The Future of Podcasting is Female—And so are Brand Opportunities
The number of female podcast listeners is growing—up to almost half of all listeners. And they’re selecting and recommending shows created, hosted, and produced by women.
Once upon a time, the thought of a podcast listener brought to mind an image of an older white man wearing a massive set of headphones, likely sitting at his computer. Times have changed, and so has the prototype of the listener. The truth is that there really isn’t a typical podcast listener anymore. The medium now successfully reaches listeners of all ages, origins, and identities who listen anywhere and everywhere.
Women have stepped up to the mic and opened their ears to the medium in a big way. In fact, according to unpublished findings from the 2022 Infinite Dial from Edison Research, 35% of U.S. women ages 18+ have listened to a podcast in the past month, which is +67% higher than in 2017. Over those same five years, the gender split of monthly podcast listeners ages 18+ has shifted considerably as well. Almost half (48%) of U.S. A18+ monthly podcast listeners are now female, up from just 44% in 2017.
Not only are podcasts reaching a growing audience of women—the audience is highly coveted. Monthly listeners are younger and more likely to be moms, employed, highly educated, and have higher incomes compared to the total population of U.S. women.
We know the audience is there, and it’s a valuable one for advertisers. To better understand podcast listening trends among women and go deeper into their use of the medium, SXM Media teamed up with Edison Research for an exclusive research study. The goal was to identify their habits and behaviors and determine the significance of female perspectives in podcasting. We did this through over 1,500 online interviews with U.S. adults who self-identify as women. Below are key insights on how marketers can connect with female podcast listeners, and how their support of female voices can drive strong results for their brands.
Podcasts can fill any Content Craving
Women are highly engaged with podcasts, listening to a diverse lineup of content. Female monthly listeners consume 5.7 different topics or genres on average. Some groups are even more voracious, with women ages 25 to 34 listening to 6.9 topics, Hispanic women listening to 6.8 topics, and moms listening to 6.5 topics.
Comedy is the most popular genre among women overall, followed by true crime, love & relationships, entertainment/celebrity/gossip, news & information, and wellness/self-improvement. Content preferences among women do vary by age, ethnicity, and parental status. Younger listeners are more likely to listen to podcasts about language, horror, and beauty/fashion. Hispanic listeners over-index for fantasy/Sci-Fi and children’s topics. Black listeners over-index for love & relationships and wellness/self-improvement. And moms are more likely to listen to children’s content, but also to sports and adult fiction.
Across a myriad of podcast topics both broad and niche, there is no shortage of quality content that’s available for advertisers to align with to connect with women across a spectrum of backgrounds and individualities.
Podcasts Enhance Women’s Everyday Routines
Women turn to podcasts for different motivations that may vary from day to day and are often tied to their moods, need states, and specific situations. Whether they are looking to be entertained, informed, motivated, or distracted, podcasts can offer just what they need in the moment.
Podcasts are particularly good at keeping them company during their everyday routines and activities. Three in four women who listen monthly say that podcasts keep them entertained while doing mundane tasks.
Women can take their favorite podcasts with them anywhere, and they listen both at home and while on the go. While two in three listen most often while at home, six in 10 ever listen in a car or vehicle. They listen through multiple devices, but three in four listen via mobile devices most often. Many listen with headphones on, and four in 10 do so frequently, with women ages 18 to 34, multicultural women, and moms over-indexing.
Podcasts can bring utility, distraction, and entertainment to women’s daily lives, and brands can do the same. Podcasts, and their brand messages, are uniquely able to be right in women’s ears wherever they are throughout their day.
Promoting and Sharing Podcasts is Vital for Female Listeners
While there are many ways that women find new podcasts to listen to, getting recommendations from friends and family is their #1 source of discovery, ahead of things like search, social media, and other podcasts. About three in four say they find out about podcasts from their inner circle, and this is reciprocal—over eight in 10 say they ever recommend podcasts to their friends and family. Two in 10 say they recommend podcasts frequently, with younger women, multicultural women, and moms more likely to do so.
