper look at Rookie monthly podcast listeners (those who started listening in the last six months) and veteran monthly listeners (started listening 3 or more years ago). We wanted to see the difference between those who have been dedicated listeners for years and those who are just getting started.

And as part of that study, we sat down with some veteran and rookie listeners and this is what they said.

After defining the length of listenership for the groups, one of the first things we looked at was the gender composition of each group. And, let me tell you, my colleagues and I practically leaped in air when we took a look.

So, let’s start with those veteran listeners – 63% are men and only 37% are women. Now, look at the rookies – 47% are men, but the majority, 53% are women.

This is the number excites me the most. It says we are at a tipping point! And, I feel it every day in my household. I have twin daughters – they are five. When we get in the car, the FIRST thing they ask is for me to turn on a podcast!

When asked if they might like music instead, they’ll choose the podcast every single time. And, as an aside, the content they choose is about a gal-powered as you can get.  I did a quickie content analysis on all their favorite shows and of their top shows eight of the ten feature a female host, co-host or in the case of a fictional podcast, a female protagonist.

So, while they may not qualify to take our survey for another seven years or so, I know their listening (and that of their peers), will help to rocket women listenership farther.

And, when women become listeners they are committed to the cause!

Women are listening to just about as many podcasts on average per week as men – 7.2 podcasts vs. 6.8 podcasts.  They also subscribe to just about as many podcasts as men (3.2 vs. 3.4 on average) but, more impressively, they are on average doing more hours of listening then men – 7.3 hours vs. 5.9 hours.

While women are less likely to download and listen to a podcast within 48 hours – 72% of women vs. 83% of men, they eventually listen to 76% of all the podcasts they download (same as men at 77%). Women are also a bit more likely to listen to the entire podcast (54% of women vs. 52% of men). And, again, super impressively, women are more likely to say they are listening to MORE podcasts than one year ago – 45% of women vs. 39% of men.

Now, why do women say they are listening to podcasts? We asked seven different reasons why they might listen and this is how they ranked:

And, everyone knows that women are the ULTIMATE multi-taskers. On any given Saturday, you can find me loading groceries out of my cart at checkout and responding to an urgent work email, while simultaneously leading my daughters in a sorting activity – red fruits in one bag, boxed items in another.

So, this next stat is right in line: 75% of men say they ever listen to a podcast while not doing anything else, while only 65% of women listeners say the same. So, women are a bit more likely to sometimes be multi-tasking while listening. They are consuming your content, while still going about their day-to-day. And to many of them, it’s the soundtrack of their day.

We recently talked to a group of moms about how they listen to podcasts and how it fits in to their daily lives.

Our next video brings up discovery – we know why women listen, but how is it that they discover what they are listening to. Let’s watch.

While women and men discover podcasts in many of the same ways, their primary means of discovery is quite different. Women are more likely to use “recommendations from friends and family” as their primary source of finding out about podcasts– 25% vs. 18% (#1 among women and #2 among men).

Women are social. They are far more likely overall to use social media and women podcast listeners are no exception. Women listeners are more likely to use ANY social media than men listeners – 96% vs. 87%, especially Facebook 80% vs. 58%,  Instagram 57% vs. 43% and  Pinterest 59% vs. 21%.

And, for podcast discovery social media really just becomes an extension of their recommendations from friends and family. Nineteen percent of women listeners use social media as their primary means vs. 14% (#2 among women and #3 among men). So, that means that 44% of women say their primary means of podcast discovery is via recommendations or social media compared to only 32% of men.

What’s the number one means of podcast discovery for men? Far and above, it’s searching the Internet. Over a third (34%) of men listeners say it’s the number one way that they discover new podcasts, while only 18% of women listeners use it as their primary means.

