Podcasting Listens A Lot Less White Than It Looks

A report from Nielsen shows diversity among US-based podcast listeners is skewing differently from the overall population, which brings implications, cautions, and opportunities for all of podcasting.

Podcasting Listens A Lot Less White Than It Looks

A report from Nielsen shows diversity among US-based podcast listeners is skewing differently from the overall population, which brings implications, cautions, and opportunities for all of podcasting.

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Good news! US-based podcast listeners are much more diverse than the overall population. That’s the finding presented by Nielsen In their Podcasting Today report, which I highly recommend you download and read. For free!

Overall, non-whites make up 34% of the adult US population. But according to the survey of adult podcast listeners, non-whites make up 41%. That’s a seven-point difference. I’m no statistician, but that’s a big difference! And it has implications for all of us in podcasting.

Among Podcast Listeners, Diversity Is Increasing

We know that podcasting has seen a big increase over the last decade. But that rise in the audience hasn’t been uniform across ethnicities. Here’s a telling section from the report:

“... Hispanics have gravitated to podcasts more than any other, as the reach among this group increased from 1.1 million in 2010 to 6.8 million in 2019. That represents a growth rate of 6x, which is well above the 4x rate of growth among Whites.”

And it’s a similar story across other ethnic groups. The number of listeners who selected Asian, Black, or the “Other” category grew at a 5x rate during the past decade, while white listeners only grew by 4x.

That's interesting for a lot of reasons, But I think the findings of this report lead to (at least) two implications, some well-warranted caution, and an opportunity.

Implications Of Tomorrow’s Even More Diverse Podcast Listening Landscape

While this study looks back at the last decade, I don’t know of any serious person who’d make an argument that podcast listeners will be less diverse in the coming decade. A good thing, we can all agree!

For podcast producers, it likely means our potential audience pool looks a lot different than what we see in our daily lives or what we’ve read about diversity among other media consumers. So if we’re doing market research, we need to factor in this reality and not bring that baggage into podcasting.

We already know that enough podcast listeners are out there to justify the investments necessary to make a great podcast that can reach hundreds of thousands of listeners. This study demonstrates millions of racially and ethnically diverse listeners are already tuning in. It doesn’t take much of a leap to assume some of them would seek out more tailored and niche content.

It also means that, when working podcasters take off our headphones and put in our earbuds, we’re likely going to be exposed to more diverse content, as we encounter podcasts and episodes tailored for niches other than our own. To me, that’s a Very Good Thing. Exposure to content other niches find compelling can only help us in our own creations, if only we’ll let ourselves be influenced outside our bubbles.

A Cautious Look At Our Opportunity

For all the good news and implications, I need to wave the caution flag: This report focused on the podcast listener, not the podcast creator. The data provided are about the demographics of US adults consuming podcasts. It tells us nothing about the demographics of those creating content. Nor did it investigate the content already created.

Podcasting is still really, really white. But this sort of survey shows a need for that to change. I’m optimistic that it will change. Eventually. To start, I’m confident independent podcasters will lead the charge in empowering a more diverse set of podcast creators, which is a good start.

Eventually, and with a serious amount of ongoing and all-too-necessary pressure, I do think that will spread to the larger production houses as well. And that would be another Very Good Thing, if only to keep our beloved podcasting from falling prey to the perceptions of bias other media suffer.

It doesn’t take much searching to find evidence of a “trust gap”, where different ethnicities have different perceptions of the quality of media. And that’s our big opportunity in podcasting: to somehow “protect” podcasting from those media bias perceptions. That protection, by the way, will only come by enough of us working hard to ensure increasing diversity in our creations and what we’re listening to.

Becoming The Change You Want To See In Podcasting

What you do with the information in that report is up to you. It was created to encourage advertisers to take another look at podcasting, so there’s also some good info on increasing purchase intent among each group. I highly recommend sharing this article with your podcasting peers to start the conversation.

And if you want to show your support for the four-times-weekly thought-providing ideas I bring to you, please go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra slide a virtual coffee my way.

I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.


Podcast Pontifications In Your Inbox is created by Evo Terra of Simpler Media.

While other PAPs (podcasts about podcasting) tell you what to do, Podcast Pontifications tells you what to think about, with insightful thoughts for working podcast like you, designed to make podcasting better.

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