Their motivations for sharing are more profound than you may think—while many share because they thought the other person would like the topic or host, many women who have recommended a podcast did so because it inspired them (75%), helped explain their feelings to someone else (47%), or even because it made them cry (34%). Younger women and Black women are more likely to be feeling all the feels, and they over-index for sharing podcasts for those deeper, more emotional reasons.
Beyond promoting within their own circles, women are actively engaged with their favorite shows and hosts through social media, building up communities with fellow listeners. Over half have followed a podcast show or host on social media, and 40% have shared a podcast through social media. While many follow podcasts and hosts on social to stay up to date about the show, about one in three do so to either feel more connected with the community or to comment or talk to other listeners.
Female listeners are a passionate and engaged community of podcast advocates who are both seeking and offering recommendations to loved ones, building relationships with fellow listeners, and forging strong connections with their favorite shows and hosts. These promoters can naturally amplify the messages of the brands that are supporting the content they love.
Women Have the Mic, but Need an Amplifier
In their 2022 study called The Creators, Sounds Profitable and Edison Research found that nearly 70% of the universe of podcast creators is male, representing a huge imbalance. While this disproportion can certainly be felt in the longtail of podcasts, it is promising to see that many of the most popular podcasts overall are hosted or co-hosted by women. (Hello, Crime Junkie!)
In this new study, we found that nine in 10 female monthly podcast listeners say that they listen to at least one podcast that’s hosted or produced by a woman. While that’s an impressive number, a great opportunity remains for even more female creators. If there were more shows that included female stories and perspectives, 55% of female listeners say they would listen to even more podcasts, and 52% would listen to more podcasts if there were more female-hosted shows.
There is definitely an appetite among listeners for more voices of women in color within this still male-dominated medium. About six in 10 multicultural women who listen to podcasts monthly, and two in three monthly listeners who are ages 18 to 24, wish that there were more podcasts that focus on women of color. Similarly, about half of multicultural women, and over half of those 18 to 24, say they have a hard time finding podcasts that focus on women of color.
There is also a desire to hear more content that is primarily centered on female stories. When asked what podcast topics listeners would want to hear if they primarily featured female perspectives, self-care, mental health, friendships, true crime, and dating & relationships were the most popular choices. Many of these are themes that don’t get much of a platform in other media, let alone with a female focus. And this is a key part of podcasts’ appeal among women. Over half of those who listen monthly say it’s important that podcasts include unfiltered conversations that can’t be heard elsewhere, and 40% say it’s important that podcasts discuss taboo or controversial topics.
The medium is a flourishing space where women are seeking out authentic and often raw conversations, and they are in search of even more content that centers on female stories across a variety of different topics. More support from publishers and marketers will create a bigger platform for even more female creators to enter the space and build up these essential communities of listeners.
Ads on Female-Hosted Podcasts Drive Impact
As we find with podcast audiences in general, women are quite open to hearing advertising while listening, knowing that it supports the shows that they love—and they are especially receptive to ads in podcasts that are hosted or produced by women.
Not only are they more likely to take action after hearing a message, they also have a higher affinity for brands that support female podcasters—about half of female listeners say they would feel more favorable about a brand if they knew that it advertises on podcasts that are hosted or produced by women. Not only can marketers amplify female creators and voices by supporting these podcasts, they can also boost and amplify their own messaging among female consumers.
Reach More Female Podcast Listeners
SXM Podcast Network reaches 29% of female podcast listeners ages 18+—higher than any other podcast network—according to Edison Podcast Metrics for Q3 2022. Whether it’s Office Ladies introducing listeners to a new car model through a bonus episode, Ladies & Tangents inspiring some serious ice cream cravings, or Allie Ward of Ologies schooling her audience on automotive innovation, we can help connect marketers and agencies with the right fit for their brand.