We also asked people what topics they would be interested in listening to on podcasts. And, while there are some commonalities here in the top ten (e.g music, news/information, entertainment/celebrity/gossip, history, mystery/thriller and true crime), what’s most striking here is that wellness/self-improvement tops the list for the type of content that women would be interested in listening to on podcasts. It’s number one for women and not even in the top ten for men. And, then, we have food at number three for women and again, not breaking the top ten for men.

And, while we learned before that women are well aware of all the content available out there, the Top Ten lists on both Apple, Spotify and Stitcher are not exactly reflecting the content preferences of women listeners.

Take a look at the Top Ten on Apple Podcasts.  I think we can say we have True Crime covered! Five of the top ten podcasts fall into that genre. Only ONE podcast makes the cut as a Wellness/Self-Improvement podcast and that’s The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos. And, that one just launched on September 17th – so fingers crossed it remains a success.

The next Wellness/Self-Improvement-related podcast doesn’t show up on the list until #21 and that’s Dax Sheppard’s ArmChair Expert. No where do I see a food-related podcast.

Same patterns on both the Spotify and Stitcher Top Twenty.

Equally as important as the content is the advertising included in each episode. And, while I know that many of you have not yet taken on advertisers yet, if you do, this is key. So, I end with a bit of a warning – maybe more of a challenge than a warning. In addition to understanding why and how they listen, I also felt compelled to understand how women perceive advertising on podcasts.

And, in my own humble opinion, advertisers don’t always do the best job in appealing to women on podcasts. So, when I saw this data (while it made me cringe), I was not surprised. Women are less likely to consider a brand advertised on a podcast than men. Only 38% of women vs. over half (52%) of men are at least somewhat likely to consider them.

At Edison Research, we host a Podcast Club (book club for podcasts) and our September listen was To Live and Die in LA. Their main advertiser was SimpliSafe –a security system for your home. Right on, right? Great connection between podcast about a murder and beefing up your home security so you feel safer.

But, another advertiser, who popped up later in the series, was Zola.com. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Zola is a wedding planning website. Women just LOVE hearing about a wedding planning site while unraveling the mystery of whether or not a man brutally murdered the woman with whom he was cheating in order to hide the affair from his fiancé.Cue the cringes of every woman in our Podcast Club.

But, there is a little light on this topic. And, it comes in the way of video we put together of women discussing audio advertising.

So, what does this tell us? For me, it’s simple. When a brand is properly aligned with a podcast and the execution is women-friendly, women can be equally as engaged with the advertising.

And, we know this from the dozens of brand lift studies we conduct every year. We’ve seen smashing successes when an advertiser takes the time to craft messaging that is relevant to the audience. But, we’ve also seen utter failures when an advertiser just repurposes advertising from another medium and doesn’t take the care to make it podcast-friendly.

So, not every advertiser belongs on every podcast. And, even if it is a product or service equally purchased by men and women, how that product is represented in a women-friendly podcast can and should be different. Tell the advertiser about your audience. You know who they are what they want to hear.

Conclusions

Let it be known that our differences as women hosts, producers, writers, editors (and market researchers) are our STRENGTHS. Being a woman involved in making all this content puts you in a powerful position to continue to move women’s listenership numbers in the right direction.

This is industry that is growing. As you saw, all the awareness and listening metrics have gone up, but there is still a gap between men and women. But, heck yea, rookie listeners are more likely to be women!

Let us not forget. Women are social creatures and they rely on their personal and social networks as their main means for discovery. Lean into that – create a community. If you are not already heavy on social, you need to increase your efforts there.

Also, that same listening gap between women and men is reflected pretty clearly in those Top Podcasts lists. We saw — women have different content preferences and the Top lists don’t yet mirror that. Let’s make sure we are producing what women want. Again, this is your strength. Women are undeniably going to be better at producing content for women.

And finally, advertising is just as important as the actual content. Push your sponsors to give you copy or the liberty to create copy that is appropriate for your listeners. Take on sponsors that speak to the desires of your audience. Sell to your advertisers that being a woman –producer gives you a leg up in knowing what women want.

For more on podcast research done by Edison Research, click here.