The State of Podcast Listening for 2021: Podcasting Finds a Way

Tom Webster
6 min readMar 12, 2021

On Thursday, March 11, Edison Research and Triton Digital released the 2021 edition of The Infinite Dial, America’s longest-running study of consumer media habits (you can watch a replay of the webinar and download all of the slides here.) The podcasting community pays very close attention to these numbers every year, and personally I am extremely proud to have been a part of this work from the very beginning of podcasting. I know that these numbers end up in thousands of business plans, presentations, and media kits, and we literally spare no expense in time or treasure to ensure their accuracy and reliability.

The last year has been an odd one from a media consumption standpoint. It started normally, and then within the space of a few days, Tom Hanks and Rudy Gobert got sick and the world shut down, though the former did not cause the latter. In our ongoing tracking studies, the Podcast Consumer Tracker and Share of Ear®, we observed rapid declines in all forms of audio listening as many of us a) stopped commuting, and b) watched Tiger King. Podcast listening in particular went down in the early phases of the pandemic. Despite all of our extra time at home (the number one location for podcast listening) many of us were faced with opening up residential offices, daycares, and schools all on the same day, and whatever “me” time we were accustomed to simply vanished. Until we got all of this sorted out, we took the earbuds out of our ears for a bit.

Luckily for the burgeoning podcast industry, that phase didn’t last long. While many of us are still not back to some semblance of our pre-COVID lives, over time we began to reclaim our opportunities for listening. We went for long walks. We played audio on our smart speakers more. We even listened to podcasts with other people. By the autumn of 2020, not only had the declines in podcast listening been reversed, but weekly podcast consumers were listening to podcasts a half hour more per week than they had prior to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus.

We field the Infinite Dial research in late January every year — well clear of the hullabaloo of the holidays (which, I venture to guess, you spent at home) but early enough in the year to get a true annual benchmark. We spend weeks fielding, checking, weighting, and…

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Tom Webster

Partner, Sounds Profitable. Leading voice in podcasting, digital audio, and greyhounds