Women are driving podcast growth, a new study says

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Credit: Photo illustration by Ad Age

Although podcast listeners have historically been dominated by men, new research suggests that women are catching up partly thanks to smart speakers and connected car entertainment vehicles.

That's according to a new study released Wednesday by Westwood One. And while more than two-thirds of advertising decision makers have discussed marketing in podcasts, "very little research has been done on the advertising environment within podcasts," the study says.

U.S. podcast ad revenue totaled $314 million in 2017, an 86 percent upswing from the previous year, and will grow to nearly $660 million by 2020, the IAB says. By comparison, digital audio as a whole saw $1.6 billion of ad revenue in 2017.

Cumulus-owned Westwood One is a mass media company focused on radio syndication and audio content. The study was released a day prior to the IAB Podcast Upfront in New York and surveyed some 600 people who listened to a podcast at least once within the past week.

Findings

Roughly 55 percent of podcast listeners are men, which is flat year-over-year, according to the report.

But time spent with podcasts significantly grew among women, from 4.6 hours per week in 2017 to 5.5 hours per week this year, a 20 percent uptick year-over-year. Time spent among men may be reaching a plateau, however, growing 3 percent to 7.6 per hours per week in 2018, the study say.

"The 2018 year will be remembered as podcasting's year of the women," says Suzanne Grimes, executive VP of marketing for Cumulus Media and president of Westwood One. "There's an encouraging trend of compelling and diverse new content for women. While male audiences stabilize, the growth rate of the female podcast audience is soaring."

Listeners who use connected car entertainment systems to listen to podcasts increased 27 percent year-over-year while, so-called smart speakers saw similar growth in podcast use (21 percent).

Some 15 percent of Boomers said they listen through a smart speaker, up from 8 percent a year early. And 20 percent of women said they do the same thing, up from 12 percent year-over-year.

Heavy podcast listeners, which the study describes as those who listen more than 6 hours per week, represented 43 percent of those surveyed, up from 36 percent. In contrast, those who listen for 3 to 5 hours declined to 31 percent from 36 percent. And those who listen less than three hours slipped to 26 percent from 28 percent.

Millennials represented 64 percent of "heavy podcast listeners."

Meanwhile, the study also claims that ads offering listeners promotional codes drive strong engagement from heavy podcast users; 54 percent said they used a promotional code heard on a podcast at checkout when making a purchase.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said the podcast study released Wednesday by Westwood One was conducted in partnership with the Interactive Advertising Bureau. That description was based on information provided by Westwood One. After publication, the IAB said it was not involved in the study.

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