Understanding Public Media’s Most Engaged Podcast Users

Understanding this audience is essential for news organizations — local and national — that hope to grow and sustain thriving audiences for news. Yet little is known about the preferences and habits of this emerging audience, more oriented around digital, mobile content and consumption.

In April and May of 2017, Edison Research — with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation — conducted a series of online interviews with podcast listeners across a group of major podcast publishers. We collected a total of 28,964 interviews with podcast listeners 18 years of age or older, who listened to at least one audio podcast from one of six sources: National Public Radio, WNYC, American Public Media, WBUR, PRX and Gimlet Media. (For more on the methodology, please see the appendix.)

In comparing these results with the Edison/Triton Infinite Dial research series, a nationally representative telephone survey of media habits, a portrait emerged of what appears to be the podcasting “super listener” — a highly engaged consumer of informative digital audio content. Some of the characteristics of this “super listener” include:

  • Greater content consumption (by hours and by shows listened to).
  • A preference for subscription and time-shifted consumption.
  • Reliance on mobile consumption, usually in transit.
  • A willingness to promote content to others, and reliance on word-of-mouth.
  • A preference for in-depth content.
  • A loyalty to public media, and willingness to invest — even as broadcast consumption levels decline.