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U.S. podcast listenership continues to grow, and audiences are resuming many pre-pandemic spending behaviors

3 minute read | May 2022

During a pandemic that drove millions indoors, and in front of screens, a funny thing happened with podcasts: audience engagement increased. And in addition to the wealth of new listeners, engagement among listeners is growing.

While the rise in engagement is somewhat contrary to what might be expected amid the many consumer changes over the past two years, podcast listenership–even at home–has transformed much of the general public into light listeners. In fact, the U.S. podcast listener base has grown by 40%1 over the past three years, with 51% of consumers2 saying they started listening during the past two years.

Importantly, the strength of the mainstream-bound podcast industry spans beyond simply offering wide-ranging audiences a growing bevy of titles for content-hungry audiophiles—especially for advertisers. That’s because podcast audiences are shedding their COVID-induced spending inhibitions.

83% of Americans no longer feel inhibited by COVID-19

– Nielsen Custom Consumer Sentiment Study, March 2022

The positive sentiment among consumers about returning to many pre-pandemic activities has translated into action, as 91% of respondents say they have resumed some normal activities, while 76% say they have resumed most of their normal activities. Consumer attitudes also align with first-quarter economic signals, as the unemployment rate was at 3.6% as of March 2022 (down from 6% in March 2021), and the Conference Board’s Present Situation Index—which reflects consumer sentiment about the business and labor market—was at 153 in March, up 10 points from February.

And while overall recovery sentiment is rising, the consumer study found that podcast listeners are more likely than the general population to resume some of their pre-pandemic activities, including shopping for groceries at physical stores, shopping for non-grocery items at physical stores and dining out at restaurants.

The resumption of many pre-pandemic activities and behaviors is good news for all industries, and podcast advertisements represent a bright option for brands looking to increase their visibility and drive upper-funnel engagement. According to Nielsen Podcast Ad Effectiveness data, podcast advertisements drive 14 points in brand awareness and 7 points in information seeking. Those metrics bode well for marketers in North America, whose top objective for the next year is building brand awareness, followed very closely by new customer acquisition, as detailed in Nielsen’s 2022 Annual Marketing Report.

83% of Americans no longer feel inhibited by COVID-19

– Nielsen Custom Consumer Sentiment Study, March 2022

In addition to being receptive to advertising, especially when it’s read by the host, podcast listeners are among the consumers most likely to feel that life is returning to normal, and that includes planning major purchases, such as a new vehicle, a new home entertainment system and planning trips that involve air travel. The combination of sentiment and an eagerness to spend represents a bankable opportunity for brands with the right audience data. 

For additional insights, download our latest Podcasting Today report.


  1. Nielsen Podcast Buying Power data
  2. Nielsen Custom Consumer Sentiment Study, March 2022

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