Podcasting Insights from Westwood One's Fall 2020 Study

Podcasting 1 min read

Westwood One’s Fourth Annual Fall 2020 Study offers new podcasting insights and food for thought on the podcasting industry, listeners and podcast content creators. Westwood One is America’s largest audio network. Their reports evaluate several studies that examine podcast audience and advertiser trends over the past five years.

As a former app developer and current podcast production and marketing agency owner, I am easily fascinated by trends and changes in content consumption behaviors. So what follows are merely some of the highlights that stood out for me, personally.

Podcasting Insights Study — Table Of Contents

Podcasts Used To Be For Geeks: In Other Words, Mostly Men

But no more. One of the most encouraging podcasting insights for me is the fact that women are rapidly entering the space. And this is driving innovation and content diversity in the podcasting industry at large.

"Women continue to close the gap in podcasting: For the third consecutive year, podcast listenership is up among women. Compared to July 2017, weekly female podcast listeners are spending +27% more time with podcasts.”

Skewing Young and Female

Podcasting Insights - Women Listening
Source: Westwood One's Podcast Download - Fall 2020 Report.

For me, equally exciting are the podcasting insights around new listeners heavily skewing young and female.

“Women represent 67% of weekly podcast listeners who started listening in the past 7-12 months”

Since 2017, the greatest growth comes from female listeners

Insights on female listeners
Source: Westwood One's Podcast Download - Fall 2020 Report.

Here Are Some Reasons Why I Thinks This Is A Great Development

  1. Greater diversity of podcast content, genre and topics being produced
  2. The rise of female entrepreneurship in podcasting tech - as evidenced by a slew of women led podcast networks, apps, events and conferences (more on this to come...)
  3. Overall greater inclusion of minorities. This is leading to greater awareness of podcasting, and increased listenership in new communities and countries.

Apple’s Dominance in Podcasting Continues To Fade

A 2nd generation iPod podcast player being held up by hand.
Photographer: Cartoons Plural | Source: Unsplash

The fact that Apple has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to podcasting is not exactly news. Having been the original inventors of the devices, Apple coined the terminology, innovated listening devices and drove the content involved.

Do young people even realize that the term “podcasting” was originally derived from Apple’s iPod?

This typical closed platform “Apple Walled Garden” approach is coming to an end. And that can only be a good thing. Podcasting industry insiders have long called for more rapid innovation in the space. Apple rested on their laurels. They have allowed Spotify, Youtube and a slew of podcasting innovators to improve and diversify the app listening experience - including smart speakers, smart watches, smart TVs and automotive listening experiences.

The same is true for the podcast creator experience. Apple could have easily dominated this space with more podcast friendly versions of audio production tools like Garageband and Logic Pro. Instead we are seeing a variety of innovative podcast recording platforms crop up elsewhere.

Apple Podcast’s Fundamental Lack Of Discoverability

Another typical aspect of Apple’s iTunes and Apple Podcast environments is the fundamental lack of discoverability, something that I am familiar with from my app development days. Apple pushes the biggest podcasts, but makes indy content hard to find. The good news in this is that other platforms are doing a better job at curating and providing podcast discovery solutions.

“The podcast platform wars are heating up. In this year’s report, Spotify is closing in on Apple as the most used podcast platform, and YouTube is growing as well”
- Suzanne Grimes, EVP, Marketing for CUMULUS MEDIA and President, Westwood One.
Insights on Spotify's Rise To Power
Source: Westwood One's Podcast Download - Fall 2020 Report.

I am not saying that this trend is due to better discoverability in Spotify. I think it might be because of Spotify’s investments in content large show acquisitions like the “Joe Rogan Experience”. But for me, there is a connection between new (mostly female) podcast listeners, music listening habits and recommendation engine innovations inside the Spotify App that positions it as a viable listening and discovery alternative.

Alternative Listening Platforms Are Popular Especially Among Young Listeners

Source: Westwood One's Podcast Download - Fall 2020 Report.

Among heavy podcast listeners, Millennials frequently use 3+ different platforms to consume podcasts on. This might be an indication that better listening apps and platforms are emerging. And this is also encouraging in terms of innovation and discovery overall.

YouTube Is The Preferred Podcast Entertainment Platform For Many

For me, one of the most fascinating insights and finding is the fact that listeners are using more platforms: Weekly podcast audiences are increasing the number of podcast platforms they’re using to listen. But YouTube is in a class of its own.

Podcasting Insights: YouTube Moves Up To The Most Frequently Used Podcast Listening Platform

Insights on YouTube For Podcast Listening
Source: Westwood One's Podcast Download - Fall 2020 Report.
“More than 4-in-10 (43%) say they went to YouTube for podcasts in the past year, ahead of Apple Podcasts/iTunes at 34% and a strong showing from the new arrival, Spotify, at 23%.”

This might strike many a “veteran” podcast listener as strange. But the report goes on to clarify some reasons this is likely happening:

  • Entertainment and Learning are the most frequently cited reasons that people listen to podcasts
  • YouTube is a popular, if not dominant, platform for both.
  • This is especially true for Gen-X and Millennials, who prefer YouTube for their entertainment choices

How Are People Consuming Podcasts on YouTube?

Discover the YouTube Trending page
Podcasting Insights For YouTube Listening - Photographer: CardMapr | Source: Unsplash

The rise of YouTube as an apparently viable podcasting platform raises many unanswered questions for many of us “podcasting veterans” and producers. For example:

  • How can YouTube views count towards podcaster download stats used for advertising analytics?
  • Do people listen to the audio only or do they expect video content?
  • Should I produce Audiograms or post original video content?
  • Can YouTube “listens” help drive listens on other platforms?
  • What is the Best Tool for YouTube SEO Growth (Disclaimer — This is an affiliate link)

There is an excellent article by @CanadianPodcastListner on Medium that delves into YouTube usage some more.

Insights on YouTube Statistics for Podcasting
Source: @CanadianPodcastListener


If you are interested in the space, I would encourage you to download your own copy of the Westwood One’s Fourth Annual Fall Study. I think there is much good news for the podcasting industry in general, and for female podcasting entrepreneurs in particular.

Having said that, us “pioneering” male podcasters have our own assumptions to challenge, as well as some new tricks to learn. My own podcasting insights and take-aways from the study:

  • Having a YouTube Channel is becoming a compelling proposition for podcasters these days, and there are many good ways to utilize this to build a greater digital presence, outside of “just posting podcast episodes.”
  • My own preference for YouTube Channel formats is for LiveStreaming and original video content, not for audiograms.
  • Experiment With Listening Apps and Podcast Discovery Platforms — and make sure your podcast is submitted to Spotify.
  • Polymash has been encouraging the growth of diversity among podcasters. As such we have been engaging with more women, black and Hispanic entrepreneurs and podcasters at conferences and online, and we are continuing to offer our free SEOsaturdays.com Livestream events to help growth their shows and websites.
podcasting industry insights