The Rise of Podcasts Among Kids

Despite being around for almost two decades, why are podcasts becoming more popular than ever, and why should brands consider them?

Podcast consumption has increased steadily in recent years. Yet during lockdown, podcasts took off with kids and young people as they found more time to engage with them. A report by the National Literacy Trust revealed that nearly 1 in 4 kids and young people listened to podcasts or audiobooks more during lockdown than they did before.* Whether it’s while doing schoolwork, relaxing before bed, or passing the time, podcasts have become a common form of entertainment among today’s generation.

We asked over 4000 kids whether they listen to podcasts, and 43% said yes. Wondery Kids, Calm Kids, and CBeebies Radio Podcast are just a few brands recognising their growing popularity among kids. So, despite being around for almost two decades, why are podcasts becoming more popular than ever, and why should brands consider them?

Accessible Stories

Firstly, most podcasts are free and an accessible storytelling medium, with 26% of kids saying they like listening to stories. Given that most parents and kids own a smartphone, laptop or smart speakers, podcasts are freely available to listen through free apps such as Spotify or Apple Podcasts and dedicated apps like BBC Sounds, Podbean and Audible. In turn, they have provided a route into stories and information that may be more accessible in homes where families do not own many books or cannot access them via libraries and schools.

Some recent storytelling podcasts include Wondery Kids, Stories Podcast: A Bedtime Show for Kids of All Ages. “Whether you’re driving with your children or just want to limit your kids’ screen time, Stories Podcast delivers entertainment that kids and parents alike will love.” Similarly, CBeebies Radio Podcast invites kids to “listen to stories with their favourite CBeebies friends and characters.” Calm Kids, meanwhile, offers “stories by kids, for kids to unwind and go to sleep relaxed and happy.” 

Each podcast description emphasises stories, relaxation, and screen-free time. Indeed, while there are many podcasts on wellbeing, mindfulness and relaxation, the act of listening to a podcast itself can be relaxing. So much so, 44% of the kids we surveyed listen to podcasts to help them switch off and relax.

With the kids’ podcast market expanding, storytelling is more accessible, keeping kids engaged with humour and adventure. Like audiobooks, podcasts are on the rise and break some barriers to reading for reluctant readers. Read more about the new wave of storytelling here.

Listen and Learn

Beyond storytelling, podcasts can support kids’ learning, with 11% of kids saying podcasts teach them things by giving them greater access to a whole world of topics. Kids love the choice of stories and subjects available. While storytelling podcasts and audiobooks are most popular, history, science, and gaming podcasts are entering the space.

Additionally, for parents during lockdown looking to educate and entertain their kids from home, podcasts became another option. 

For example, popular podcasts such as Wow in the World, presented by Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas, is both fun and educational for kids. Described as a ‘journey away from your screens, inside your brain, out into space, and deep into the coolest new stories in science, technology, and innovation’, this podcast emphasises screen-free time but also supports education.

Another admired kids podcast is Everything Under the Sun, hosted by Molly Oldfield: a weekly podcast answering questions that children have about life on earth. A podcast that feeds children’s curiosity, each week, knowledgeable guest stars, including Stephen Fry, Neil Gaiman and Sir Richard Branson, answer three questions sent in by kids on topics spanning from why rockets fly to space to Greek mythology. Since its launch, Everything Under The Sun won a bronze award for Best Family Podcast at the British Podcast Awards and has been adapted into a book: Everything Under the Sun: A Curious Question for Every Day of the Year.

Shared Experiences

As with listening to music, the radio or audiobooks, listening to podcasts is an activity that can take place alongside other activities such as housework or travelling. Our poll results echo this as 31% of kids said they listen to podcasts while walking or travelling, and 20% listening to them while doing homework or crafts.

“The only audiobooks I’ve listened to are Roald Dahl ones because they’re good to listen to in the background when you’re doing something”
Girl, 11

Similar to audiobooks, podcasts don’t only serve as an alternative media and screen timeout option for kids and parents. Now, listening together has become a shared experience, with 28% of kids say they listen to podcasts with their family. 

‘Vodcasts’: Audio vs Visual

Interestingly, although podcasts serve as a great screen timeout option, many kids also say that YouTube is where they access podcasts. They ‘watch’ them or stream them in the background while doing other tasks, suggesting an interest in the emergent hybrid form of video podcasts, or ‘vodcasts.’

Emerging Markets and What Brands Can Do

As podcasts surge in popularity, marketers must consider them for brand communications, especially among kids. The kids’ podcast market continues to grow at breakneck speed. Brands such as Disney, Spotify, and Sony Music Entertainment have entered the space in recent months, incorporating music, sound effects, and multiple voices to tell absorbing stories kids will love.

In turn, brands should consider making content here. While the choice of podcasts proliferates rapidly, with 48 million episodes as of April 2021, content for kids and young teens are wanted.*  

As for the content itself, kids and families love stories they can listen to and enjoy together. As podcast audiences expand to children and families, there is a need for more family-oriented or age-appropriate podcast content that the whole family can enjoy.

Ultimately, we don’t expect the growing popularity of podcasts to slow down any time soon. Brands should consider launching their own to appeal to the new wave of young podcast fans and families looking for entertaining shared experiences.

Read next:
Stories of Our Time
How Do Kids Discover New Music?