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UC researchers find Australian podcast audiences continue to grow

Elly Mackay

22 October 2020: One-third of Australians listen to podcasts and that audience is rapidly growing, according to new research from the News and Media Research Centre (N&MRC) at the University of Canberra.

The study also revealed that YouTube is the most popular podcast platform in Australia, and that young people are willing to pay for podcasts.

The report is the first of the N&MRC Digital News Report  Special Report Series in 2020, and was authored by Senior Lecturer Yoonmo Sang, Postdoctoral Research Fellow Jee Young Lee, and Professor Sora Park.

Dr Sang said that he was motivated to explore the podcast use of Australians because of the popularity they are gaining around the world.

“People are accessing podcasts to get alternative views and perspectives on various topics,” he said.

“Given that an increasing number of news consumers who are dissatisfied with mainstream news coverage are seeking news podcasts, more attention needs to be paid to the democratic potential of news podcasts.”

The data in the report shows that podcast listenership has risen to 32 per cent in 2020, up from 27 per cent last year. It also revealed that 11 per cent of Australian news consumers listened to news podcasts.

“News podcast listeners are avid news consumers and have distinctive characteristics,” Drr Sang said.

Dr Sang said that the findings also produced some unexpected results.

“People often believe that technology infrastructure including the state of the Internet and mobile penetration is directly related to the popularity of podcasts in the country. However, interestingly, news consumers in less-connected countries are more likely to be news podcast listeners,” he said.

“My colleagues and I found that the popularity of news podcast is largely determined by a range of sociopolitical factors, including the level of press freedom rather than the technology infrastructure.”

60 per cent of survey respondents said that their top reason for listening to podcasts is because they cover diverse subjects and perspectives compared to other forms of media.

Younger respondents (under the age of 35) indicated that they are more likely to pay for podcasts (43 per cent) compared to their older counterparts (33 per cent).

“Podcasts are popular among young people. Given that young people are often disengaged with news, podcasts may be a good way to engage younger generations to gain interests and the habit of news consumption,” Drr Sang said.

Among the 11 countries surveyed, Australian news consumers – along with Koreans - are the most willing to pay, with 39 per cent saying they are happy to fork-out for their favourite podcasts.

In a battle of the sexes, men came out on top with 37 per cent of Australian male news consumers listening to podcasts, compared to 28 per cent of women. Among those numbers, 14 per cent of male news consumers listened to news podcasts, with only 9 per cent of female respondents.

Access the full report here.

Digital News Report: Australia is part of a 40 country global study hosted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford. UC’s News & Media Centre is the Australian partner on this project.