Stitcher’s 2021 Podcast Report Unveils Shifts in Listener Demographics

The annual report — covering a two-year period — examines insights into the fastest-growing media audience, in-app behavioral data and cultural trends

Lunchtime listening is up and also while gardening; Montana and Kansas listen longer; Celebs turned to podcasts as films shut down; comedy for the kids, politics and news for their parents

Today, Stitcher, the best place to listen to, produce and monetize podcasts, released its second annual Stitcher Podcasting Report. Compiled using more than two years of data collected directly from the Stitcher App – and user-reported data and demographics from a Stitcher listener survey – the report offers a comprehensive look at who and where these listeners are, behavioral patterns, trends shaping the medium and the factors contributing to its growth.

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“Podcasting is a powerful medium that has not only prevailed, but thrived, in the midst of a global pandemic, as people sought a sense of connection during periods of isolation”

The pandemic may have brought much of the world to a screeching halt, but did not slow podcasting down. Through this report, Stitcher, the top podcast publisher in the U.S. as measured by Triton Digital, uncovers that podcast listenership is skyrocketing, and with 57% of Americans having listened to a podcast, listeners offer a window into consumer behavior that has shifted greatly over the past 15 months.

Report highlights include:

  • Moving beyond the coasts: New listeners are younger, more diverse, and spread out across the entire nation
  • Celebrities turned to podcasting for connection when film production shut down: 22 of the top 200 podcasts in 2020 were hosted by celebrities, most notably Rob Lowe, Jason Bateman, and Zac Braff
  • Cultural moments influence listener interest: From the Black Lives Matter movement to the Presidential race, 2020 was a year of major cultural events and the top search terms on Stitcher reflected listener interest to seek out information on trending topics in podcast form
  • Times have certainly changed: Pre-pandemic, top listening hours aligned with peak commuting times, which have been replaced by a shift to lunchtime/early afternoon (11 a.m. – 2 p.m.). Similarly, household chores and gardening have replaced commuting as the primary activity that listeners do while listening to podcasts.
  • Generational favorites: Based on user “favorite” activity, younger generations gravitated to comedy and talk content (age 13-34), while news and politics did better with older generations (age 35+)

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“Podcasting is a powerful medium that has not only prevailed, but thrived, in the midst of a global pandemic, as people sought a sense of connection during periods of isolation,” said Amy Fitzgibbons, Chief Marketing Officer at Stitcher. “The Stitcher Podcasting Report examines the podcast listener in-depth and what their behaviors teach us. With listening behaviors more diverse than ever, we know that podcasting is where consumers continue to turn to for reliable, trusted content.”

Other key findings include:

  • People are more invested than ever: Median monthly hours per listener per month rose from 7.5 in 2019 to nearly 8 in 2020
  • Podcast listeners are keyed into the zeitgeist: People look for news and information in their podcasts, and their searches reflect it. Searches related to the following skyrocketed during their respective moments in 2020:
    • Pandemic and COVID-19 searches were the top most searched terms for the year, with listeners turning to podcasts for the latest on major global events
    • Similarly, searches for and related to ‘Black Lives Matter’ made the Top 10 searches in 2020
    • In March 2020, there were nearly 10,000 searches on Stitcher for Joe Exotic, when the Tiger King documentary launched
    • When the 1619 podcast focusing on the history of slavery in the U.S. launched in June, Stitcher saw a spike in searches on the show, making it the 8th most searched term for the month
    • “NFL” was the second highest cultural search term in 2020 – despite a shortened season and inability to attend games, fans still wanted to get involved and turned to podcasting to do so
  • Some states are more dedicated: Washington, Minnesota, Oregon, Wisconsin, Utah, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Montana, Vermont, North Dakota and Alaska all rank higher in listening hours than they do in the total number of listeners. People in those states listen more!
  • Habits differ by gender: Men have a slight edge in the average number of shows listened to and hours listened per week, whereas women continue to have more favorites. Women are also more likely to listen to podcasts for entertainment, while men tend to seek news/information.

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