A year ago, Ofcom published some podcast data and since I didn’t see any other analysis of it, I published my take on their data on this site.
Roll forward a year, and Ofcom has again published new podcast consumption data in data tables format on their site. I’m unsure if Ofcom will publish a specific podcast report on this data; they may simply use it to inform some of their other reports. Nevertheless, I’ll publish my take on the data, and draw some comparisons with the findings from last year.
It should be said that this is by no means the only podcast data in the market.
RAJAR includes podcasting data specifically in their MIDAS reports, which you can find on their website. Here’s a link to the most recent set of data for Winter 2021, published in late January 2022, and based on data captured in the final quarter of 2021.
And we’ve also had Edison Research work with Bauer Media and Spotify to introduce The Infinite Dial to the UK, with its first set of data being published at the start of December 2021.
It’s important to note that each of these data sources employs different methodologies, and therefore it’s not straightforward to compare the findings of each report. And if you do choose to compare these figures, make sure that you’re not comparing, say, weekly data with monthly data. With all of that said, I thought a single chart comparing Weekly Reach for UK podcast listening, which each of the surveys measures might be useful.
Ofcom’s data gets into different podcast frequencies of listening. So here’s last year’s data compared with the 2022 data.
The data seems to be something of a wash – 25% last year compared with this year, and nearly identical values across the piece.
Let’s look at the profile of what Ofcom calls regular (i.e. weekly) podcast listeners. This chart shows the make-up of sex, age and socio-economic grouping, within each measure. (So each set of coloured bars will add up to 100%)
Podcast listening does skew male, and the biggest age group is 25-34 year olds. It’s also significantly skewed towards the ABC1 socio-economic group. Note that the full data set lets you dig in further, comparing this profile with that of other audio consumption. You can also look at regional consumption. But I thought that ethnicity might be an interesting comparison too.
This time, I’ve started from a base measure of 25% of the population listening to podcasts regularly/weekly, and compared the different ethnicities as measured by Ofcom. Note that the “Ethnic Minority” grouping is all the non-white ethnicities combined.
I find this really interesting, as it shows that minority populations are nearly all significantly more likely to be podcast listeners than the white population. The one very important proviso I would place on this is that the unweighted base of the survey for both mixed and black ethnicities were both low. Out of 1,873 people interviewed, just 39 said that they were of mixed ethnicity and 43 said that they were black. These two groups came out with the highest podcast listenership, and I think caution should be applied because of those small sample sizes. But the overall 38% measure for any ethnic minority seems reasonable given the sample size.
New on this survey was a measurement of “Social audio services” – e.g. Clubhouse. Overall, 17% of the population said that they’d ever used them, with 7% of the population saying that they listen regularly/weekly.
Ofcom looked at those who listened to a podcast in the past and then surveyed the reasons that they no longer listen.
Note that this question is only asked of listeners who said that they used to listen to podcasts and don’t any more. Listeners could choose more than one category.
Respondents who had never listened to podcasts were asked why they’d never listened.
As you can see from the above chart, most people say that they’re just not interested. Whether that’s a defensive response or not, and they just don’t understand them, is a separate question, not easily addressed in this kind of survey.
Occasional podcast listeners were asked why they didn’t listen to podcasts more frequently.
There are other questions in the data about how long people have been listening, and why they listen to more or fewer podcasts than they might have done in the past, but I’m going to skip onto the next interesting area: where do people tend to hear about new podcasts?
I don’t think that there are many big surprises here – although social media being bigger than word of mouth is interesting. Most of those in the industry know that if you’re already big then you have a massively unfair advantage in promoting new podcasts.
The amendment I’d like to make to this question is to include outdoor advertising – bus sides and posters – to the list. In London right now, you can’t move for Andrew Marr bus ads promoting his LBC show (and podcast). It probably helps that Global, who own LBC, also own a significant share of the outdoor advertising marketplace in the UK – so they have access to cheap unsold inventory.
Perhaps most worrying here is that “I don’t hear about new podcasts” is so high, at 31%. We knew that discovery was a problem, but is it that big?
