Podcasting Audience Up 18% Since Last YearMar 22nd, 2007 | By James Lewin | Category: Audio Podcasting, iPods & