We’ve Uncovered Top Insights on Our Black Podcast Listeners
Exclusive findings from the first-ever Edison Research Black Podcast Listener Report by SXM Media and Mindshare
By now, you’ve seen the headlines about podcasting trends: Listening is booming, and legions of Americans are becoming die-hard fans. But when we look at who’s listening (or rather, who is just starting to dive in), we see a more nuanced story. In podcasting's short history, Black listeners have lagged behind the general market—and that’s finally changing. They’re now emerging as one of the most avid and engaged audiences.
The first question you must have: Why now? The short answer is that podcasts are finally showing up for them, with hosts and content that reflect their communities and concerns.
Just two years ago, the majority of podcasting’s monthly listeners skewed white and male, and the bulk of podcasts were hosted by white males. So, it’s no surprise that until podcasting offered diversity in hosts and content, listening among people of color and women lagged behind their white, male counterparts.
Now, we’re quickly (and excitedly) seeing a new story emerge: Podcast listening among Black Americans is surging, and these consumers are gravitating to shows with Black hosts that spotlight Black issues and voices.
Black Podcast Listenership is on the Up and Up
To understand the latest trends in podcast listening among Black consumers, we engaged with Edison Research and global media agency network Mindshare to conduct the first Black Podcast Listener Report. Over 2,500 Black Americans age 18+ were surveyed for this groundbreaking study. We had a hunch that more of this demographic were discovering podcasting, but the data tells a powerful story. In fact, 36% of Black Americans now listen to podcasts monthly, which is equal to 12 million Black adults listening to podcasts monthly.
What’s even more significant is that Black listeners are closing the gap with the general market. In 2020, 17% of Black Americans were listening to podcasts weekly, compared with 24% of all Americans. Just a year later, the number of weekly Black listeners jumped to 26% (while the general market grew slightly to 28%).
This is still a growing market, which is exciting for both content creators and brands. According to our research, 42% of Black monthly podcast listeners say they’ve been streaming shows for one year or less. The Black audience is interested, curious, and remaining hooked.
The Importance of Black Creators and Relatable Content
Black podcast listeners are diving into topics that interest them, and they want honest and raw conversations. Half of Black podcast fans said they like shows that focus on people of color because these podcasts spur unfiltered conversations that can’t be had on social media.
Not only that, but these consumers want content that reflects their lives and experiences, including shows with relatable creators. Half of the users that were surveyed said it was important to them to listen to shows with Black hosts, and more than half wanted shows that include Black stories and perspectives.
In fact, 59% of these consumers say they would even listen more if there were more podcasts with Black hosts. When it comes to genres, Black listeners are passionate about a wide range of topics, with their top three content-loving categories being comedy, music, and health & fitness, a genre not found in the top rankings among the general population. Furthermore, 58% of Black listeners wish there was more content around key interests covered by and for Black voices, including Business/Economy, History, True Crime, Fiction, Kids & Family—it’s a clear gap in content that the industry can help fill.
Marketers have an immense opportunity to support and elevate Black podcasters today. In doing so, not only will they better connect with Black audiences, but their support can help Black creators breathe and thrive in a space where their voices are often underrepresented. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear about the importance of Black creators and stories in culture, but this research goes another key step in better understanding the growth of Black listeners as well.
Mindshare has been focused on amplifying diverse voices and stories in media as part of their work to drive Good Growth for the industry, with initiatives like their award-winning Inclusion Private Marketplace series (PMPs). This series is designed to increase advertising investment in underrepresented communities of journalists, content creators, and artists, such as the Black Community PMP and LGBTQ PMP. Mindshare and its clients are also part of GroupM’s Media Inclusion Initiative, an integrated strategy for directing investment in, and creating opportunities for, diverse media companies and content creators.
Podcast Hosts Build Trust, and Their Listeners are All Ears
As a whole, podcast fans trust their favorite hosts to make recommendations for products and services they use and admire, but when it’s a Black host doing the talking, the response is even greater for Black listeners: brand trust, consideration, and purchase intent all increase to over 80% in each category. That’s an incredibly strong endorsement for engaging Black hosts in brand messaging.
So, do Black consumers take action after hearing these podcast ads? The answer is yes. Brands who want to reach this demographic would be wise to give podcasting a strong look, since 40% of Black listeners report they’re more likely to purchase a product based on an ad they heard on a podcast compared to other platforms.
Drive More Growth by Amplifying Black Stories & Perspectives
To reach Black audiences, advertisers need to tune in to what’s happening today, and our research helps advertisers develop the right podcast strategy —from type of ads to creative approach. For example, 71% of Black listeners are streaming their favorite podcasts most often at home, providing ample opportunities to reach them on home products and services—while keeping in mind that running ads with Black hosts can be extremely influential in this context.
Or consider the fact that Black listeners like to tune in with others—47% of those who listen at home say they listen while spending time with family and friends, compared to just 23% of the general weekly audience. That creates opportunities for advertisers to market products in a storytelling manner, which listeners might consider purchasing with their friends and family (think food and beverage, travel, and entertainment). Overall, Marketers can drive strong results for their brands by supporting and investing in Black podcast content.
Black consumers are eagerly diving into podcasts, and SXM Media is standing by with the very best podcasts and hosts to meet their needs and interests. These include For Colored Nerds, Comedy Gold Minds with Kevin Hart, Rory & Mal, The Friend Zone, Why Won’t You Date Me? With Nicole Byer, and many more. Brands looking to reach Black audiences will find that podcasts are effective and engaging—and this is just the beginning.
We’re dedicated to making sure the world becomes more sonically diverse. Earlier this year, SXM Media’s audio-first creative consultancy group, Studio Resonate, launched “Stand for Sonic Diversity,” pledging to diversify voices in media by making a measurable and public commitment to casting Black voices, diversifying internal talent rosters, and striving to have BIPOC represent at least 50% of the roster. Brands can join the movement by adopting our best practices and distributing to all those who influence audio creative—contributors, stakeholders, vendors, and more. Discover our recent progress report here, and visit standforsonicdiversity.com to learn how to get involved.