Podcast Listening & Advertising Data Roundup (+ Why Cultural Nonprofits Should Care About Podcast Advertising News)

*UK stats updated 24 March 2020.*

Back in the spring of 2019, I wrote a post highlighting these new stories about the big money pouring into podcast advertising…

“Podcast advertising is set to double over the next three years…” (Warc)

“…repeat advertiser business shows they are working, which is why the big podcast advertisers keep coming back.” (National Post)

“…podcast ads are moving beyond the experimental phase to becoming a line item on marketing budgets as brands of varying sizes track KPIs.” (Mobile Marketer)

…and since then the numbers have only grown, reinforcing my belief that this is relevant info to museums and cultural nonprofits (scroll down for the data-roundup):

Keeping our finger on the pulse of the advertising industry and trends in media buys is not typically high on the to-do list for museums, history organizations, and other cultural nonprofits. We’re not selling anything or making revenue off of advertising, so that makes sense.

But I want to make the case that the huge growth in ad spend in podcasting is extremely relevant to our field.

If you keep up with the podcast industry like I do (mainly through the marvelous podnews daily email), you’ll have seen any number of quotes like the ones above. Brands are pouring big money into advertising on popular podcasts, and they’ve been doing it long enough that we can safely say it’s working for them and the trend will continue.

Cultural nonprofit staff: feel free to steal any of this info, print it out, and leave it anonymously on your executive director’s desk along with a copy of my book, Your Museum Needs a Podcast.

Why is this relevant to cultural nonprofits?

Simple. It means audiences are meaningfully engaged by the podcasts they consume, that they trust them, and that they will take action when asked by their favorite podcast hosts.

Translated to cultural nonprofit speak: If you create a podcast that your audience wants to hear, you can meaningfully engage them in your mission, gain their trust and affection through audio, and ask them to take action on behalf of your organization or mission.

And if you read my book, Your Museum Needs a Podcast, you’ll see that you can do all this with an equipment budget as low as $300, some time, and creativity (or if you have a bigger budget, you can work with a company like Better Lemon Creative Audio to produce a show).

The analysis from Wired below was published in early 2018, but it still holds true (if not truer) today:

“Podcasters and advertisers alike have long suspected that their listeners might just be a holy grail of engagement. The medium is inherently intimate, and easily creates a one-sided feeling of closeness between listener and host — the sense that the person talking into your ear on your commute is someone you know, whose product recommendations you trust, and whose work you want to support. Cox describes it as a “lean in” medium: “People are really listening and want to consume all of the content that is there and available. There’s a level of dedication that comes from podcast listeners that you otherwise don’t find.” And now the numbers prove it. Podcasts aren’t a bubble, they’re a boom — and that boom is only getting louder.” (Wired)

Podcast Listening & Advertising Data Roundup

Podcasts and the Cultural Nonprofit/Cultural Tourism Sectors

What podcasts are listeners interested in? In the US, Civic Science found that “News/Political,” “Nonfiction/Interview,” and “Other Special Interest” were the top categories for listening (at 23%, 22%, and 20% respectively). Anecdotally, in the course of attending and speaking at twelve cultural nonprofit industry conferences, Hannah Hethmon has found that there is a huge appetite in the field for podcasts addressing industry issues, but that audiences are frustrated by the low editorial and sound quality of existing offerings.

According to The Spoken Word Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research (Nov 2019), top three reasons regular podcast listeners in the US gave for listening to podcasts were to learn new things (61%), be entertained (61%), and to “stay up-to-date with the latest topics (47%).

Because of the lack of high-quality podcasts focused on museums, heritage sites, cultural nonprofits, and other related institutions and attractions, even a show focused on UK institutions would attract an international audience and thus provide a unique advertising opportunity for companies interested in reach English-speaking decision makers are these types of institutions.

Podcast-Listening Data

United States: Podcast listening hit an all-time high in 2019 with 51% of the U.S. population having listened to a podcast. In the past five years, daily listenership in the US has more than doubled. (Source: The Spoken Word Audio Report )

One third of Americans, or about 90 million people, have listened to a podcast in the past month. (Source: Edison Research)

Demographic round-up via Podcasthosting.org:

22% of Americans (62 million) listen to podcasts weekly, 16 million people in the US are “avid podcast fans,” 54% of podcast listeners in the US are male, 46% female.

