Nielsen’s Latest Podcast Data

And what it means for you

Last month, TV ratings company Nielsen released its Podcasting Today report for advertisers. While most of Voxtopica’s clients and other public affairs podcasts don’t rely on advertising, the data contained within the report is still applicable.

One of the most important data points is the confirmation that podcasting is a growing medium. Today, there are nearly 2 million podcasts in the marketplace and that number is increasing quickly. This rise in popularity has changed the market: an ever-larger number of celebrities are embracing the medium, mergers and acquisitions are on the rise, more podcast-inspired TV shows are being produced, private subscriptions are gaining market share, and platform-exclusive content (i.e. Spotify deals with Joe Rogan and the Obamas) is testing the limits of audience commitment.

As podcasting grows, podcast audiences are changing. According to Nielsen, almost half (49%) of today’s U.S. podcast listeners are more casual users: people who listen anywhere from one to three times a month. That’s very different from the view the industry has had in the past — that podcast listeners were dedicated consumers who listened to every episode of their favorite show as soon as it was released. 

This is a significant change in the audience landscape that is important to organizations considering podcasting as a communication tool. It means more people are listening to just a few podcasts, increasing the likelihood that you can gain podcast listeners from your existing audience even if those people don’t listen to other podcasts.

Changes in podcast listening behavior

According to Nielsen’s latest data, the percent of US adults listening to podcasts has grown more than 40% in the last three years. That growth is driven almost entirely by people listening to podcasts at home rather than at work or in the car. Home listeners now make up 50% of all listening, a figure that is almost certainly due to the pandemic.

The most telling information in the Nielsen report is the fact that the growth in podcast listening is demographically ubiquitous. The growth appears across all ages, and across all ethnicities. In other words, podcasts aren’t being consumed exclusively by young white people — more, and older, Hispanic, Black, and Asian Americans are listening, too.

Believe it or not, the median age of podcast listeners according to Nielsen is 39 years old.

What are people listening to?

What are all these people listening to? Nielsen reports that the #1 genre in nearly every demographic category is Comedy. In fact, the only demographic that doesn’t have comedy in the #1 spot is “People 55+”. For these listeners, Comedy is still #2.

What’s in the #1 spot for Americans over 55? Unsurprisingly, it’s News一which is also the second most popular podcast genre for nearly every other demographic. News is #2 for everyone over 18, with 38% listening to News programs. It’s #2 people between 18 and 49 and people 25-54. In fact, News is the #2 most popular podcast genre in every category except people over 55 (where it’s #1), people ages 18-34, and Women 25-54. For both of those demographics, News falls to the #4 most popular genre. 

Women really like murder podcasts.

Nielsen’s data confirms something that’s a bit of a running joke in the podcast world — women love murder podcasts. That’s right, for women age 25-54, True Crime is the #2 most popular genre with 41% listening — nearly as many as listen to the #1 genre, Comedy (42%). By comparison, True Crime doesn’t appear at all in the top ten genres for men of the same age group.

From our perspective, the gender differences in podcast genre preferences are extremely interesting. Take a look at these two lists in the image on the right.

The only genres that appear in both lists are Comedy, News, Society & Culture, and Music. Therefore, if your podcast hopes to reach both men and women, you might be better off choosing one of those as your primary category.

Categories matter.

It’s important to understand that these categories are defined by the podcast players (Apple, Spotify, etc.), not by listeners. In other words, If your target audience is women, categorizing your podcast as “Society & Culture” may help Apple, Spotify, or other apps suggest it to the right audience.

I’ve actually seen this in action. I was once asked to help grow the audience for a public policy podcast. The publishers had selected “News” as the show’s primary category because of the popularity of the category. However, by calling their show “News” they were competing with NPR, the New York Times, and all the other actual news producers. 

We changed the primary category to “Government”. Within a few episodes, the podcast had tripled its audience and was consistently in the top ten of shows in that category. The show went from competing with better-known producers in a highly competitive category to being one of the top producers in a more specifically targeted category.

What does this mean for public affairs podcasts?

Podcasts are here to stay. If your organization is committed to delivering high-value content to your members, advocates, communities, or anyone else, a podcast should definitely be part of your content mix.

That said, audiences have many choices when deciding what to listen to at any given moment, so your podcast needs to provide seamless value in every episode. Poor audio quality, boring hosts, and uninteresting content will all lead to low listenership and retention.

Understanding your audience, and providing content that interests them, entertains them, and engages them, is the key to success.

To learn how Voxtopica can help you plan, produce, distribute, and market a great podcast, contact us at 202-656-0024 or schedule a free consultation at

10 Podcasts to Delight You This Summer

Summertime is here and we’re all emerging out of our pandemic funk. While you’re returning to your favorite activities, maybe you’ve noticed you’re a little different this summer. Last year changed us. With change comes the need for new ideas and fresh perspectives. Whether it’s a conversation that needs to be had or cooking a new cuisine, make room for newness this summer. Immersing yourself in a world of auditorial novelty provides a fresh start, new experiences, and a wonderful way to expand your horizons.

