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Listeners Consider Podcasts A Trusted News Source, Study Finds

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If you’re someone who regularly listens to news podcasts like The Daily, you’ll be used to the idea of turning to podcasts as your trusted source for news. 

But what about podcasts that aren’t actually news sources? And how do you feel about the idea that listeners might consider your podcast a trusted source of information too? 

Pew Research Centre has just published the results of a listener survey that suggests that, whether we like it or not, listeners consider our podcasts a reliable source for news and information. Some listeners even trust podcasts more than traditional print and broadcast media.

Regardless of podcast niche, we clearly have a responsibility as a community to relay accurate and reliable info to our listeners.

So let’s dig into what the report suggests about the relationship between news and podcasting, the onus this places on podcasters and what you can do to ensure you’re a trustworthy information source for your listeners.

a podcast listener getting news

Listeners View Podcasts as Trusted News Source

While Pew’s report demographic was US-only, more than 5,000 respondents participated in the survey. Therefore, it’s true that some of the trends could be US-specific, but the message it sends is relevant to all podcasters globally.

To save you some reading time the full report, here are the main takeaways you’ll want to know: 

  • 67% of listeners said news is discussed in some form on the podcasts they listen to 
  • 1 in 5 said the podcasts they listen to are not affiliated with any news organization. 21% said they were ‘not sure’ if they are (Figure 1)
  • The vast majority of listeners (87%) said they expect any news they hear on a podcast to be true and accurate (Figure 1)
  • 55% said they trust the news they get from podcasts just as much as news they get from official news sources. 31% say they trust it more
  • 73% said they hear news on podcasts that they don’t hear elsewhere.
Figure 1. Source: Pew Research Centre

News and Podcasting: What The Survey Tells Us

The report throws up a lot of insights about the role podcasts play in delivering information to listeners. Here are a few of the main stand-outs for us…

Line between entertainment and news can get blurry in podcasting

Our obsession with true crime podcasts is a good example of how the line between entertainment and current events can get blurry in podcasting. It’s not unusual for podcast listeners to get the latest scoop on a murder investigation before it makes the headlines. Podcasts have even helped solve murders.

While ‘for entertainment’ was unsurprisingly cited in the report as the #1 reason respondents listen to podcasts (87%), people clearly go to podcasts for news and factual information too. A massive 64% of listeners said they use podcasts ‘to keep up with current events’.

Listeners might not always proactively seek out news on podcasts, but they do expect the information they hear on their favourite shows to be accurate. And as podcasters, we have a responsibility to deliver.

reading a newspaper

Podcast listeners trust hosts – and are heavily influenced by them

We know that podcasts can have a big influence on listeners. Just last month, we reported that podcasts are now more effective as an advertising medium than TV, thanks to the unique bond hosts build with their listeners.

In the same way that listeners trust their favourite hosts to recommend good brands, they trust them to deliver accurate information. This means you have a responsibility as a podcaster to ensure any information, ‘facts’ or ‘news’ you share is trustworthy and has a reputable source to back it up.

Listeners are turning to podcasts because they’re dissatisfied with traditional media

The idea that 55% of listeners trust podcasts just as much as – and often more than (31%) – official news sources is a shocking bit of data. Trust in traditional print and broadcast news is at an all-time low in the US, and podcasts are clearly filling this gap. 

73% also said they hear news on podcasts that they don’t hear elsewhere, suggesting they come to podcasts to hear the stories that mainstream media doesn’t always cover.

Whilst some listeners may not trust the big news outlets to cover the stories that are important to them, another factor at play is the strength of podcasting’s ability to cover niche topics.

‘News’ is a broad term and means different things to different people. A news story in a particularly narrow field might be a big deal for a small number of people, but that doesn’t guarantee any coverage in the more conventional channels.

So in some ways, podcasting is stepping in to fill the gaps and provide content that simply isn’t available elsewhere. Podcasts aren’t restricted by formatting and time constraints like official news channels, either. This allows podcasters to dive deep into topics in a way that daily news podcasts can’t.

How to Be a Trustworthy Source For Your Listeners

The idea of being a news source for your listeners might terrify you, or excite you (or both). Either way, it’s important you accept this is the case, and take steps to be the trustworthy source your listeners want you to be.

Here are some things you can do…

  • Always do your research – Behind any good podcast episode is a decent chunk of thorough research – regardless of your podcast niche. If you think an episode you’re working on doesn’t need any research, you’re wrong. Do your listeners credit by reading around and having a solid source for any information you relay.
  • Provide sources in show notes – Listing your sources in show notes will give you more credibility. It’ll also help cover your back if you’re ever challenged about something discussed in one of your shows. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do and can really save you hassle later down the line.
  • Know your trusted sources – As painful as some podcasters might find this, Wikipedia is not a trusted source. Never direct your listeners to Wikipedia pages. However, every Wikipedia page comes with a list of sources the creator has drawn from. It’s just a matter of working backwards to find the original source and using that instead. Likewise, if you’re using ChatGPT to help with your research, always check that the articles actually exist by searching for them online. A while ago, I was testing out some ChatGPT prompts for podcasters and it generated a whole load of fake news articles for me on sustainable farming.
  • Use disclaimers – If you can’t verify the truth of a piece of information you’re sharing, always declare this on your podcast. That’s not to say that you can’t talk about something because you don’t have an official source. You just have to be honest with your audience if you’re unable to verify the information. 
Man reading breaking podcast news on smartphone

If you’re interested in hearing more about the report, James Cridland from Podnews will be speaking with Elisa Shearer from Pew about the survey results in their podcast this week. You can tune in here.

And while we’re on the topic of trusted news sources, you can sign up for our weekly podcast newsroom email here and here’s a list of our favourite podcast news sources.

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