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Women Podcast Listeners: What We Know

Women Podcast Listeners: What We Know

Written By

Caila Litman

Know the Author

March 15, 2022

This week on Sounds Profitable: Adtech Appliedlearn more about the team behind The Download and why we decided this podcast was necessary in the first place, both for Sounds Profitable, and for the podcast industry.

Welcome back to #GoodData͏📊, where we decipher podcast industry data stories into actionable insights. This month is part deux of our women in podcasting double feature. If you missed part one, you should fix that. Though feel free to read it after this piece.

Before I jump into the numbers of it all, I want to tell you a bit about my mom, Big Nik.

Now, Big Nik wasn’t a warm and fuzzy mom. The daughter of a goat farmer from Cyprus, she grew up watching her dad play the market to make a living in the U.S. Back in the seventies, when the world was a different flavor of dumpster fire and women were barred from opening lines of credit at the bank, she became the first woman in her region to earn a broker’s license. She had big shoulder pads, big hair, and major “suck it” energy.

In a business capacity, Niki was absolutely the kind of baddie you’d want in your corner. But when pulled into a spreadsheet by a marketer, her Greek heritage and tenacity to survive the male-dominated world of 80s finance bros disappear. In this context, she’s another white lady with kids and a college degree. I share this because data and numbers alone leave a lot unsaid.

The pitfalls of audience data, especially measured with advertising partnerships in mind, is that it demands we toss people into tidy, easy-to-understand groups. But women and multicultural listeners and even men (lol), are not monoliths.

We’re complex Venn diagrams.

We’re our goat farming ancestors’ wildest dreams.

We’re so much more than the numbers that define us.

Bearing this in mind, let’s explore the kind of data that seeks to define women in podcasting through two lenses: programming and listener behavior.

Programming: Where my lady hosts at?

Recently, I conducted a Twitter experiment. I asked “what are your favorite podcasts hosted by women?” and then I walked away from my phone.

PSA: The bird app will latch onto any tweet with the word “podcast” in it like:

For the hundreds of incredible reccos, I also got trolls with such insightful replies as “there are none” or “females be dumb.” Thanks for your help.

Equitable host representation and the steady growth of podcast audiences are deeply intertwined. According to the Edison Research Spoken Word Audio Report (2021), here’s why:

  • 62% of listeners turn to Spoken Word Audio that’s “made for people like me”
  • 60% of listeners turn to Spoken Word Audio for “perspectives you don’t hear in other media”
  • 55% of listeners turn to Spoken Word Audio for “hosts you identify with”

In 2020 AT&T Experts released survey results on the gender breakouts of top-rated podcasts. While the methodology only captured the gender of host talent across top podcasts on Apple (50), Spotify (20), and Google (11), it echoes the listener preferences outlined above: people want to identify with their podcasts. Huh, funny how representation works.

The study points to the following trends:

  • 27% of top-rated shows featured female hosts
  • 69% of female respondents prefer female-led lifestyle podcasts
  • 62% of respondents said the voice gender they’re most likely to stop listening to is male

What do the independent podcast charts tell us? Outside of Podtrac, which only shares networks and shows that opt into its service, the Crime Junkie podcast – hosted by two women – appears at the top of most independent rankers, such as Edison Research and Triton Digital.

The show is co-hosted by Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat through Ashley’s women-owned and female-focused network, Audiochuck. And while it gives me nothing but joy to celebrate women and their success, I also sigh at this outlier data for two reasons:

  1. Crime Junkie is the exception not the rule for chart-topping women-led pods.
  2. What does it say about our culture that True Crime podcasts are the genre du jour? I can’t help but think it’s a bleak sign of the times. On the flipside, there’s a more optimistic school of thought that this explosion in true crime podcasts and women obsessing over stories about brutality that specifically affect them, could be viewed as a hopeful act of defiance

Audiences, especially women, love True Crime podcasts (myself included). In a report sharing data around what women are listening to by age, Triton Digital further captured our penchant for the macabre, writing that “True Crime was the top overall genre across females 18+.”

Sidenote: Even in a data context, calling women “females” kills me.

Programming: What Women Want

Hint: It’s not the movie starring Mel Gibson from 2000.

Overall, what are the top podcast genres women gravitate toward? Nielsen’s Scarborough Podcast Buying Power Report from May 2021 reports:

  • 79% of women listen to Kids & Family podcasts
  • 63% of women listen to True Crime podcasts
  • 61% of women listen to Arts podcasts
  • 59% of women listen to Health & Fitness podcasts
  • 59% of women listen to Religion & Spirituality podcasts
  • 55% of women listen to Society & Culture podcasts
  • 53% of women listen to Education podcasts
  • 50% of women listen to Fiction podcasts
  • 48% of women listen to TV & Film podcasts

Per the same report, women are less drawn to the following podcast genres:

  • 33% of women listen to Business podcasts
  • 18% of women listen to Sports podcasts
  • 18% of women listen to Technology podcasts

Considering the genres toward the bottom of womens’ “to-listen” list and the knowledge that pod listeners are drawn to shows with relatable host talent, I wonder how these genres could make their shows more inclusive by rethinking talent or content focuses to appeal more to us.

Here are the top genres by age group from the same Triton Digital report:

  • A18–24 women = Fiction
  • A35–44 women = Kids & Family
  • A55+ women = News

The burgeoning fiction genre has done a particularly good job at making inroads with women. Fable & Follyrealm.fmRom Com PodsQCODEVenture MaidensiHeart, and more have all developed and released fiction programming particularly relatable to women.

