Last week, Edison Research and Triton Digital released the 2021 edition of The Infinite Dial, showing encouraging growth in the number of podcast listeners in the United States from 2020 to 2021.
The Infinite Dial is America’s longest-running study of consumer media habits. In January 2021, Edison Research conducted a national telephone survey of over 1,500 people, 12 years old or older.
Like so many things in 2020, media consumption habits were particularly unusual over the past year. Although the year started normally, quarantines and shutdowns brought swift changes to people’s audio listening habits as so many stopped their daily commute to work. The report showed that podcast listening in particular noticeably declined in the early days of the pandemic.
The home had previously been the number one location for podcast listening, but as quarantines began, the home suddenly became an office, daycare, and school. Many people didn’t have the time or mental capacity to maintain their podcast listening habits, but eventually as people began to settle into a routine, people took advantage of new opportunities to listen.
In fact, by the fall of 2020, these declines had been reversed, and podcast listening was actually increasing. According to Tom Webster, co-author of The Infinite Dial, “weekly podcast consumers were listening to podcasts a half hour more per week than they had prior to the disruptions caused by coronavirus.”
Although the events of 2020 were unpredictable, the numbers published in The Infinite Dial 2021 regarding podcast listening were comfortingly normal.
The report shows that 57%, or approximately 162 million Americans say that they have listened to a podcast before. The data also showed that 78% of Americans are at least familiar with the term “podcasting.”
However, the more important numbers to content creators deal with monthly and weekly listening habits. The report found that 41% of the studied population have listened to at least one podcast in the last 12 months.
Weekly podcast consumption also saw a significant increase over the past year. The research found that 28% of people were listening to podcasts weekly by the beginning of 2021. This is an increase from 24% last year. This was even more growth than podcasting had seen going into 2020. From 2019 to 2020, podcasting saw a 9% growth, but coming into 2020, the industry was at 17% growth.
As the podcast audience has grown to include more people, it is also becoming more diverse. The report shows that “43% of the monthly podcast audience is non-white, compared to the 40% of the U.S. population in general.”
“Over the last fifteen years the brilliant work of podcasting’s creators has fashioned content to appeal to every underserved and underrepresented group in America,” said Webster. “There truly is a podcast for everyone—and podcasting is for anyone.”