Pew Research Examine Podcasts As A Source Of News And Information

Following a steady increase in podcast listening over the past decade, podcasts have become a big part of the normal routine – and news diet of many Americans. 

The first part of a new Pew Research Center study based on a survey of 5,132 U.S. adults conducted from Dec. 5 to 11, 2022, finds that about half of U.S. adults say they have listened to a podcast in the past year, including one-in-five who report listening to podcasts at least a few times a week. Comedy (47%) and entertainment, pop culture, and the arts (46%) are among the most common podcast topics for listeners. And two thirds of podcast listeners say they have heard news discussed on the podcasts they listen to – amounting to a third of all U.S. adults.

Though most listeners say that news is at least a part of their experience with podcasts, fewer Americans turn to podcasts in search of news. Among U.S. podcast listeners – those who have listened to a podcast in the past 12 months – 29% say that staying up to date about current events is a major reason they listen to podcasts. Meanwhile, half of Americans or more who have listened to a podcast in the past year say entertainment (60%), learning (55%), and simply having something to listen to while doing something else (52%) are major reasons why they listen to podcasts.

Many podcast listeners say that they have engaged with podcasts in ways other than merely listening. Large shares of Americans have watched a movie, read a book, or listened to music because of a podcast (60%) or followed a podcast or its hosts on social media (52%). About a third of listeners (36%) even say they’ve tried out a lifestyle change – such as a workout routine or journaling – because of a podcast they listened to. And 28% have purchased a product that was advertised.

“Podcasts have become a big part of American’s routine, especially younger adults, offering unique news and information that many listeners say they wouldn’t have heard about elsewhere and often do not connect to a news organization. What’s interesting are the reasons behind Americans’ strong appetite for podcasts – less so for news, but more so for general entertainment or education,” said Director of News and Information Research Katerina Matsa.

Among other key findings from the report:

Other common podcast topics for listeners include true crime (35%), self-help and relationships (32%) and finance (31%). Three-in-ten podcast listeners tune in to hear about religion and spirituality. And roughly a quarter or less regularly listen to podcasts about health and fitness (27%), sports (22%) or race and ethnicity (15%).

Nearly nine-in-ten of those who hear news on podcasts (87%) expect it to be accurate. Similarly, most people who get news from podcasts say they trust that news more than the news they get from other sources (31%) or trust it about the same (55%). Fewer (15%) trust news from podcasts less than news from other sources.

The survey shows, however, that most podcast listeners are not tuning into podcasts connected to news organizations: just one-in-five listeners say they listen to a podcast that’s connected to a news organization. The majority (59%) say that as far as they know, they don’t listen to any podcasts connected to a news organization, suggesting that much of the news people are exposed to on podcasts could be coming from nontraditional sources.

Republican podcast listeners are more likely than Democrats to trust the news they hear on podcasts more than news they get from other sources, and somewhat more likely to hear political opinions on the podcasts they listen to. However, there are no huge differences between Republicans and Democrats in the shares who listen to podcasts and hear news on them. Just under half of Republicans (46%) and just over half of Democrats (54%) say they have listened to a podcast in the past year, and roughly two-thirds of listeners in each party say they’ve heard news discussed on the podcasts they listen to.

By a wide margin, younger Americans are more likely than older age groups to be listening to podcasts. Two-thirds of Americans ages 18 to 29 have listened to a podcast in the past 12 months, compared with just under a third (28%) of those 65 and older. Additionally, younger listeners are more likely than older listeners to turn to podcasts frequently and to say they listen to them for entertainment or to have something to listen to while doing something else. And podcast listeners under 50 are more likely than their older counterparts to engage with and take recommendations from podcasts.

The margin of sampling error for the full sample of 5,132 respondents is plus or minus 1.7 percentage points.