The Number of Podcast Listeners in the UK Keeps Inching Up - eMarketer
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The Number of Podcast Listeners in the UK Keeps Inching Up

But the popularity of ad-free content limits marketing opportunities

August 4, 2017 | Media & Entertainment

Podcast listening continues to inch up in the UK, according to data from Radio Joint Audience Research Limited (RAJAR) – UK and the Office of Communications (Ofcom) – UK.

RAJAR research cited by Ofcom indicated that 24% of UK adults ages 15 and older surveyed in Q1 2017 said they had listened to a podcast at least once. That was up 2 percentage points year over year, and 5 percentage points vs. Q1 2013.

However, just 8% of respondents said they listened to a podcast on a weekly basis.

By comparison, the percentage of UK adults who listened weekly to talk radio has vacillated between 33% and 34% since at least 2013.

According to Ofcom, there is some overlap between the two listener types. More than a third (37%) of UK talk radio listeners also listen to podcasts, while more than half (55%) of people who listen to podcasts also tune in to talk radio.

Podcast listening appears to be a habit-forming activity. Ofcom’s research found 42% of podcast listeners were queuing up podcasts more often than they had been a year ago. Only 13% said they had reduced their podcast consumption.

Change* in Frequency with Which UK Consumers Listen to Audio, by Format, 2017 (% of respondents)

Ofcom found that 51% of respondents listened to podcasts because they found them interesting, while 26% tuned in to “learn something new.” That might explain why those polled cited BBC Radio 4 and TED Talks as their most common sources for podcasts.

Despite a growing user base, podcasts are difficult to place within the UK’s marketing and advertising ecosystem. With ad-free content—such as that published by the BBC—a key draw among the country’s podcast listeners, it’s unsurprising that advertising in the format hasn’t spurred enough investment to warrant tracking.

Nonetheless, studies have found UK listeners are generally agreeable to ads in their podcasts, provided those podcasts are free to access and the ads are relevant to the topic discussed.

In the US, podcast use is broadly similar to the UK. US podcast ad spending was projected by Bridge Ratings to be worth $207 million in 2017, more than double the $90 million devoted to podcast advertising in 2014.

—Cliff Annicelli

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