Podcast listening booms in the UK

30 September 2018

Podcasts are booming in the UK, with nearly six million people now tuning in each week. This is according to Ofcom findings released to coincide with International Podcast Day on 30 September.

The number of weekly podcast listeners has almost doubled in five years – from 3.2 million in 2013 to 5.9m in 2018. That’s an increase from 7% to 11% of adults in the UK.

The increase is across all age groups, but the steepest growth is now among young adults aged 15 to 24. Around one in five people from this age group now listens to podcasts every week.

Ofcom collected data from a range of sources to explore the rise in podcast listening. Findings include:

  • Comedy is the most popular podcast genre, followed by music, TV and film.
  • Half of podcast listeners are under 35. While around a third (29%) of traditional radio listeners are under 35, this rises to almost half (49%) for podcasts.
  • Almost all podcast listeners tune into radio too. Almost all podcast listeners (96%) also listen to the radio each week, though live radio commands a much lower share of their total listening activity (48%) than adults generally (75%).
  • Radio and TV broadcasters are embracing the medium. Podcast versions of BBC radio programmes such as Desert Island Discs and Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review feature regularly in Apple’s iTunes podcast chart. TV broadcasters are also increasingly using podcasts as a source of material for TV shows, or as an extension of established series - such as ITV’s podcast Love Island: The Morning After.

UK listeners access podcasts from a range of sources. Among the most commonly used were the BBC website and app (used by 36% of podcast listeners), YouTube (26%) and iTunes (25%). Other sources included streaming services such as Spotify, and newspapers’ websites or apps.

Ian Macrae, Ofcom’s Director of Market Intelligence, said: “Podcasts are booming in the UK, and broadening people’s listening landscape. Every age group is getting involved, but the most explosive growth is among younger adults.

“People are using podcasts to complement traditional radio, and we’re encouraged to see broadcasters embracing the medium and seeing it as an opportunity for growth.”

The findings are in Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2018.