The Acast Podcast Listener Landscape study from December 2021, goes a bit further on what kind of Fiction podcasts women like:

  • 63% of women are interested in Mystery Fiction (+13% more than men)
  • 42% of women are interested in Thriller Fiction (+26% more than men)
  • 42% of women are interested in Romance Fiction (+20% more than men)

What else do we know about women and their podcast listening behavior?

Per Edison Research’s Infinite Dial Study (2021), of the estimated 116M monthly podcast listeners A12+ in the U.S, 46% of Monthly Podcast Consumers are women and 3% identify as non-binary or other. Based on this study, there are still 10% more Monthly Podcast Consumers who identify as men.

All this imbalance means is there’s an audience growth opportunity, which YoY trends prove. The study reports that of the women surveyed, 39% said they had listened to a podcast in the past month. In terms of long-term growth, this is a 39% jump since 2018.

If you break down monthly listening further, of black podcast listeners surveyed as part of Edison Research’s Black Podcast Listener Report (2021), 56% identified as women – which is 18% higher than all women measured in the previous report.

Meanwhile, according to Edison Research’s Latino Podcast Listener Report (2021), women made up 42% of U.S. Latino monthly podcast listeners.

Now, calling back to my point about how much is lost in the sauce when trying to define complex people with numbers…where’s the Black Latino Listener Report? Where’s my intersectional data, Tom Webster!? A girl can dream.

What else do we know about women who listen to podcasts?

There’s not a ton of current data about women who listen to podcasts. Trust me, I searched. Thankfully, the aforementioned Tom Webster and Edison Research were super helpful via email. Pulling from the Edison Research Infinite Dial 2021 data set, here’s what we know right now.

Note: Next week Edison Research’s The Infinite Dial 2022 report comes out; and there’ll be new numbers then, so we’ll keep you posted.

Age | Women A12+ Who Are Monthly Podcast Listeners

  • A12–20: 25%
  • A21–34: 32%
  • A35–54: 34%
  • A55+: 20%

Race | Women A12+ Who Are Monthly Podcast Listeners

  • White: 59%
  • African-American: 18%
  • Hispanic or Latino: 14%
  • Asian: 1%
  • Other: 6%

Education | Women A12+ Who Are Monthly Podcast Listeners

  • High School or less: 15%
  • 1–3 years of college: 24%
  • 4-year college degree: 31%
  • Some graduate school: 10%
  • Advanced degree (PhD, MA, MBA+): 20%

Income | Women A12+ Who Are Monthly Podcast Listeners

  • Under $25k: 14%
  • Between $25k–$75k: 33%
  • Between $75k–$150k: 26%
  • Over $150k: 12.5%

Big Takeaways

  1. No amount of audience data can capture the complexity of women, sorry Nielsen.
  2. Overall, more representation of women and other underrepresented voices in podcast programming will increase their audience bases – as listeners have repeatedly demonstrated they care about identifying with their content.
  3. There’s more measurement to be done around what listeners who identify as women care about and how they currently look, demographically.

New Sponsors

Sounds Profitable exists thanks to the continued support of our amazing sponsors. Each sponsor receives one hour of consulting per month as a way to say thanks.

  • Podchaser, the world’s most comprehensive podcast database — powering podcast discovery for listeners, creators, and brands.
  • Evergreen Podcasts goal is to bring entertaining, thought-provoking content to people, wherever they are. We produce podcasts for life that capture the everyday color and diversity of modern raconteurs.

Want to learn more about sponsorship? Hit reply!

Rel’s Recs

Arielle Nissenblatt of EarBuds Podcast Collective this week has chosen The Opportunist from Kast Media, hosted by Omny Studio and measured by Podtrac, Podsights and Chartable.

This show has been around for a few years but I just got wind of it and powered through 35+ episodes in 2 weeks. I’ve been recommending it to it anyone who’ll listen. Each mini-series (some are 8 episodes, some are one-offs) is markedly different from the last. But they’re all united by the show’s theme: tales of people who turn sinister by embracing opportunity. When you listen, take note of how the show marks its episodes and series — the episode naming conventions are different from most shows and do a great job orienting the listener.

Market Insights with Magellan AI

In 2021 we detected DAI on 89% of the episodes we analyzed, a 6% increase from 2020. This week we dug a little deeper into those DAI episodes by breaking down the percentage episodes with DAI in 2021 across some of the most popular genres. At the top of the list was TV & Film, where we detected DAI on 95% of the episodes we analyzed. At the bottom of the list was Health & Fitness, where we detected DAI on 73% of the episodes we analyzed. One other genre to note is Comedy, which had the lowest percentage of episodes with DAI among the top 3 genres in 2021 in terms of ad volume.

Interested in more insights like this? Join the 15-minute monthly update on March 17th.

Anatomy of an Ad with ThoughtLeaders

What makes a good podcast ad? You know it when you hear it, sure. But is there more to it? We’ve teamed up with ThoughtLeaders to break down what works, what doesn’t, and what it takes to make great ads.

This week’s Anatomy of an Ad breaks down a host-read ad for Splendid Spoons presented by Ashley Iaconetti, Lauren Iaconetti, and Naz Perez, hosts of the podcast I Don’t Get It.

Find out what worked well and what could be improved upon as you work to make your own ad reads better.

About the author

Register for our upcoming webinar:

Ad Nauseum

Frequency, Repetition, and Consumer Perceptions of Podcast Advertising

How much is too much when it comes to podcast advertising? In Ad Nauseam, Sounds Profitable's latest study, we surveyed 1,000 weekly podcast listeners to find out just where they stand on these expectations. The free half-hour webinar debuting the research will be hosted by Tom Webster on Wednesday, June 12th, at 3:00 p.m. EST.

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