ARD/ZDF Online Media Study 2021: radio, music, podcasts.

Media Republik > Audio, voice, podcasts > ARD/ZDF Online Study 2021

The ARD/ZDF 2021 Online Study reflects the extraordinary life situation and its impact on media use of the first half 2021 under the German Lockdown. The study, however, delivers the most comprehensive view on how Germans consume audio over the Internet and how consumption evolved in the last years.




listen to radio
online at least


listen to music on youtube at least

Audio content on the rise: another effect of the pandemic.

Overall, the use of audio content has increased slightly in the wake of the Corona pandemic, with 85% of the total population listening to audio content (offline and online) daily in 2021.

The non-linear radio listening (radio programs on demand) continues to rise but has not yet established itself in daily use in all age groups:

Source: 2021 ARD/ZDF Online StudyExecutive summary (PDF)

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The most surprising result is that the linear “traditional” radio could regain ground in the young target group. The under 30 rediscovered radio as a daily companion, and this renaissance might continue after the pandemic.

Audio: daily usage time 2021 by age GROUP
ard zdf online study 2021 audio daily usage time 2021 by age group

Source: 2021 ARD/ZDF Online StudyExecutive summary (PDF)

Radio – live, on demand – and podcasts.

The ARD/ZDF Online Study 2021 defines online audio as the combination of live radio streams, podcasts, time-delayed listening to radio broadcasts and music on streaming services (e.g. Spotify) and YouTube. 

80% of people aged 14+ use online audio services at least rarely, 5% more than in 2020.Thus, for the.

Use of audio and video on the internet 2017 to 2021

At least occasionally, in %

schermata 2021 12 27 alle 17.49.26

Source: 2021 ARD/ZDF Online StudyExecutive summary (PDF)

Data breakdown by type of audio content.

The ARD/ZDF online study uses three central dimensions to classify the different forms of audio use on the internet:

  1. podcasts and radio programmes or contributions from radio programmes on-demand on the internet,
  2. music streaming and
  3. live radio on the internet.

53% of people aged 14 and over in 2021 consume at least occasionally podcasts or radio programs on demand.

YouTube: more than half of Germans aged 14 and over (58%) now listen to music via the video streaming platform – this is six percentage points more than in the previous year and an extrapolated 40.1 million people.

Audio use on the internet 2018 to 2021 at least Occasionally, in %.
schermata 2021 12 28 alle 11.03.12
Basis: German-speaking population aged 14 and over (2021: n=2 001; projection: 70.67 million).

Source: 2021 ARD/ZDF Online StudyExecutive summary (PDF)

Podcasts, radio programmes or segments on-demand and audiobooks are distributed via the providers’ channels (e.g. websites or their apps) or on third-party platforms.

Besides the established music streaming services – Spotify & Co. – which use their position in the music market to establish themselves in the podcast market, there are audio platforms that focus primarily on podcasts, radio programmes or contributions from radio programmes on demand and audiobooks.

Under this “spoken word” category, the most used audio platforms are the ARD Audiothek and Audible (Amazon), each with 6 per cent at least infrequent use.

Use of music streaming services and audio platforms 2021 in %

Source: 2021 ARD/ZDF Online StudyExecutive summary (PDF)

Music streaming services still on the growth path in 2021. 

According to the figures of the German Music Industry Association (BVMI), sales through music streaming services rose by almost 25 per cent to 1.13 billion euros in 2020.

According to the ARD/ZDF Online Study 2021, Spotify can defend its top position in the highly competitive music streaming market: 28% of respondents (72% of 14- to 29-year-olds) use Spotify at least occasionally. That corresponds to an extrapolated 20.1 million people. 23% even use Spotify at least once a week.

Amazon Prime Music holds second place with 14% of occasional use. Somewhat behind are SoundCloud and Apple Music.

It is striking that Spotify is the only music streaming service to record growth in usage, while the competition is losing reach. We can explain this dominance, not least because Spotify has ceased to focus solely on music and is increasingly including podcasts and audiobooks in its portfolio. In 2021, Spotify released several new German-language podcasts, and the offer will keep growing.

Spotify’s usage dimensions, in %

On Spotify, people listen not only to music but also to podcasts, audio books and audio plays – but to a much lesser extent.

schermata 2021 12 28 alle 11.26.51

Source: 2021 ARD/ZDF Online StudyExecutive summary (PDF)


Listening to music via YouTube has grown to a significant role in the online audio world. Although it sees still itself as a video streaming platform, many use YouTube for pure music listening. According to the ARD/ZDF online study, 58% of the German-speaking population aged 14+ say they use YouTube at least occasionally to listen to music (83% of 14- to 29-year-olds).

Audio usage dimensions of YouTube, in %.
youtube expereince ard zdf online stdy 2021
Basis: German-speaking population aged 14 and over.

Source: 2021 ARD/ZDF Online StudyExecutive summary (PDF)

YouTube has long established itself as a free music streaming platform. Besides music, other audio offerings are also experiencing an upswing on YouTube: Podcasts. The internal search and the connection to Google make YouTube a formidable competitor in the podcast market. The ARD/ZDF online study reflects this: 21% of YouTube users say they occasionally listen to podcasts via YouTube.


The ARD/ZDF Online Study 2021 was conducted on behalf of the ARD/ZDF Research Commission. The results for online consumption are part of a general study on Mass Communication Trends 2021. 1,502 representatively selected German-speaking persons aged 14 and over were interviewed by telephone between 9 March and 24 April in 2021 (Note: still under Lockdown).

All the takeaways from the ARD/ZDF Online Media Study 2021 published here:

  1. ARD/ZDF Online Media Study 2021: key takeaways.
  2. ARD/ZDF Online Media Study 2021: paid streaming and video libraries.
  3. ARD/ZDF Online Media Study 2021: radio, music, voice.

The ARD/ZDF Study here: presentation, key data, featured articles.

schermata 2021 12 19 alle 14.45.45
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