Heavy Podcast Listeners Aren’t Just Tuning in to Content—They’re Receptive to Ads, Too

25% of this audience enjoys when brands engage them with audio advertising

Podcast listening reached new heights over the last year as Covid-19 transformed who listens, the times we listen and the reasons why we tune in. The disruptions also reshuffled listening times for many, cutting out podcast listening during commutes. Nevertheless, the result was even better for advertisers: a steady drumbeat of listening throughout the day as people worked from home and turned to podcasts for entertainment, news and companionship.  

The pandemic accelerated the consumption of several digital media channels and one year on, it’s more important than ever to use data to inform what audience engagement across these channels will look like moving forward. To this end, YouGov recently released a global report on how consumer behaviors—including audio listening—were impacted over the last year. And as the industry looks ahead, we’ve specifically studied one of the fastest growing audiences: heavy podcast listeners. 

Who are heavy podcast listeners? 

Podcasting was one of media channels well-positioned to adapt to the disruptions brought on by the pandemic. When lockdowns kept consumers at home, more Americans turned to podcasts than they did in 2019, according to annual data from YouGov Profiles. Remote working also accelerated the popularity of podcast listening over the last year. Even post-pandemic, it’s likely that many companies will embrace the shift toward working from home permanently, further cementing the role of audio as a daytime companion for many remote workers.  
Heavy podcast listeners make up 14% of U.S. adults in a market size of 36.5 million Americans and they listen to podcasts two or more days a week. At the surface, these podcast enthusiasts tend to be young people compared to the nation overall and are significantly more likely to be fall between the ages of 25-44 years of age (57% vs. 33% of Americans overall). This specific podcast audience also tends to skew male (58% vs. 49% of Americans overall). But it’s not just the frequency at which this audience tunes in that will be interesting to media buyers and sellers.  

The marketing potential of heavy listeners

Data from YouGov Profiles, an audience intelligence tool, reveals there’s significant potential for advertising reach on podcasts, especially among heavy listeners. People who listen to podcasts two or more days a week see podcasts as one of the best ways for brands to engage with them. What’s more, YouGov research shows heavy podcast listeners prove more receptive to ads, especially those delivered via podcasts. 

The shift in when people engage podcasts, from peaks before and after work to consistent listening throughout the workday, affords advertisers more chances to connect with listening audiences. The opportunity is especially ripe among heavy podcast listeners, 44% of whom say they work full-time in a daytime shift (vs. 23% of Americans overall) and therefore, may be listening to podcasts as they work and multitask.   

YouGov examined the attitudinal behaviors of heavy listeners and found this group also stands out in how they think about and respond to ads. Here are a few ways why engaging with heavy podcast listeners through advertising can be effective. 

A willingness to listen to ads

This audience will listen to advertisements even if they’re sensitive to intrusion. We asked heavy podcast listeners about how they feel about ads in podcasts. Six in 10 say they’re willing to listen to ads, including the 25% who find them intrusive but listen to ads anyways.

YouGov data also shows these listeners express a level of affinity for podcast ads: A quarter of heavy podcast listeners say they like when brands engage customers with ads on podcasts just behind other advertising channels such as online (31%) and on TV (26%). 

Connections in a trusted space

Podcast ads connect with audiences in a space where they listen to and trust a host. The top five podcast genres over the last year among heavy listeners include news and politics (47%), comedy (34%), society and culture (28%), education (26%), and sports (22%). Additionally, 57% of heavy listeners tune in to a podcast to educate themselves or learn something new, indicating these consumers trust this form of media as source of information.

As brands vie for consumers’ attention, podcast ads can be an effective way to resonate with this group given the implicit trust forged between a host and the community of listeners who tune in. And on the matter of trust, not all forms of advertising are equal in the ears of these podcast enthusiasts. Six in 10 heavy listeners say they do not trust traditional TV advertising and podcasts ads may be an effective alternative to reach them (60% vs. 49% of Americans overall). 

Ad blockers aren’t an issue

They use ad-blockers while browsing online, but podcast ads can be an alternative way to engage them. In the age of ad blockers, fewer digital ads ever reach their intended audience and heavy podcast listeners are no exception. Three in five heavy listeners say they use an ad blocker while surfing the web (60% vs. 49% of Americans overall), so podcast ads can be a more effective way to get a message in front of a highly engaged audience. 

An audience of brand advocates

Heavy podcast listeners can be powerful brand advocates with the right touch.Two-thirds of heavy podcast listeners say they love recommending things for people to try (66% vs. 57% of Americans overall). This inclination to recommend the brands they love to friends and family is extremely compelling for advertisers as this listening audience proves not only receptive to advertising, but also that they are willing to be proactive in organically promoting a brand. Who doesn’t love free advertising?   

As companies recover from the pandemic and ad budgets begin to rebound, it will be valuable to consider podcast audiences as a part of the marketing mix, particularly given the high level of engagement of podcast enthusiasts and their receptivity toward advertising in general. 

Hoang Nguyen is a business data journalist at YouGov covering topics such as media ownership, advertising, consumer goods, video gaming and travel. He is a four-year veteran at YouGov and previously worked as a content writer for Intellectsoft.