US adult listeners will spend an average of about 34 minutes a day on podcasts, according to our latest estimates. Time spent is 2 minutes less than last year due to the pandemic's impact on listening behavior, but it should return to pre-contraction levels by 2022.
In the weeks following shelter-in-place orders, the dip in listening was most severe, though listens and downloads have rebounded a bit since then. This will be the first recorded contraction since we began tracking US podcast listener time in 2015.
Despite the dip this year, time spent will return to steady growth in the coming years, verging on one-fifth of total time spent with digital audio. Streaming platforms continue to invest in podcasts while publishers diversify content offerings, which will increase engagement among podcast listeners. For example, Spotify announced it now has more than 1 million shows in its podcast catalog and hopes to expand its audience by experimenting with new formats, like video podcasts featuring YouTube creators.
Through podcasts, brands can reach a highly engaged audience of digital audio listeners. We estimate that podcast listening time will make up 17.0% of total time spent with digital audio in the US this year and 18.9% by the end of our forecast period in 2022.
While a large portion of digital audio listeners subscribe to ad-free platforms like Apple Music and Spotify Premium, podcasts often include host-read ads, which has an added value given the influence many hosts have with their audience. Podcast listeners often consume a high volume of content, which opens up more audio advertising to listeners on ad-supported platforms. A survey conducted by Westwood One in October 2019 — cited by eMarketer — found that 36% of podcast listeners consumed 6 or more hours of podcast content per week.