SXM Media Releases 2021 Podcast Report

May 11, 2021

A Year of Unprecedented Growth in Podcast Listening and Advertising

“Everyone has a podcast?” It turns out that everyone is listening, too. The inaugural podcast industry report released today from SXM Media, the newly-combined sales organization for leading audio entertainment brands SiriusXM, Pandora, and Stitcher, reports that podcast listeners are the fastest-growing media audience in the country, among other findings. Read the full report here.

The 2021 SXM Media Podcast Report, drawn from unique listener data and audio advertising insights from SiriusXM, Pandora, and Stitcher, reveals that there has been a 26.3% increase in shows published to Stitcher’s platform in just the last year. This not only illustrates the sharp rise in popularity of podcasts but the surge in opportunities for advertisers to reach the growing number of podcast listeners.

Other key insights from the 2021 SXM Media Podcast Report:

So, who’s listening? Well, who isn’t? As the popularity of podcasts continues to surge across the country, the new breed of podcast lovers is quickly distinguishing itself from traditional listeners:

  • It’s no longer just about the coasts: New podcast listeners are younger, more diverse, and spread across the entire nation. A large portion of middle America ranks higher in podcast listening hours than they do in the number of podcast listeners, meaning that this emerging audience is highly engaged and listening longer across markets of all sizes.
  • Loyal podcast fans are listening a lot more: Podcast listeners are a loyal bunch, with 31% listening to 10 or more hours per week of podcasts on Stitcher—about 50% more than the average listener—creating more opportunities for advertisers to connect with them.
  • Personal and cultural topics are driving listener interest: Podcast topics like self-care and Diversity & Inclusion were among the most popular in the last year, making it crucial for advertisers to stay relevant to audiences by including personal and cultural themes when developing messaging and strategy.

But are podcast ads really that effective? The short answer: yes. Podcast effectiveness continues to be a hotly debated topic among advertisers. What is the best ad length? Format? Are listeners really paying attention? We’ve teamed up with Signal Hill Insights to test ad lengths for Xfinity xFi, and here is what we’ve found:

  • Strong results across ad lengths: At the top of the funnel, 15-second podcast ads performed on par with 60-second spots, showing that podcast advertising can drive equally strong brand recall across a spectrum of lengths. But 60-second spots drove deeper understanding of advertiser messages and moved listeners further down the funnel towards action.
  • Getting in front of the podcast listening surge: With a 22% increase in listeners from last year alone, podcast listeners are the fastest growing media audience, making them a crucial target audience for advertisers to get in front of and “catch the wave.” Surprisingly, only 5% of the most popular podcasts are currently monetized by advertising, but we expect that to increase along with podcasting’s skyrocketing audience growth.
  • Podcast listeners are paying attention: 77% of podcast listeners sometimes or always pay attention to ads, and 9 in 10 podcast listeners report taking action as the result of hearing a podcast ad. These are no ordinary listeners.

From studio lights to podcast mics Celebrities helped drive podcasting in 2020, hosting 22 of the top 200 new shows and demonstrating the powerful connection with fans that only audio can provide.

Fun fact: celeb-hosted podcast listeners are:

  • Twice as likely to identify as Latinx or Hispanic
  • 26% more likely to buy gluten-free foods
  • 29% more likely to have a clothing or fashion subscription
  • 38% more likely to be female
  • 21% more likely to say they “always pay attention to podcast ads”

The full 2021 SXM Media Podcast Report, including all supporting industry and listener behavior data, is now available here.

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