Why Consumers and Advertisers Love Podcasts

iPhone and a cup of coffee

By Tricia McKinnon

Podcasts did not gain traction until 2014 when Apple launched its standalone podcast app.  That gave podcasting much more visibility amongst Apple’s large consumer base. 2014 also marked the year when Serial, a true crime investigative journalism podcast was first released.  It went viral and was the fastest podcast in Apple’s history to reach five million downloads and streams.  The launch of Serial brought podcasting to a much larger audience.

It is an estimated that there are 112 million people (40% of the population over 12) in the US that have listened to a podcast at least once.  24% of Americans have listened to a podcast in the last month.  People enjoy listening to podcasts because it provides an intimate experience between the creator and the audience member.  Listeners also like the convenience that podcasts provide echoing Steve Jobs' view that podcasting is the “TiVo for radio”.   With favourable listener demographics, more analytics for advertisers and a wealth of podcasts to choose from podcasts are here to stay.


Podcast listeners are a lucrative audience.  The largest demographic among podcast listeners are 25-34 year olds who represent 28.2% of all podcast listeners. This older segment of the millennial demographic has significant spending power.  Podcast listeners are also well educated with 68% of listeners being more likely to have a post graduate education. Listeners tend to skew more male with men comprising 56% of the audience.   Finally, 45% of podcast listeners are more likely to have a household income over $250,000.  The combination of a highly engaged audience and demographics like these give advertisers a reason to support the platform.


In many podcasts ads are often read to listeners by the podcast host.  This is a much more intimate way of connecting with a target audience.  Since the ad is read by the host it feels much more like a personal endorsement of a product or service.  Not surprisingly advertisements that are read by hosts during a podcast tend to perform better than highly produced ads made by marketers.  Based on a survey of 7,000 podcast listeners, Neilson found that 69% of listeners agreed that podcast ads made them aware of new products and services. 

Apple recently launched podcast analytics.  With the analytics platform users will be able to tell which parts of the podcasts listeners are skipping over and when people have stopped listening. Prior to this very little data on consumer behaviour was available.  For example, a podcast creator using Apple podcasts would have no idea if listeners were dropping off after only 10% of the content was played.  This made it difficult to understand what was working and what needed improvement.  Advertisers now have a better sense of whether or not their ads are actually listened to.  This functionality will be a key driver of the growth of podcast advertising.

Popular Podcasts

With so many podcasts available for consumption it can be hard for a consumer or an advertiser to figure out what to listen to.  Apple’s list of its most downloaded podcasts in 2017 is a great place to start.

Top 10 Most Downloaded Apple Podcasts in 2017

1.      NPR's Fresh Air

2.    The Joe Rogan Experience

3.     Stuff You Should Know

4.     The Dave Ramsey Show 

5.     The New York Times' The Daily 

6.     This American Life 

7.     The TED Radio Hour

8.     Planet Money

9.     Pod Saves America 

10.   TED Talks Daily


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