About half of adults in the United States (49%) say they have listened to a podcast in the past 12 months, according to the new survey. This finding follows previous Pew Research Center analyses showing that podcast listening has steadily increased throughout the past decade.
One-in-five podcast listeners – which is about 10% of all U.S. adults – are avid listeners, listening to podcasts nearly every day. Another 22% of podcast listeners listen a few times a week, while a quarter report listening a few times a month. Altogether, about two-thirds of podcast listeners (66%) – or about one-third of all adults (32%) – listen to podcasts at least a few times a month.
A majority of those who say they have listened to a podcast in the past year (58%) also said they are listening to two or more podcasts currently. This includes 19% who say they are listening to four or more podcasts. A similar percentage (18%) say they are currently listening to one podcast, and about a quarter (23%) say they are not listening to any podcasts right now.
Podcast listeners most often turn to podcasts for entertainment, education and diversion
About nine-in-ten podcast listeners say learning (88%) and entertainment (87%) are reasons they listen to podcasts, including more than half who say these are major reasons they tune in (55% and 60%, respectively). Roughly eight-in-ten podcast listeners (81%) say that simply having something to listen to in the background while they do something else is a reason they listen, with about half (52%) saying it is a major reason.
Hearing others’ opinions, keeping up with current events, and seeking encouragement or inspiration are less common reasons people listen to podcasts, but most listeners still say these are at least minor reasons they do so. For instance, nearly two-thirds of U.S. podcast listeners (64%) say staying up to date about current events is a reason they tune in, although far fewer (29%) describe this as a major reason.
Podcast listeners hear about many different topics, with comedy and entertainment atop the list
Podcast listeners report listening to podcasts on a wide variety of topics. The survey asked podcast listeners if they regularly listen to podcasts about 12 different subjects; 10 of these topics capture the attention of at least a quarter of podcast listeners, ranging from politics and comedy to finance and religion. And about half of podcast listeners (53%) say they regularly hear about four or more topics on the podcasts they listen to.
Nearly half of podcast listeners say they regularly listen to podcasts about comedy (47%) or entertainment, pop culture and the arts (46%). And about four-in-ten say they turn to podcasts about politics and government (41%), science and technology (40%) or history (40%).
About a third of podcast listeners listen to podcasts about true crime (34%), self-help and relationships (32%) or money and finance (31%), and three-in-ten tune in to hear about religion and spirituality. Roughly a quarter or fewer regularly listen to podcasts about health and fitness (27%), sports (22%) or race and ethnicity (15%).
Six-in-ten podcast listeners have watched a movie, read a book or listened to music because of a podcast they listened to
Many podcast listeners also say that they have engaged with the podcasts they listen to in other ways than merely listening – whether that is following a podcast’s recommendations, following a host on social media or buying something advertised on a podcast. Six-in-ten podcast listeners say they have watched a movie, read a book or listened to music because of a podcast they listened to. And about half of podcast listeners (52%) say they follow a podcast or its host on social media.
About a third of podcast listeners (36%) say they’ve tried out a change to their lifestyle because of a podcast, such as a workout routine, a diet or journaling. And 28% have bought something promoted or discussed on a podcast.
Other types of engagement – such as joining online discussion groups, engaging with political causes, paying for a subscription or buying merchandise – are less common, although at least one-in-ten podcast listeners say they have done each of these things because of a podcast they listened to.
While the act of listening to podcasts may often be done alone, there are several ways that podcasts are a social experience. For example, most listeners say they recommend podcasts to someone else, discuss the content they hear with others, and apply things they hear in podcasts to other parts of their lives.
Not only do two-thirds of podcast listeners say they have recommended a podcast to someone else (67%), but six-in-ten have listened to a podcast that was recommended by a friend or family member, and about a third (36%) say they listen to at least one podcast that a friend or family member listens to.
Moreover, roughly two-thirds of podcast listeners (68%) say they discuss what they heard on a podcast with others at least sometimes, including 24% who do this often.