Ofcom Podcast Survey 2024

Ofcom Podcast Survey 2024

Once again, Ofcom has published its survey data for both its Podcast and Audio surveys.

This year, Ofcom has published a report based on both sets of data, and it’s well worth a read through. But, as with previous releases, I’m going to dig into the 2024 podcast data in particular.

2023 Ofcom Podcast Survey | 2022 Ofcom Podcast Survey | 2021 Ofcom Podcast Survey

As in previous years, the research was carried out for Ofcom by Yonder, with fieldwork conducted between 26th February and 1st March 2024. From the report:

The survey was conducted using Yonder’s online panel, reaching a 1,857 nationally representative sample which consisted of 501 non podcast users, 1,006 overall regular users and 350 occasional users. Regular podcast users were targeted via boost interviews (300 boost interviews) in order to reach a minimum of 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.

Full technical details can be found here.

And a regular reminder that these numbers will vary from those that other sources report. RAJAR provides podcast listening data, as does Edison Research. Each of these has different methodologies and sampling models, so there will be differences. They should not be compared directly.

Once again, let’s start with a summary table that shows overall listening behaviours. Each type of listening is broken down between people who do it several times a day through to those who never do it.

Most of the audio types are self-explanatory, but Music Video Services is basically YouTube, and social audio is the now less popular services like Clubhouse.

Note that you should be able to hover over individual elements in these Google Sheets charts if you can’t easily see a number.

Looking specifically at podcasts that means that 50% of people ever listen to podcasts and 25% of people regularly listen to podcasts (that is, at least once a week or more frequently).

That’s actually the same number for regular listening as last year, which itself is the same as the year before.

This chart shows the demographic breakdown of regular podcast listeners.

It shows that slightly more Men (29%) listen regularly to podcasts than Women (22%). (Note: Ofcom does have a full gender breakdown in its survey, but the tables report Men and Women).

But it’s the age breakdown that is really interesting. It seems that younger listeners have really grown in the past 12 months. Previously 25-34 was the biggest demo, but it looks like 18-24s have really soared in the last 12 months, with nearly half of them listening regularly to podcasts.

I find that to be an interesting change. In Ofcom’s accompanying Audio Report, they reference RAJAR’s Q4 2023 survey, which similarly shows younger listeners most likely to listen to podcasts.

Podcasting still delivers strongly against ABC1 listeners in comparison to C2DE listeners.

Another way to look at those regular podcast listeners is to break out their listening in pie charts:

One area of particular importance for podcasts is Ethnicity.

Ethnic minorities overall are much more likely to listen to podcasts regularly than overall. Nearly half of those of any ethnic minority listen to podcasts each week (48%), compared to the overall 25% figure. Those who identify as either Mixed or Black ethnicities are even higher at over 60%.

Other things that effect how likely you are to listen to podcasts are where you live, with 34% of those who live in areas with populations over 10,000 being regular podcast listeners. For those who live in rural areas, this drops to 20%. Those who have children under 18 in the household are more likely to listen (30%), while those who have a disability are less likely to listen (21%). It should be noted that those with an eyesight disability are above average at 26% – but the sample here is small.

Ofcom does ask why people who once listened to podcasts no longer do so.

Other things in life get in the way, or they’re not finding the kinds of podcasts they want. That said, the order has changed this year, with other activities now being the top category.

It’s always worth remembering people have lives when you publish your three-hour weekly opus…

Podcast Discovery remains a critical issue for podcasters, and so the question about how people hear about new podcasts is important.

This is another category where the order has changed this year. Previously “Word of Mouth” was the biggest category, but it’s now “Social Media.” Those two are both ahead of the platforms themselves, and only then come other forms of marketing and communications.

As in last year’s data, 30% of people claim never to hear about new podcasts. But note that this question is asked of all respondents including those who don’t listen to podcasts.

And once again, if you dive into age groups, there are different stories to be found.

This makes it clear that while “Word of Mouth” and “Social Media” remain most important – they’re vastly important to younger audiences. Whereas older audience use more “traditional” forms of media to learn about podcasts – like mentions on TV or radio.

None of this is vastly surprising, but useful to have a measure of nonetheless.

It’s always useful to see Where People Listen to Podcasts.

