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The combination of new listeners and new content drove an increase in podcast downloads of 20% last year according to Triton Digital. In its inaugural year-end report on podcasting it says the average download hours per listener increased by more than one hour, climbing from 2.7 hours in 2021 to 3.8 hours in 2022. It says October had the most downloads of any month in 2022.

“There’s been an increase in new content, increase in the number of listeners and increase in the amount of listening -- it's really all three of these those things driving the increase,” said Daryl Battaglia, SVP of Measurement Products & Strategy at Triton Digital.

The data, combined from the data of publishers Triton measures along with Signal Hill Insights demographics, shows the average podcast listener downloads 5.6 episodes per week. Wednesday is the top day for listening, while peak hours for podcast consumption are between 11am and 1pm. Monthly podcast listeners are younger than the general population, the report says. They also skew slightly more male.

As in previous years, monthly podcast listeners are younger than the general population with more than one in four monthly podcast listeners between the ages of 25 to 34. The audience also tends to skew more male. Compared to the general U.S. population, podcast listeners also are more likely to have graduated college and have a higher household income – they’re 21% more likely to have an income topping $100,000. Triton data also shows progress being made on attracting more diversity to the audience. Compared to the population overall, podcast listeners over-index for both Black and Hispanic ethnicity.

“It's certainly a very appealing audience -- younger, higher income, educated, more diverse. All those things are making an attractive audience to advertise to,” Battaglia said in an interview.

What may be an unexpected surprise to some is the dip that Triton detected in smart speaker listening last year. It says smart speaker usage for podcasting declined year-over-year with 1.8% of downloads going to a smart speaker in 2022, a third fewer than in 2021 and half as many as in 2020. 

“I definitely think it's related to COVID as people are going back to work and are at home less,” Battaglia said. “Triton also measures online radio and speaker usage for that is very substantial and continuing to grow, even with the post-COVID impact.” Triton data shows consumption of online radio via smart speakers climbed 27% last year. “But with podcasting, smart speakers are less a factor,” Battaglia said. “It's mobile first and foremost.”

The proclivity to listen to podcasts via headphones has meant that the smartphone is the most-used device. Triton says that has not changed with 94% of podcast listening done via a mobile device last year according to its analysis. Desktop listening is roughly on par with smart speakers at two percent.

Yet Battaglia says they do see some genres performing better than others on smart speakers. He says short duration news podcasts have more substantial speaker listening, while genres like True Crime and entertainment-focused content are more likely to be consumed via a mobile device. “There are certainly pockets of opportunities within podcasting with smart speakers,” he said.

News continues to be the most downloaded genre among the publishers Triton measures, followed by Comedy and True Crime. The report shows some demographic variations among those top genres, such a News podcasts lean Republican while True Crime shows lean Democrat. And while Comedy shows score highest among 18-24 year olds, News podcasts have their best numbers among listeners aged 55 and older. Sports podcasts are male heavy and True Crime over-performs with women.

Triton says eight episodes is the median number of new episodes per month released for a podcast. News has the highest median with 24 episodes.

The most downloaded podcast in 2022 was NPR News Now and the number one top new show was the NBC News podcast Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra.

The report also shows that both Apple Podcasts and Spotify can claim victories. Triton says Spotify has more listeners, but Apple has more total downloads and downloads per listener. Battaglia thinks the data solidifies Apple’s standing in the space. “There have been a wide number of apps that have been created that have some listeners on them, but none of them have broken out,” he said. Battaglia says they are also tracking the rise of YouTube while the Google Podcast app has yet to catch on.

Looking ahead, Battaglia thinks podcasting will continue to see its reach climb in 2023. “I have no doubt we'll continue to grow but it's likely that the percentage growth won't quite be as high,” he said. “But with all of the trends that we've seen this past year, it's a continuation from years prior; it has been a steady-growth medium.” 

Battaglia also says there remains plenty of opportunity for content creators. “We've gotten to the point where there's lots of content available within podcasting,” he said. “But, I wouldn't say we've reached saturation.”

Download Triton Digital’s U.S. Year-End Podcast Report HERE.