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Why Are Heavy Podcast Listeners Declining?

· Time to read: ~2 min

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While Nielsen says more people are listening to podcasts overall, they appear to be listening to fewer shows. What’s the reason behind that? Is there a glut of content? Is there too much bad content out there? Are shows starting to play too many commercials, turning listeners off?

An example of the ladder might be the latest Three Uncanny Four production Bad Blood about the Elizabeth Holmes trial. During the 28-minute episodes there are three commercial stopsets.

Nielsen’s latest Podcasting Today Report shows that light listeners are fueling the growth in the space. The ratings firm defines light listeners as those who listen to podcasts 1-3 times per month. The report shows an increase in the light listener category, now claiming 49% of total U.S. podcast listening, while both medium and heavy listeners are declining. The light listener group is up 10% from 2018. Medium users are down slightly from 2018 and heavy users are down substantially from 2018, when they totaled 37%. That number is now 29%.

Nielsen says 10 years ago most listening came from people who were more likely to listen to each and every episode from their favorite shows - episodes that are oftentimes released once a week.

Nielsen says the shift to lighter listening has to do with an increase in at-home listening and that has lead to a transformation of the industry to a broader audience. According to Nielsen Podcast Buying Power data, the percent of the adult U.S. population listening to podcasts has grown more than 40% in the past three years.

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