Podcasts Go From Strength To Strength: 2021 Infinite Dial Summary + Key Takeaways

Founded in 1994 Edison Research has been conducting audience and content analysis for broadcasting entities all over the world. Partnering with Triton Digital which is the leader in global technologies for the digital audio and podcast industries; the two combined to create the gold standard for national representative survey research. We’ve covered them extensively in previous posts and have included them in the most vital podcast statistics all brands should know about.

The Infinite Dial study is comprised of both mobile and landline phones of Americans 12 years old and older, equalling 1,507 survey participants. This study takes a look at the data from digital audio and other digital media consumption.

*It is important to not misinterpret the stats provided below. For example, when discussing an overall population of a group, don’t mistake “percent” for “percentage of”. 

The Headline:

Weekly podcast listeners increased 17% in 2021 from the previous year. The progress of digital audio continues to evolve year over year. We’re confident that with new audio platforms like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, Facebook audio, etc. we will see even more drastic changes in 2021.

Let’s dig into the numbers:

Brand Awareness (people know of these brands):

  • Pandora 83%

  • Spotify 76%

  • iHeart Media 72%

  • Apple 72%

  • Amazon 70%

  • Google Play/Youtube 68%

Audio brands listened to in the past week (% of people listening) 

  • 25% Spotify

  • 14% Pandora

  • 14% Google Play/Youtube

  • 10% Amazon

  • 10% Apple Music

  • 7% iHeart Media

  • 5% Soundcloud

Online audio brands used most often 

  • 31% Spotify

  • 18% Pandora

  • 14% Google Play/Youtube

  • 11% Apple Music

  • 10% Amazon Music

  • 9% Other

  • 7% iHeart Media

Spotify is beginning its reign, (as expected). Originally beginning as a music platform, Spotify pivoted its positioning big-time by dumping billions of dollars into podcasting in 2020. Most notably, Joe Rogan, the Obama’s, and acquiring the podcast hosting platform Anchor.

Pandora is still hanging onto its prowess of being the first big music streaming platform to rival Apple Music. They have also dived into the free podcasting model as well.

iHeartMedia made some radical changes to its business model attempting to garnish market share inside the podcasting space.

Listening to audio with others 

  • 28% Hardley Ever

  • 27% Sometimes

  • 24% Frequently

  • 21% Never

This number is surprising to us, as we have mostly seen podcasts as an intimate medium that you usually listen to on your own. But perhaps with households needing a break from screen time, more and more people are listening to a podcast with others.

Producing a podcast but afraid nobody will listen? 

Podcasting familiarity 

78% of people are familiar with the term podcast

Podcasting is very much still an emerging market. Simply the term ‘podcast’ is not a term that everyone understands just yet.

Podcast listening 

57% of the population have listened to a podcast before

162 million have listened to a podcast

Monthly podcast listening

41% of the population have listened to a podcast in the last month

Weekly podcast listening 

28% of the population listen on a weekly basis; (17% increase from 2019)

80 million weekly listeners

Weekly Listeners on average listen to 8 podcasts a week

Weekly Listeners on average listen to just over 5 shows a week (5.1)

  • 11+ episodes = 19%

  • 6 – 10 episodes = 19%

  • 4 – 5 episodes = 21%

  • 2 episodes = 15%

  • 3 episodes = 14%

  • 1 episode = 11%

Podcast discovery overall seemed to be favorable for listeners in 2020. On average, 8 episodes were consumed per week, but the main takeaway here is that people are averaging 5 different shows per those 8 episodes. There have never been more podcasts than there are right now, so it is nice to see listeners moving out of their content comfort zones a bit and finding non-mainstream stream shows. But in order to have people jump to your show, you need to give them a reason. It has to be top quality, has a point of view, appeals to a niche audience, or tells a great story.


  • 39% of Women have listened to a podcast in the last month.

  • 43% of Men have listened to a podcast in the last month.

  • 51% of monthly podcast consumers are Men

  • 46% of monthly podcast consumers are Women

  • 3% of monthly podcast consumers are nonbinary

Ages of monthly podcast listeners 

  • 12 – 34 = 56%

  • 35 – 54 = 39%

  • 55+ = 26%

Tracking by age group, the largest proportional increase of monthly podcast listeners in the U.S. is the 55+ category, up from 17% in 2016 to 21% in 2021.

Producing a podcast but afraid nobody will listen? 

The ethnicity of podcast listeners 

  • 57% of podcast listeners identify as White

  • 16% of podcast listeners identify as LatinX/Hispanic

  • 13% of podcast listeners identify as African American

  • 4% of podcast listeners identify as Asian American

Comparing listener ethnicity data for the years 2016 and 2021, the increase in diversity seems to be driven by higher consumption among women, and Hispanic (+4%), Asian (+1%), and Other listeners(+4%). The biggest proportional decreases in audience demographics based on ethnicity since 2016 are represented by Whites (-6%) and African Americans (-3%). Non-white listeners as a proportion of total listeners include “16% Latino, 13% African American, 4% Asian, and 10% of some other background.”

Key Takeaways: 

Podcasting every year grows significantly, especially with weekly listeners in 2020. On average per week, the amount of time spent listening by people, grew by more than an hour.

The Demographics of podcast listeners continue to diversify. The LatinX community showed the most growth with listenership skyrocketing. The composition of female listeners reached an all-time high as well.

Overall, pandemic aside, 2020 was good for digital audio as a whole. More and more people were home and had fewer excuses for filling that free time without digital audio.

The intimacy and the level of learning podcasts can provide aren’t quickly going to be thrown aside once commutes go back to normal.

People will start developing their new routines again, and I’d be willing to bet Digital Audio won’t be sacrificed.

This is exciting for our clients and the world of branded podcasts. As the medium becomes more mainstream audiences will expect higher quality and, therefore, look to well-produced podcasts that are rich in value and worth spending their time with. Brands that are willing to invest in the medium and stake their claim will be rewarded with an engaged audience that presses “follow” for more.

Caleb Hodgson is Head of Content at JAR Audio