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Women are driving significant gains in podcast engagement

3 minute read | March 2022

The pandemic’s role as a digital adoption accelerant for the masses notwithstanding, many consumers were leaning into on-demand options well before media became a homebound necessity during much of 2020. The phenomenal growth in podcast engagement over the past seven or eight years—even throughout much of last year—speaks to how consumers increasingly want two things: something that is both relevant to them and available on their schedules.

In concert with a 40% increase in the U.S. population listening to podcasts over the past three years, advertisers continue to tap into the growing medium to reach engaged listeners. Notably, eMarketer forecasted that podcast ad revenue will exceed $2 billion by 2023: that would mean growth of nearly $1 billion in just two years. And amid the 2 million podcast titles featuring 88 million individual episodes, brands should be mindful of a growing core base of listeners: women.

Since 2018, the number of female podcast listeners has increased by 76%. And perhaps more impressive—given that audio engagement is often associated with being away from the home—is the 41% increase since the beginning of the pandemic. The growth of podcast engagement also shows no signs of slowing down, as a recent Nielsen survey found that 61% of paid streaming audio subscribers plan to increase their podcast consumption over the next 12 months.

Because podcast listening has become far more mainstream than when podcasts first started to enter the media mix, light podcast listeners—those who listen anywhere between once and three times a month—represent roughly half of all podcast listeners. While this clearly validates that podcasts appeal to more than just a niche audience, advertisers know that more frequent engagement means more opportunity to reach listeners. Again, women should be a significant focus on this front. 

In the four years since Nielsen established its Podcast Buying Power service, which provides with brands information about the buying behaviors of podcast listeners, the number of heavy female podcast listeners—those who listen 10+ times per month—has increased by 90%.

Podcast advertising—particularly when read by the host—drives a stronger brand recall punch than more traditional forms of advertisements. For example, Nielsen’s Podcast Ad Effectiveness (PAE) solutions have found that hostread ads drive a brand recall rate of 71%, which subsequently creates high levels of consumer interest, purchase intent and recommendation intent.

Nielsen’s PAE solutions also notes that podcast advertising drives an average increase in brand awareness of 14 points. Among female heavy listeners, however, the lift rises to 20 points—43% higher than average. 

Other key ad engagement stats:

  • 73% of female listeners can recall the brand after exposure
  • 54% of female listeners find podcast content interesting

Compared with the early days of podcasts, advertisers have fewer questions about the fragmented delivery mechanisms and platforms, which prompted concerns about scalability. Today, the questions predominantly center on where to invest, especially as the landscape broadens. Thankfully, however, answers to those questions should be directly connected to who’s listening, and how engaged they are with what they’re listening to.


  1. Nielsen Scarborough Podcast Buying Power, May 2021
  2. Gracenote Audio On-Demand, February 2022
  3. Nielsen Scarborough Podcast Buying Power, November 2021

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