Over half of podcast listeners prefer video elements, study says

Cumulus Media and Signal Hills insights report shows growth in new listeners

More than half of podcast consumers prefer podcasts with video elements, according to a new study, with more people actively watching compared to last year.

This is the 11th instalment of the twice-yearly Podcast Download report which is conducted in partnership between broadcast company Cumulus Media and research firm Signal Hill Insights. The report looks at the behaviours and habits of podcast listeners, based on a survey conducted in October with 608 respondents aged 18+ who listen to at least one hour of podcasting weekly.

The podcast audience is growing, the report said, with around a third of total weekly listeners only having started listening to podcasts in the past year. Half of those were aged 18-34, indicating a steady increase in younger listeners.

Only 35% of the respondents said they prefer to listen to podcasts that are audio-only without any video, while 64% said they prefer to have video elements either for actively watching or playing in the background while listening. The number of respondents that are actively watching (37%) is also growing, up by 9% year on year, while the number of listeners playing videos in the background has decreased by 2%. 

This is only the fourth edition of the report which tracked whether respondents ‘watched’ a podcast in the past week instead of ‘listened’, with 14% of the sample reporting that they did, and the number of people who ‘watched’ only has doubled year on year. 

Advertisers can take advantage of more podcast consumers watching video by sponsoring episodes or creating branded series so they can incorporate product placement and branded backgrounds in order to engage with listeners rather than just investing in spot ads, since only 12% keep their eyes on the screen the whole time during an ad.

The report also indicated that advertisers can use podcasting to reach some of their audiences that have been lost to ad-free streaming services. According to the report, almost 90% of weekly listeners were also subscribed to ad-free video streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, both of which made it to the top two. Podcasting can also help advertisers reach the 39% of weekly podcast consumers who do not see network or cable TV ads. 

Host reads can also be an effective way to engage with both podcast listeners and watchers, as nearly half of the total number of respondents said they prefer an ad voiced by the show’s host or personalities and only 13% prefer an ad read by someone else. Given the choice between ads read by someone else or ones that sound like an ad that you’d hear on streaming music or AM/FM radio, 15% of the total respondents said they prefer the latter. In addition, over 70% of respondents said they want ads that are funny and entertaining. 

Other interesting highlights from the report show that YouTube is the most preferred podcast platform due to growing interest in video podcasts, with 28% of respondents stating they use it most, followed by Spotify and Apple. However, the type of content hosted on the platform is more important, since 73% of respondents said they would switch if a podcast became exclusive to another platform and more than half listen to the same podcasts on other platforms. 

Podcast consumers are also loyal to their favourite shows and follow them across multiple platforms, especially younger listeners: 68% of the respondents aged 18-34 said they follow their favourite podcast hosts on social media. The report advised advertisers to tap into that connection between listeners and their favourite hosts by considering advertising on paid subscription content including bonus and extended episodes of podcasts.