Social Needs Aren't Driving Podcast Listening. Information Is.

Posted in Streaming, Technology on Jul 19, 2022

Do psychological factors have anything to do with who is listening to a podcast? A new research study from Stephanie Tobin at Queensland University of Technology-Brisbane and Stanford University’s Rosanna Guadagno looked at this concept in depth. The study examined which factors suggest that someone might be more prone to listening to a podcast. It found that those who are naturally curious and are looking to learn something showed the highest potential.

“Why people listen: Motivations and outcomes of podcast listening” looked at listening habits and demographics through a questionnaire. It assessed individuals based on the Big Five personality factors: extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. It also looked at how people listened, their gender, age, and social aspects.

The study looked at demographic predictors that indicated men were likelier to be podcast listeners. Other studies have also seen similar trends. The study suggested that broader gender differences in technology could be the cause. In some cases, men place a higher value on gaining knowledge, whereas women may be looking for more connections. However, this isn’t proven. Additionally, age didn’t seem to strongly predict podcast listening.

Podcast Listeners are Different From Social Media Fans

The study also indicated that podcast listeners are different from social media fans. It showed that people with a higher “need to belong” score were less likely to be podcast listeners. It also showed that study participants who ranked higher on the neurotic scale were less likely to listen to a podcast. Social media tends to be the opposite, and research shows that it brings in those who score higher on the “need to belong” and neurotic scales.

However, the research didn’t suggest that only introverts who avoid people who listen to podcasts. The study’s data indicated that social aspects of podcast listening are apparent. It showed that extroverts and those who are outgoing are likelier to listen to podcasts. They were also the most likely to spend more time listening overall.

What’s more, openness among the Big Five traits was a positively associated trait. Those who scored high in openness were especially likely to listen to a podcast within the study. That suggests that the ability to be open and accepting of new information is a good indicator that someone might enjoy a podcast.

The paper stated, “Together, these findings suggest […] informational needs rather than social or emotional needs may be more relevant motivations for podcast listening. [It] is consistent with past findings that information was a [greater] motive for podcast listening than other more social motives among regular […] listeners.”

How People are Listening to Podcasts

The large majority of podcast listeners enjoyed their shows on smartphone apps. Still, researchers indicated no evidence of a correlation between podcasts and smartphone addiction. Additionally, there was still a large number of people who listened on their computers.

The report also stated, “We […] found […] smartphone addiction was lower among those who had been listening to podcasts for more years. More seasoned listeners might have begun listening […] on other devices such as an iPod and thus, might be less dependent on their smartphone for […] listening.”

The study examined 306 participants ranging from 18 to 64 years old. Participants came from over ten countries, including the UK, US, Portugal, Poland, Canada, Mexico, Greece, Spain, Italy, and Australia.

Among the 306 participants, 240 reported that they had listened to a podcast, while 66 had not. Of the people who had listened to a podcast, 106 listened less than monthly, 32 enjoyed podcasts monthly, 72 listened each week, and 30 listened every day. The most often chosen types of podcasts were comedy, games and hobbies, society and culture, music, news and politics, and education. The report also stated that most participants listened to podcasts while doing other activities around their homes.

Lastly, the parasocial relationships reported were also positively associated with listening to a podcast longer and enjoying podcasts broadcast by popular hosts. Social engagement was also associated with listening longer as well as listening to more podcasts in general. These factors suggest that community involvement with the podcast and a great host who draws the listener in keep fans listening longer.

If you’re in the business of podcasts, these interesting findings could help you develop your show and focus on aspects of the experience that draw in the most listeners. Smart, witty podcasts that offer a learning experience tied with strong community engagement seem to be the standouts among shows. What is your podcast doing to capitalize on this new data?

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