The next question is about where people listen to podcasts – this time based on those who listen at least once a month.
My only note of caution here is that this would have been a pandemic-influenced piece of research, with commuting still yet to return to normal. So non-commuting options are likely to play a more important role. Time will tell.
Regular podcast listeners were also asked why they listened to podcasts.
Regular podcast listeners were then asked how many podcasts they listen to in a week.
That gives a mean (average) of 5.1 podcasts per week for regular (i.e. listen at least weekly) podcast listeners.
For men, it’s slightly higher at 7.7, compared with 4.3 podcasts a week for women.
35-44s listen to the most podcasts with 5.8 a week, although 45-54s average 5.6 and 25-34s average 5.3. 15-24s listen least with just 3.8.
The same group was then asked how many podcasts they subscribed to. (Note: I’m that terrible person who subscribes to dozens but listens to significantly fewer than come through on my feed – there only being 24 hours in the day).
That gives an average of 7.3 podcast series subscribed to, with 35-44s subscribed to the most with 9.6 podcast series, while 15-24s only subscribe to 4.7 series.
I think most interesting/worrying is that a full 10% of regular (weekly) podcast listeners, aren’t subscribed to any podcasts. For what it’s worth, these are most likely to be BBC Sounds or YouTube users.
Regular podcast listeners were asked what proportion of individual episodes they subscribed to they actually got around to listening to.
The good news here is that 93% of people said they listened to at least some of them, and 64% of people said they listened to most or all of them.
Then the data goes deep into the genres of podcasts people listen to. Here’s a summary comparing what people say they listen to the most based on regular weekly listeners to podcasts.
The full data does get into the demographics of each of those genres. And yes, True Crime is more popular amongst women than men – although not by much. 61% of women who listen to podcasts weekly say they listen to True Crime, compared with 52% of men.
(There are literally hundreds of pages of this data for the inquisitive to dive into!)
Respondents were asked what they’d done – if anything – as a result of hearing a podcast.
As previously, Ofcom goes deep into app and website usage for podcast listening. This is the overall summary – and measures any use of these apps/sites. In other words, it doesn’t take into account volume, and therefore won’t necessarily tie in with any data you have about your site.
Ofcom does ask about preferred apps, but I thought this was perhaps more interesting as it shows the range of things people are using.
Finally for this analysis, Ofcom tested a group of statements with regular podcast listeners and asked how much they agreed or disagreed with those statements. For clarity here, I’ve grouped together all the agrees and all the disagrees.
Convenience, range of podcasts, and getting something that radio doesn’t offer are most popular.
I confess that I’m slightly gratified to learn that only 33% of people agree that they only listen to podcasts presented by famous people. And perhaps we can all breathe a sigh of relief that only 28% of people say that they want to produce their own podcast!
Anyway, this is a flavour of the full survey, which is definitely worth digging into further if you’re interested in learning about things like the demographics of particular podcast genres, or what listeners find good or bad about particular podcast apps.
There’s also a lot more data on other types of listening in case you want to compare podcast listening with say, speech radio listening.
I can’t emphasise enough how much data there is there. The Excel sheet runs to over 30,000 rows of data!
Note: A small update made to correct an interpretation of the genre section above – thanks Martin.
All data collated by Yonder on behalf of Ofcom.
Data collected in March 2022. Nationally representative quotas were used to closely represent the offline UK population. The online aspect of this survey was conducted using Yonder’s online panel, reaching a 1,000 nationally representative sample which consisted of 529 non podcast users, 160 regular users and 352 occasional users. Regular podcast users were then targeted via boost interviews in order to reach 1,000 regular users, overall. Invitations to complete the survey were sent out on a nationally representative basis aligned to age, gender, region and social grade to ensure that we achieved a good demographic spread of respondents. One question (Q5) was then placed on Yonder’s Telephone Omnibus. This reached a 1,000 nationally representative sample in the UK with a 50% landline, 50% mobile approach. Read the full technical report here.
Disclaimer: These are my views alone and do not represent those of anyone else, including my employer. Any errors or omissions are mine. Please let me know if you find any mistakes (I hope there aren’t any!)