Where Are Your Listeners And What Are They Doing?

Fun fact. May has been National Walking Month, it’s a shame nobody told the weather that little snippet. Although as my dad always says “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices.” I disagree.

And that’s made me think about the podcasts I listen to while walking, which then got me thinking about the different places I listen to podcasts and which podcasts I listen to at different times of the week.

I tend to listen to longer podcasts when I’m out on my walks. They tend to be less lesson-y ones and more interview based or documentary type podcasts. They are the ones that I listen to for fun and enjoyment rather than for learning something new.

When I’m in the car or when I’m doing the housework (it’s rare but sometimes I do do the housework!) I tend to listen to more business-y ones or educational podcasts. Ones that will teach me something.

But why does this matter? Because if you know or at least have an idea of where your listener is and what they are doing at the time they are listening to you then that gives you a real advantage over others who don’t know or haven’t considered that.

The joy of podcasts is they are mobile, on demand and don’t need your attention on a screen. That means you can listen to podcasts in lots of different places.

According to recent data from OFCOM podcast listening is popular when people are walking, doing housework, in the car or on public transport, at home relaxing as well as just before bed. They also help people get through other exercise too.

Please don’t think these are the only places people listen to podcasts but this is a useful indication of what people might be getting up to when they are listening to you.

It’s up to you to do a bit of your own market research to understand where you’re listeners are listening but I can (and will) help you understand some of the battles you might be facing for each of the places they are listening.


Let’s start with walking - it is National Walking Month and I have absolutely based this episode on that fact.

If you’ve decided most of your audience is listening to you whilst out on a walk, then you need to keep in mind that they are outside.

I appreciate how amazingly obvious that is to state, but it’s important. If somebody is outside they have loads to be potentially distracted by. If they’re in nature then there’s all sorts of wildlife to notice, if they’re in a more urban setting there’s people getting in the way, roads to cross and general hustle and bustle.

If you’re giving out lots of information your listener is unlikely to be able to note it down on a pad as they listen - so you’re asking them to go back and find those really valuable points again. This is where good show notes, transcription or decent blog come into play. You can point people to that. But do keep in mind you’re asking people to take action in a different setting to the one they are listening to you in.

With walking I think people are looking for a podcast that enhances their walking experience, something that brings them joy and a boost while they are out and about.

Or the podcast can be used as a barrier to keep other people out of their world.

Other Exercise

In the OFCOM study they have walking and cycling listed separately and everything else gets lumped into “other exercise”. First off - I really don’t want to encourage anybody to cycle outside on the road with headphones over their ears.

Secondly other exercise I am assuming to be the gym and running - and not team based sports. Because podcasts are quite solitary.

Running - the issues you face are a lot like walking but with the added bonus that people are coming to you for a distraction from what they are doing. Or at least that’s what I’m doing. I want those podcasts I listen to whilst running to help me forget I am running. You need to transport me away from those 2, 3 hour runs I’m meant to be doing instead take me to your world!

For shorter runs I just want some company.

In the gym - again you have to keep in mind the potential distraction in the form of noise from music playing, classes going on elsewhere, others working out. Even people your listener knows turning up and attracting their attention.

On the plus side - there’s fewer distractions that are potentially dangerous - ie crossing over the road, so the distractions that are around are more superficial.

I’m not one for carrying a notepad with me at the gym, so be aware your audience may also not have a pen and paper handy too.

In the car or on public transport

I’m lumping these two together because I think there are some similarities in the “why” people listen in the car or on public transport. But of course there is a key difference in that if you’re driving a car you need to be alert to the world around you, whereas of course being a passenger on the bus or the train allows a bit of freedom to be a more active listener.

So the why. Personally I consider travel time to be a total dead time; whether that be commuting or going to see people, or perhaps even going on holiday whatever. Sitting in a car, on a train or on a bus is just utterly unproductive. And that frustrates me. So I turn to the more educational podcasts here so I feel my time getting somewhere hasn’t been wasted.

Obviously when I’m driving I do need to be paying attention to the road and other road users. So I can’t make notes as I go. When I’m a passenger either in the car or on a train, or bus I can and I will make notes.

Another very important thing to bear in mind is audio quality. It’s particularly important for car drivers listening to your podcast because most will have plugged their phone in or connected their bluetooth to their car stereo. The podcast will be playing out over the car speakers. Most car speakers are ok, not great, just ok. And on top of that you’ve got the traffic and noise of the road itself to contend with. If your audio quality isn’t good enough to be heard and understood then people will stop listening. When I work with clients this is something I really push them to understand, the audio must pass the “can I hear it in the car?” test. I will listen to audio in the car if I’m not sure it is clear enough before I publish it. Spoiler alert - if I’m not sure before I’ve got into the car then I can almost guarantee that it won’t be clear in the car. It’s rare I change my mind once I’ve heard it in the car if I already had doubts.

You get a bit more leeway if people are listening on headphones, especially if they are noise cancelling headphones, but you are still fighting conversations going on around them on busy buses and trains as well as the noise of the train or bus and the road too.

Doing housework!

The good news is with doing housework is your listener is listening while at home. They are in a space they hopefully love to be in and will feel happy to be there. They may also be one of those strange people who love doing housework so have popped your podcast on as a bit of company and an opportunity to take in a bit of extra knowledge.

If they, like me, get angry because of housework, they may be looking to your podcast as a distraction.

More good news, unless it’s been tidied away to where it should be, your listener is likely to be able to get their hands on a pen and paper to make notes when listening. Or alternatively they can write in the dust! (Just me…)

In other situations I’ve talked about the distractions you need to look out for that will take people’s attention away from your podcast, in this one I think you are the bigger issue in that you’ll be distracting your listeners from doing the housework - again might just be me.

At home relaxing

This weirdly shares a lot with doing the housework!

Again your listener is at home, a place they should feel safe and happy in. If they are relaxing they probably don’t want to be learning facts and figures or be given tutorials. They want company and to be entertained.

Just before bed

My night time routine involves laying on my Shakti mat while listening to either a podcast or an audiobook.

I am not going to be listening to anything that fires up my brain into thinking. It’s about winding down for me and I suspect 99.9% of other people who listen to podcasts just before bed.

Your biggest concern here is people falling asleep while listening to your podcast and never hearing the best bits. And yes I do fall asleep on spike covered mat. It looks like a torture instrument but it feels AMAZING.

Why should I know where my listener is and what they are doing?

Understanding your audience is vital to making the best content for them. If you know most of them are listening to your podcast in the car then you know your audio quality needs to be bang on so they can understand what’s being said. You also know you can’t ask them to make notes or to jot things down. Instead you will need to refer to these important points in your shownotes, your transcription or blog of the podcast episode if you have one.

If, however, you know most of your listeners are listening while exercising then you should consider making your presentation style upbeat to fit the environment your listener is in and help push them to one more rep - likewise if you find out most are listening before bed, you might want to change the energy of your vocal performance - and the volume too.

This level of understanding will help your podcast be part of people's routines because you fit in perfectly with what they are doing and where they are doing it. And doing that helps you boost your podcast growth. Which is something we all want, right?

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