Listeners use three podcast apps on average, according to Ofcom survey

Data shows growth in popularity across BBC Sounds and Spotify apps

Podcast listeners are consuming content across an average of three different platforms, according to data from the Ofcom Podcast Survey 2023.

The report, which was summarised and analysed by podcast expert Adam Bowie, used data from an online panel by research agency Yonder which sampled 1,884 respondents aged 18+ on their podcast consumption habits – with at least 1,000 regular podcast users – between 3 and 12 March 2023. 

When the survey respondents were asked how they access their podcasts and which apps they use to listen, the report concluded that most of them use an average of 3.04 different platforms to consume podcast content instead of just sticking to one. 

The top two podcast apps were BBC Sounds and Spotify, with the former being number one for accessing content and the latter being number one for the most-used podcast app. Other popular podcast apps included video streaming service YouTube in third overall, followed by Apple Podcasts in fourth place. 

Bowie notes that the sample size used by Ofcom is small, which may be why the most popular podcast apps varies compared to other charts. Additionally, the data not only measures the different apps, it also measures different versions of the app separately, such as Spotify Premium paid-for, or Premium trial and Spotify free version. 

In comparison, a report by podcast measurement data service Podtrac which was released in January 2023 revealed that the top preferred podcast application in the US was Spotify but that Apple Podcasts had more downloads overall. The data was based on the share of total US audience and calculated across a database of 2 billion global downloads, which provided a much bigger sample size than the one used by Ofcom. 

However, it is worth noting that BBC Sounds is only available as a podcast subscription channel on Apple Podcasts in the US, while in the UK it is available as its own app and podcast streaming service, so it would not be measured on its own across US-specific podcast data.

The report also showed that 30% of the respondents said that they stopped listening to podcasts due to an issue with discoverability, noting that they couldn’t find any podcasts that interested them anymore. In addition, 30% also said that they 'never' hear about new podcasts. 

Ofcom recently released a new BBC operating licence agreement which aims to fix the issue of discoverability of podcasts from BBC Sounds, after research showed that most listeners were using third-party platforms such as Apple Podcasts to listen to BBC programmes, but were unaware that they were consuming BBC content or the extent of BBC’s podcast programming. The new licence requires the BBC to report how its approach to discoverability allows audiences to access a broad range of content, and how it balances its editorial curation and personalisation across BBC iPlayer and Sounds.

Other data covered in the Ofcom Podcast Survey 2023 included audience demographics which showed that listeners skew more male across regular podcast listeners (31%) compared to women (19%), and that podcasts are more popular with listeners aged 25-44 (85%). The survey, however, did not take into account listeners aged under 18. 

Additionally, the report showed what type of podcast formats were increasing in popularity amongst listeners, including catch-up podcasts of BBC radio programmes with 43% listening, as well as podcasts with video, companion podcasts linked to TV programmes, and podcasts made by newspaper and magazine publications.