The podcast industry is bigger than ever, and has no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Young people especially are drivers of this market: YPulse’s TV and Entertainment report found that 64% of Gen Z and Millennials listen to podcasts, and 32% listen weekly or more. Brands know they need to tap this audience in order to get young peoples’ attention, the same way they know anyone who’s not making short form video content is bound to fall behind. Luckily, the kinds of podcasts young consumers are listening to include such a wide range of genres that there’s an opportunity for every brand to fit in somewhere, whether through making their own pod or partnering up with hosts for advertising.
The need to get into the market is showing, as companies with no current audio presence or functions find their ways to incorporate the medium, knowing how many young people are there to reach. Just recently, Twitter announced they’d be testing out a new use of the Spaces tab to host and suggest podcasts in the app. But podcasts are no longer restricted to audio, either, and video platforms are just as viable a space for reaching young listeners. YouTube has long hosted video content of many young consumers’ favorite shows, but now it’s driving viewership, and even audio-giant Spotify has begun “to formally push their way into the format.”
With so many ways to engage, and so many podcasts to choose from, young people are also tuning in for more than just entertainment. Spotify’s 2022 Culture Next report shows that more than half of 18-24-year-old Americans say they “turn to podcasts to get answers to hard or personal questions before talking to their families about it.” They consider the hosts of their favorite pods trusted sources, who can inform their ideas and even feel like friends. But what kinds of podcasts exactly are catching the most attention? YPulse’s TV and Entertainment survey asked 13-39-year-olds which kinds of podcasts they listen to from a list of more than 20 genres, and these are their favorites:
Which kinds of podcast(s) they listen to
- Entertainment / Celebrity
- TV show / Film
- Relationships / Dating
- Lifestyle / Health
Comedians and influencers are some of their favorite hosts
Young consumers’ favorite kind of podcasts to listen to are comedy pods, and it’s not hard to see why. They’ve lived through some stressful years, and nearly half say their mental health was negatively impacted by COVID specifically. And, as recently as June, they still tell YPulse mental health is in the top 10 issues their generations are facing. Comedy podcasts are just one way for them to get a reprieve from their stress. YPulse shows that nearly one quarter of Gen Z say they turn to comedians for guidance and support, ranking up alongside online influencers. We also know that when it comes to video content (which can include podcasts now), comedy is the number one type of content Gen Z and Millennials are watching weekly.
While so many top podcasts fall in this category, one of the top ranking podcasts this week on both Spotify and Apple’s podcasts charts is TikToker Elyse Myers’ “Funny Cuz It’s True With Elyse Myers.” We all know the young audience on TikTok is in control of popularity, and Meyers’ high-ranking comedy show is a testament to how young people love a candid, self-aware influencer who really gets them. Vanity Fair describes Myers as “the content creator next-door, a life coach for these unprecedented times with ADHD, anxiety, and depression, a comedian whose #RealTalk feels really, actually real.”
Many of their other favorite celebs and influencers are hosting podcasts too, from micro-influencers on TikTok to mainstream actors. Many are simply personality-driven (making them lean toward comedy) like Emma Chamberlain’s “Anything Goes,” which is always recorded from her bed, or YouTuber Logan Paul’s “Impaulsive.” Others are by content creators, about content creation, like “The Comment Section” with TikTok star Drew Afualo. Gamers, already equipped in the medium of streaming, are making podcasts, too—making games a top genre of podcasts for more than a quarter of both gens.
Outside the world of internet celebs, actors of Gen Z and Millennials’ favorite shows are pushing the TV/film genre to the top of the list. Stars from famously comforting shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, and even ‘90s and Y2K hits like Boy Meets World and Laguna Beach, have started podcasts to rewatch and recap the series’ episode by episode, drawing out all the nostalgia young people have built up for these shows.
Wellness podcasts are a way for them to learn about holistic self-care
When it comes to wellness podcasts, like self-improvement and lifestyle / health shows, Millennials are the huge drivers of this genre. Nearly one in four Millennials say they listen to self-improvement podcasts, which drives the popularity of chart-toppers like “Unlocking Us” with Brené Brown and “Trying Not to Care,” hosted by TikToker Ashley Corbo.
A Sirius XM Media study found that 18-24-year-olds “listen to podcasts to improve their mood and feel less alone.” And though Gen Z may listen to these pods less often, they still value them; Spotify’s report shows that for Gen Z, “podcasts serve as a safe space for processing their feels. Whether they’re feeling too vulnerable to speak up or still figuring out the right words to describe what they’re feeling, podcasts are a judgment-free zone.”
Ypulse’s What Is Wellness? trend report shows that young consumers now get their wellness information online, rather than from doctors or medical professionals. Podcasts about self-improvement and lifestyle / health are just one way for them to access the kinds of wellness advice they’re looking for. As Gen Z and Millennials redefine the idea of wellness with a more holistic approach, they want the people informing their wellness decisions to encourage them to do whatever makes them feel good. We see this in trends like affirmations and self-help books, and the huge variety of wellness podcasts they have to choose from can offer them much the same.
True crime storytelling is a debated favorite form of entertainment
Every podcast chart is full of true crime, and fans of these shows have their pick of angles. Some crime podcasts recount stories in a matter-of-fact, informative fashion, while others take the lighter approach of mixing true stories with doing their makeup. Gen Z and Millennials will take it all, and maybe even start their own someday.
As often happens, small creators turned viral sensations have inspired big media networks to break into podcasting in this genre. The popularity of long-time favorites like “Serial” and “Morbid” have pushed the original true crime sources like NBC to start a podcast version of “Dateline” and their new original series “Internal Affairs.” As time has told, these podcasts are all in the storytelling (another top podcast genre for young consumers).
Recently on social media, though, true crime as a genre has been a hotly contested topic following the release of Netflix’s new series Dahmer. For years, it’s been debated whether true crime is ethical if the families of victims are not consenting to have these stories retold. This time, one family member of a victim portrayed in the series took to Twitter to ask, “It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what? How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?” So, as a brand, investing in true crime might be cause for consideration. But, if young peoples’ affinity for it is any indication, it looks like crime podcasts still have a big future.