Most podcast consumption isn’t done on a listening platform

A study has found that the most popular platform for podcasts in Canada is YouTube – but does that mean video ads are an opportunity?
audio headphones

There’s no question about it: podcasts are on the rise in Canada.

Every survey, study and report shows that the mobile-friendly form of audio entertainment is growing, seemingly by the day. And while podcasts are surging with Millennials and Gen Z, they’re on the rise with Gen X and older, and brands are getting on board as well.

But one of the complications for podcasts is the difficulty of measurement. Numerous buyers have told MiC that it’s difficult to get accurate stats on podcast consumption, thanks in large part to the various platforms on which they’re consumed. Some are downloaded and tracked in terms of number of downloads, which doesn’t indicate whether a person actually listened (or how much of a particular episode they listened to). Some are streamed on platforms like Stitcher or Spotify, but those numbers might not indicate how many people have listened the entire way through.

And, according to the Canadian Podcast Listener Study, many aren’t even “listening” to podcasts – they’re watching them.

Indeed, YouTube appears to be the number-one source for podcast “listening.”

The study, co-produced by Audience Insights and Ulster Media, surveyed 1,500 monthly podcast listeners aged 18+ from Canada. The podcast study is still in field (and will be released next month), but one of the factors it’s looking at is how many people listen to podcasts on YouTube – and what that means for the industry.

Nearly half of respondents said they’ve gone to YouTube in the past year. At 43%, that makes it more popular than Apple/iTunes at 34% and Spotify at 23%. Spotify is relatively new to the podcasting game, and listeners say that both YouTube and Apple are the platforms they access most often (tied at 24%).

While heavy listeners (five hours or more per week) tend to favour Apple as a platform, more than one quarter of YouTube podcast “listeners” don’t report listening to them on any other platform.

Those who favour YouTube for podcasts are both the youngest (18 to 24) and oldest (55 to 64) among podcast listeners, with both age groups over-indexing. They’re distinctly more likely to access podcasts on desktop computers, over-indexing at 151%. Notably, more than half of them have watched/listened to The Joe Rogan Experience in the last month.

When asked what their motivation is for choosing YouTube, more than half say it’s simply because YouTube is where they get most of their entertainment (55%). An almost equal amount say they like watching just as much as they like listening (52%). And while platforms like Spotify, Stitcher and others have put plenty into their discoverability features, 45% of respondents say they find it easy to find the podcasts that they like on YouTube.

And YouTube “listeners” seem plenty informed about other platforms; only 17% say they choose YouTube because they don’t know much about other ways to get into podcasts.

While this does appear to open up potential for video ads, brands might want to think twice. So-called “YouTube primaries” say that 35% of the time they access podcasts on YouTube they are listening to audio only. Additionally, 12% say they never watch the video at all.