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US podcast listenership continues to grow, and audiences are resuming many pre-pandemic spending behaviors – Nielsen – Social Media Explorer



Podcasts saw a remarkable increase in audience engagement during the pandemic which drove millions of people indoors and in front screens. In addition to the new listeners and increased engagement, there is also a growing number of listeners.

While the rise in engagement is somewhat contrary to what might be expected amid the many consumer changes over the past two years, podcast listenership – even at home – has transformed much of the general public into light listeners. In fact, the US podcast listener base has grown by 40%1Over the last three years, 51% of customers have opted for this product.2According to them, they have been listening for the past two decades.

Importantly, the strength of the mainstream-bound podcast industry spans beyond simply offering wide-ranging audiences a growing bevy of titles for content-hungry audiophiles — especially for advertisers. That’s because podcast audiences are shedding their COVID-induced spending inhibitions.

83% of Americans no longer feel inhibited by COVID-19

– SME Custom Consumer Sentiment Study, March 2022

Consumers are optimistic about the possibility of returning to pre-pandemic activity. 91% say they have resumed certain normal activities while 76% report they have resumed all of their usual activities. Consumer attitudes also align with first-quarter economic signals, as the unemployment rate was at 3.6% as of March 2022 (down from 6% in March 2021), and the Conference Board’s Present Situation Index — which reflects consumer sentiment about the business and labor market — was at 153 in March, up 10 points from February.

While overall sentiment for recovery is increasing, the podcast study revealed that podcast listeners are more inclined than others to return to pre-pandemic activities such as shopping at grocery stores or non-grocery products at stores, and eating out at restaurants.

For all industries, the return to many pre-pandemic behaviors and activities is positive news. Brands looking for ways to improve their visibility and engage upper-funnel customers can use podcast ads. SME podcast advertising effectiveness data shows that podcast ads drive 14 points for brand awareness and 7 for information seeking. Those metrics bode well for marketers in North America, whose top objective for the next year is building brand awareness, followed very closely by new customer acquisition, as detailed in SME’s 2022 Annual Marketing Report.

88% of customers who plan to make a big purchase would be open to considering a brand new brand

– SME Custom Consumer Sentiment Study, March 2022

In addition to being receptive to advertising, especially when it’s read by the host, podcast listeners are among the consumers most likely to feel that life is returning to normal, and that includes planning major purchases, such as a new vehicle, a new home entertainment system and planning trips that involve air travel. Brands with the right data can capitalize on this combination of emotion and a desire to spend.

For additional insights, download our latest Podcasting today report.


  1. SME Podcast: Buying Power Data
  2. SME Custom Consumer Sentiment Study, March 2022


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