Steve Goldstein: Podcasting Captures Younger Audiences In An Aging Media World

Steve Goldstein’s Amplifi Media works with media companies and podcasters in developing audio content strategies. Goldstein writes frequently at the Amplifi blog. Steve can be reached directly at 203-221-1400 or sjgoldstein-at-amplifimedia-dot-com.

Recently, I’ve had several speaking engagements with media groups, and there is a surefire way to get an instant gasp from the crowd – show them the median ages of the major media platforms.

Let’s break down what this data means for podcasting. TV and print media are experiencing a demographic shift that is impossible to ignore. The median age of linear primetime TV viewers in the U.S. is now 64.6 years old. That means half the viewers are older than 64.6. That’s a far cry from TV’s long-time sweet spot of adults 18-49.

Some cable channels are a bit younger. For example, the average age for TNT, which has a lot of sports, is 56. One that caught me by surprise: HGTV is 66. Even the once-youthful MTV now attracts a median viewer age of 51. The aging consumer trend mirrors print media, where the median age of newspaper readers is 60, and magazine readers are 52. Of course, that is among those that still subscribe.


Cable news is particularly affected by this demographic shift. The median age for viewers of MSNBC is 70, FOX News is 69, and CNN is 67. As The Wall Street Journal noted, “For years, media executives built their pitches to advertisers around the idea that they could reach younger audiences… But there is a hard reality these days: Most people watching TV are older than those groups.”


For younger listeners, podcasting is the new talk radio.


The youngest show among the linear networks this past year was Bob’s Burgers on FOX, which was 49.5. In fact FOX is the youngest of the big four networks at 58. CBS is the oldest at 68. These numbers don’t include streaming, which would bring the averages down a bit. For example, Abbott Elementary is 61 on ABC but 36 on streaming services which are growing audience while linear TV is getting hammered.

How about commercial radio?

Talk Radio is aging. According to Nielsen, its median is 58.  To complicate matters, while the category of Spoken Word has grown substantially in the past 10 years, according to an Edison/NPR study, much of the listening has moved from broadcast to podcast. That’s especially true in younger demographics where podcasting exceeds AM/FM. For younger listeners, podcasting is the new talk radio.

Podcasting: The Fountain of Youth

This is a lot of data to digest and these numbers are a surprise even to those in the media business.

Historically sales dollars have favored younger audiences.

Enter podcasting, a medium that is growing (with a few fits and starts) and skews significantly younger than any other major media platform. The median age of podcast listeners is a youthful 34, nearly three decades younger than the median age of TV and newspaper audiences. Three … decades … younger. Simply put, there is no other media platform like it.

The ascent of podcasting signals a shift towards on-demand content consumption that aligns with the lifestyles and preferences of younger generations. We live in an on-demand world, and while other media are adjusting (think streaming apps and YouTube), podcasting has three not-so-secret ingredients that traditional media struggle to match: intimacy, flexibility and loyalty, which makes podcasting an ideal platform for engaging storytelling, niche topics, and fresh takes.

Advertisers are taking note: The podcast story is remarkably compelling. It offers a unique opportunity for brands to reach hard-to-find younger listeners with targeted, compelling content. Several recent studies show that podcast ads and sponsored content feel more personal and less intrusive than traditional media, many of which are saturated with ads.

Embrace the Podcasting Opportunity

It’s clear the landscape is rapidly changing. That might sound cliché, but the stark median age across various media platforms highlights a seismic shift and an incredible opportunity.

The plates are shifting. Traditional media channels are graying.

Podcasters, get out there and tell the amazing story of a rising platform 30 years younger than the graying incumbents.

For many in media it is a scary time. For podcasters, it’s an exciting time. It’s the age of podcasting,

Steve Goldstein