Podcast listeners by age in the US:

● 12–24: 40%

● 25–54: 39%

● 55+: 17%

34% of podcast listeners are non-white, 41% of monthly podcast listeners have household income over $75K (vs 29% for US population), 25% of US podcast listeners have a 4-year college degree (vs 19% of US population), 51% employed full-time (vs 44% of US population).


9.4 million people in the UK listen to podcasts, up 45% from 2019. (Source: RAJAR, Feb 2020, Same source for bullets below)

  • 71% of podcast/download listening hours happen on a smartphone.
  • 30% of podcast listeners listen when driving/travelling, and 18% when relaxing.
  • Londoners show the highest levels of usage, with 23% listening every week driven, no doubt, by longer commuting journeys.
  • 59% of podcast listeners listen to the entire audio episode, and 62% listen to all/most of the episodes they download.
  • 89% of podcast sessions are a solo activity.

87% of regular UK podcast listeners surveyed by RAJAR at the end of 2018 report listening to most or all over every episode they start. (Source: Podnews)

Canada: “The percentage of Canadians listening to podcasts has grown tremendously since 2018.” Among Canadians 18+, 63% are familiar with podcasts, 35% are monthly podcast listeners, and 23% are weekly listeners. (Source: Edison Research)

Australia: Among Australians aged 12+, 83% are aware of podcasting, 22% listen monthly, and 15% listen weekly.

Weekly listeners in Australia listen to an average of six shows a week.

Information on Podcast Advertising:

“The heat around podcasting is tremendous. 2019 was when the renaissance of audio really began to pick up speed.”

-Matt Scheckner, Global Chief Executive at Advertising Week (Source)

The advertising industry is keenly aware of the potential of podcasting; digital ad agencies and individual companies are investing significant amounts in podcasting. Podcasting made $479 million in US ad revenue in 2018, according to the IAB and PwC. This is an increase of 53% year-on-year. It’s estimated that the industry will be making over $1bn in 2021/22.

This trend is present in the UK as well. As reported in podnews, DAX’s annual report shows a high confidence-level in audio ROI : “Seventy-eight per cent of UK advertisers say that they will increase spend across music and digital radio, while seventy-five per cent said that they will increase investment in podcasts, in the next 12 months alone. The report revealed growing confidence in digital audio as a powerful advertising tool. Eighty-six per cent of advertising agency executives and 66% of brands said that they now see digital audio as a key part of media strategies. With listening figures growing consistently across all formats, and proliferation of quality audio publishers and platforms available, advertisers also reported increasing numbers of stand-alone digital audio campaigns.”

Brand awareness ads accounted for more than 38 percent of podcast ads in 2018, also according to that same IAB/PwC research, up from just 25 percent two years ago. (Source: Digiday)

Listener Engagement and Impact of Advertising/Sponsorship

In Autumn 2019, Civic Science found 22% of podcast listeners have purchased an item based on an ad. In the categories of News/Political and Other Special Interest, that number was even higher, at 24%.

According to The Spoken Word Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research (Nov 2019), “Spoken Word Audio yields deep connections and involvement from its consumers.”

Experimentation by popular podcasters has shown time and time again, that audiences are more than ok with well-vetted, carefully considered sponsorship segments. In fact, many listeners trust their favorite podcasters to recommend products and services. In early summer 2019, one of the most popular podcasters in the US and internationally, Tim Ferris, decided to switch from a sponsor model to a listener-supported model. He quickly switched back, sharing this reasoning: “It turns out that most of my listeners have a strong preference for an ad-supported model compared to other options. Many folks have come to use the podcast and 5-Bullet Friday for discovering new products and services, and that has been reflected in the comments since launch. After weeks of consistent feedback from my audience, it’s now loud and clear that my vetting and sharing of sponsors is better received and a better fit.”

Confidence in podcast advertising is high enough that tech companies are launching new products to back that confidence up with reliable data. In Australia, mobile engagement specialist Big Mobile partnered with AdsWizz to implement tech that tracks unique visits to retail locations from specific audio ad campaigns. In its first campaign with a major Australian brand, the technology measured more than a 90% lift in footfall traffic to their retail locations when individuals listened to their audio ads (Source: podnews). AnalyticOwl recently released a new product, PodcastOwl, that tracks podcast advertising/sponsorship impact.

Hannah Hethmon (Better Lemon Creative Audio)

Written by

Owner @ Better Lemon Creative Audio, where I produce podcasts about and for museums & other cultural nonprofits https://www.betterlemonaudio.com/

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