Generation Z’s influence reaches beyond middle hair parts, wide-leg jeans, and viral TikTok challenges. Their tastes, aesthetics, interests, and consumer behaviors are shaping pop culture and will continue to for years to come.
Podcasts play a big role in Gen Zers’ lives. Podcasts are a space for this age group—those born between 1997 and 2012—to express themselves and feel seen and heard, whether they are listeners or creators. As listeners, podcasts give them topics and insights to learn and talk about. As creators, they can speak authentically to a like-minded audience.
Don’t sleep on the Gen Z demographic—they are a vast group of avid podcast listeners that could make up a good chunk of your audience. Even if you don’t consider your podcast to be for Gen Z, there are likely qualities of your show that appeal to them and steps you can take to reach them.
Learn how to strategically target the Gen Z podcast community, and you’ll earn the attention of arguably the most important podcast audience segment right now.
Gen Z is the fastest-growing audience for podcast discovery
As it turns out, the members of Gen Z have a huge appetite for podcasts. Along with a portion of millennials, Gen Z has made up the biggest percentage of podcast listeners in the U.S. since 2019. According to the 2022 Spotify Culture Next Report, Gen Z podcast listeners in the U.S. “increased by 62% on Spotify between Q1 2022 and the year prior.”
Gen Z's new podcast discovery is growing at more than twice the rate of other age groups. So not only is this a growing podcast audience, but they’re on the pulse of what’s new and what’s next.
What is the draw for Gen Z listeners?
The fact that so many podcast listeners are Gen Z may come as a surprise since they are also driving the popularity of short-form video and audio. But the Gen Z audience connects with podcasts in a different way. Some of the most popular content types on TikTok are funny videos and tutorials. While podcasts can also be comedic and instructional, their length and conversational dynamic satisfy different needs.
Out of the Gen Zs surveyed in the Culture Next Report, over a third “said the podcasts they choose to stream are the ones that help them feel a range of emotions, from joy to sadness.” Podcasts draw in these listeners for a variety of reasons, including relief from difficult feelings or situations. Fifty-five percent of American survey respondents reported they “turn to podcasts to get answers to hard or personal questions before talking to their families about it.”
In a Spotify interview, Kayla Suarez, cohost of the “Teenager Therapy” podcast, said, “I also feel like the fans are very comfortable with this form of media. The hosts are right in your ear, and it feels like you’re just in the conversation with them in a very safe environment. I feel like that really resonates with Gen Z because a lot of us do feel lonely and stressed at times, and we don’t always feel like we can go to certain people for that.”
How to reach the Gen Z podcast audience
Gen Z podcast consumers are a captive audience of open-minded individuals with a range of interests. Creators have plenty of opportunities to grow their audience by targeting and engaging with this distinct demographic.
Appeal to their interests
The top podcast genre for the Gen Z audience is mental health. Streams on Spotify for podcasts that fall into this category increased by approximately 62% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the previous year. If your podcast already focuses on mental health, you’re in a great position. If not, you can consider incorporating mental health-related topics into your podcast schedule or finding a mental health angle for certain episodes and guest interviews.
Whatever your podcast genre may be, provide a safe and inviting environment for your listeners. In addition to seeking mental health support, Gen Zs are looking to podcasts for education and advice. Think about how you can be a resource in your podcast niche and address questions that listeners want answers to.
Finally, embrace your weird, quirky, and avant-garde instincts. Spotify’s Culture Next Report found that 71% of U.S. Gen Zers “listen to at least one music artist or podcast that others would find niche, obscure, or experimental.” One difference between this generation and their predecessors is that they are more concerned with standing out than fitting in.
Share content on social media
As the first entirely digitally native generation, those born between 1997 and 2012 are very active on social media. Social media channels that are popular for their short and snappy videos, including TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, attract the most Gen Z users. Luckily, these channels are very effective for podcast marketing, so promoting your podcast on social media is essential to reach Gen Zers.
Leverage video and other visual content on these channels. If you have a video podcast, or are thinking of starting one, you can easily post clips from your episodes. For audio-only episodes, you can play audiograms with behind-the-scenes photos or images with featured pull quotes. For all of your social media content, remember to tag your guests so they can amplify the content, include hashtags to extend your reach, and encourage engagement by asking your followers questions they can respond to in the comments.
Partner with influencers
Social media influencers have substantial, loyal followings of people who trust and listen to their recommendations. They are trendsetters, tastemakers, and, in an indirect way, salespeople. Partnering with social influencers whose followers overlap with your target audience—in this case, Gen Z—can produce great results.
Think about ways you can collaborate with influencers. That could be inviting them to be a guest on your podcast, cross-promoting each other’s content, or hosting a giveaway together. Influencers can come in different forms and don’t have to be a prominent public figure. For example, if you have a Gen Z family member, you can ask them to share your podcast with their network.
Experiment with Music + Talk
Another thing about Gen Zers: If there’s anything they love more than podcasts, it’s music. The Culture Next Report found that Gen Zs streamed music more frequently than any other media type. Furthermore, in the first quarter of 2022, 18- to 24-year-olds played more music than any other age group and “roughly 16 billion more minutes than 25- to 34-year-olds.”
If you have a music podcast, it can be a great tool for reaching the Gen Z audience. With a Music + Talk show, you can seamlessly combine full music tracks from the Spotify library with your podcast’s usual talk and discussion segments.
As for the types of music that resonate with this demographic, they are just as interested in older music as they are in current. Seventy percent of the Culture Next survey respondents claimed they listened to and watched media from earlier decades, and they feel both energized and comforted when listening to music from the past.
Interact with them
For Gen Zs, online culture is all about connections and bridging the gap between creators and fans. With digital destinations like Discord, Twitch, and TikTok, podcast creators can easily connect with fans. According to the Culture Next Report, 47% of respondents said they join these communities to stay updated on their favorite creators and interact with other fans.
Anchor podcast creators can interact with their listeners directly within episodes on the Spotify platform too. Creators can invite their listeners to contribute to conversations with Q&A and Polls. This allows listeners to feel like collaborators as they can help creators plan future episodes, guests, and topics. And with Spotify Live, creators are able to take their fan relationships to the next level by inviting them to interact during episodes in real time.
Connect with Gen Z through vulnerability and authenticity
This generation seeks support, guidance, and connection in the podcasts they listen to. So, if you’re unsure whether you should tackle sensitive topics or get real with your audience, take this as a sign to go for it. Then bring your listeners into the conversation. Ask for their thoughts and insights, and be welcoming and open to interaction. Allow them to come to you as much as you speak to them.