In this article, we give you 10 podcasts across all genres to fill your summer moments with stories that entertain, comfort, and challenge deeply held beliefs. So from all of us at Voxtopica, here’s to a much more hopeful summer, full of incredible moments. Enjoy!

Podcasts to stay informed AND entertained:

Snacks Daily

Financial news just got fun. Put the Wall Street Journal down for a minute and flip on Snacks Daily. Episodes consist of quick stories that explain the latest news in business and finance. Listeners particularly love the banter and chemistry between the two hosts Jack Kramer and Nick Martell. Their snappy, colorful commentary turns complicated concepts into understandable and entertaining news. You don’t need to work in the finance world to enjoy Snacks Daily; these stories are delivered in a way that any listener can digest, no matter their experience.

You’re Wrong About

We think we know the facts about things like The Challenger Disaster, political correctness, and the phrase “drinking the kool-aid”. But are our assumptions correct? Journalists Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall tell us if we’re wrong or not. In each episode, Mike and Sarah challenge listeners to reconsider how they’ve imagined these historic topics. The hosts spend hours researching these topics to bring the whole picture to each episode, allowing listeners to decide for themselves what deeply held perspectives they may be wrong about.

To hear the stories of those who have often gone unnoticed:


Take a trip to Hawaii and discover what you’d never find on vacation through Offshore. Offshore is an immersive storytelling podcast that shares the stories of Hawaiians and their lived experiences. Through investigative and thoughtful journalism, listeners learn both current and historical events that have not only shaped the islands, but the world around them. You don’t need ties to Hawaii to appreciate the stories; Offshore’s motto is this: “Because sometimes being in the middle of nowhere gives you a good perspective on everywhere else.”

Black in Appalachia

We’re all familiar with Appalachia, where we’ve enjoyed hiking and camping trips. But have we really experienced the full narrative of this region? Black families have long contributed and shaped the Appalachian region, yet their stories have historically gone unnoticed. Join hosts Enkeshi El-Amin and Angela Dennis as they travel to various states in Appalachia and discover the stories of people, places, and experiences that show what it means to be Black in Appalachia. The two hosts celebrate Black identity in Appalachia and have explored topics like Appalachian Drag, the secret lives of church ladies, and the rise of Black women in Appalachian politics.

When you’re on a road trip and falling asleep at the wheel:

Radio Rental

Stay wide awake with Radio Rental. Radio Rental features bizarre, true scary stories told by those who lived them. These stories are unpredictable, and often take twists that will leave you frightened enough to keep your eyes wide open on long drives. Rainn Wilson stars in Radio Rental as Terry Carnation, America’s strange yet most beloved late-night radio talk show personality.

When you need to get out of your head for a bit:

Hidden Brain

If you have a curious mind that wonders why people never feel rich…or why we have such a difficult time letting go of old possessions, try Hidden Brain. Through the combination of science and narrative storytelling, host Shankar Vedantam explores human behavior and the unconscious patterns that shape us and our relationships.


Empathy is often the best way to learn about ourselves and the world around us. That’s exactly what Strangers offers. Strangers shares the personal stories of people who have experienced incredible turmoil. Host Lea Thau, a Peabody award-winning producer, takes listeners through the highs and lows of life through these stories. Each story allows us to peer into the lives of others and examine ourselves and the heartbreaks we suffer. You’ll laugh, cry, and learn to appreciate the people around you and all the moments life brings.

When you start feeling the summer blues and just need a laugh:

WTF with Marc Maron

The podcast world is full of “celebrity interview” shows, but WTF is one that’s worth having in your arsenal. Comedian Marc Maron began WTF in 2009, and has since interviewed tons of comedians, actors, authors, musicians, and well-known public figures. Listeners have especially loved Maron’s probing interview style that encourages guests to open up about topics other interview shows might shy away from. Interviews have included Robin Williams, Stacey Abrams, and Boosty Collins.

Dead Ball Brothers

Crack open a lager after a day of summer chores and sit down with brothers Drew and Adam Snavely, the self-proclaimed “two idiots discussing weird soccer stories.” Each episode, Drew and Adam share a story from a weird moment in soccer’s history, a story you’ve probably never heard. Episodes are anything but dry as Adam and Drew bring their witty, colorful commentary and, as they put it, a little bit of stupid to these historical and current stories of the world’s game.

For stormy summer nights:

The Relic Radio Show

Open a preserved bottle of wine and tune into these vintage audio dramas. The Relic Radio Show brings old time radio shows to modern day audiences. Currently, Relic Radio produces several shows across comedy, horror, suspense, science fiction, and classic radio talk shows. The stories in each show are fully produced with original music, and well-performed by professional actors of decades past.