Techsurvey 2022: Are public radio fans cooling on podcasting?

 Consulting and research firm Jacobs Media released the results of its “Public Radio Techsurvey 2022” last week at the Public Radio Program Directors (PRPD) Content Conference in New Orleans, with what commercial radio Techsurvey co-sponsor All Access called “a mostly cloudy picture for public radio, with the audience aging, listening stagnant, and momentum down.”

The study is based on thousands of online surveys filled in by public radio listeners who volunteered (generally, recruited from station e-mail lists) to take the survey, so it is not necessarily a representative sample of the universe of U.S. public radio listeners.

One consistent finding over recent years is that the audience for public radio in the U.S. is apparently surprisingly old:  The average age of survey participants was 61.8 years old in 2019, 63.3 in 2021, and 64.3 in 2022.   This year, of the survey participants, 59% were Baby Boomers, with 17% older, only 6% Millennials, and none in Gen-Z.

While the study still showed a strong interest in podcasting among public radio listeners — although more so when the station’s format is news/talk or AAA, less so when classical — it showed what Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs called momentum that has “cooled considerably.”

He noted data shown in the chart below, with the percentage of last-week podcast listeners that said they have been listening to more podcasts in the past year declining from 44% in 2018-19, 39% in 2020, and 38% in 2021 to only 32% this year.

“The momentum slowdown is a bit more troubling, and might speak to snags in the user experience, including a lack of curation. Users may be generally locked into their favorites and may not be free-sampling lots of new shows,” Jacobs said.

Kurt Hanson