There are only small year on year fluctuations here, with “Relaxing at Home” remaining the main place people listen. Although this figure does change with age. Amongst 18-24s it’s just 41% whilst amongst 65+s it’s a whopping 68%. Listening on public transport jumps to the number 2 position amongst 18-24s with 33% saying they listen there compared with 25% overall.

A key question that I always find very useful is how many individual podcasts do you listen to in a week? This is asked to all regular podcast listeners – i.e. those who listen at least once a week.

That gives a mean average of 5.0 podcasts a week listened to by regular podcast listeners (Note: rounded up from 4.95 in the data tables). And that’s actually down from 5.4 podcasts a week in 2023.

Many of the readers to this summary are more likely to be in the 2% of people who listen to more than 21 podcasts a week, but it’s worth noting this average, and it’s slightly concerning that it’s not growing. But podcast listening isn’t done in isolation from other forms of media.

The mean is higher amongst men (5.8) compared with women (4.4). And the age group that listens to the most episodes is 35-44s with 5.7 compared with 18-24s hearing 3.8.

Regular podcast listeners are also asked how many podcast series they subscribe to.

In this instance, a regular podcast listener may subscribe to no podcast series at all, and indeed 12% of them say that they don’t which is concerning (it was 10% in 2023).

Overall the mean average is 6.1 podcast series subscribed to compared with 6.4 last year.

I would note that both Apple Podcasts and Spotify use the word “Follow” rather than “Subscribe”, but nevertheless, this figure again shows how hard it can be to get listeners onboard. (I would also note that YouTubers are much better at pushing viewers to Subscribe to their channels and ring the bell).

Regular podcast listeners are asked about which genres of podcasts they listen to. Here are the results for those who listen to these genres weekly.

Entertainment has overtaken Comedy to become the top category, with News and Current Affairs slotting into the number two category. Only then does Comedy arrive. But these categories have changed a little in the past.

Politics is a little higher up the list than previously – perhaps helped by titles like The Rest is Politics?

And Football is much higher up the list this year compared to last year.

As ever, the full research tables on Ofcom’s site mean that you can look at the listening profiles of each of these genres, which may be useful if you’re working with podcasts in that genre.

Another important measure is how people listen to podcasts. This is quite a complex grid, with various paid and free versions of apps alongside apps that might mostly be thought of as music or other non-podcast apps. Note that this is essentially “Ever” use, so doesn’t take frequency into account.

It shows Spotify as the biggest (46%), split between those who are paid subscribers and those who use the free version of the app. Obviously, that makes relatively little difference for podcast listening, but a paid user might be more likely than a free user to go to Spotify for podcasts.

BBC Sounds is second biggest (43%) followed closely by YouTube (42%). Note that Yonder did not break out YouTube from YouTube Music here, and we must assume that this includes both. Also, at time of writing and when the research was carried out, Google Podcasts remained available in the UK. Apple Podcast (and iTunes) come out at 22%.

Compared to last year, Spotify has overtaken BBC Sounds and YouTube has grown significantly. Apple has fallen back a little.

People do sometimes forget Amazon, but 18% is notable here, just ahead of Google Podcasts. And (the Amazon owned) Audible’s 9% is measured separately.

Respondents are also asked which app they use most often to listen to podcasts.

This shows a different pattern. Spotify comes out the biggest here with 27% (compared with 24% last year), followed by YouTube at 21% (up from 15% last year), and then BBC Sounds with 18% (down from 21% last year).

This is obviously complex picture with Spotify having the most complete set of podcasts of these three, with BBC Sounds mostly having BBC titles alone, and YouTube somewhere in the middle.

Apple Podcasts (and iTunes) is at 11% down from 14% last year.

The mean number of platforms used to listen to podcasts overall is 3.0.

Respondents are asked to think about what is important to them when choosing which way they access a podcast.

This hasn’t massively changed since last year, but I do find it interesting that “Range of Podcasts” is only the sixth most important thing.

I would note that if you’re responsible for one of these platforms, Ofcom has tables that dig into your platform (or your competitor’s) in quite some detail. Consult the linked tables above.

There is your annual summary of podcasts in the UK courtesy of Ofcom’s date commissioned from Yonder.

Any questions, thoughts or comments welcome.

All data collated by Yonder on behalf of Ofcom. Data collected 26th February to 1st March 2024.

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!)

The photo above generated via Adobe Photoshop’s Generative AI with the prompt: “A photorealistic picture of a dog sitting on an armchair in a living room wearing headphones listening to a podcast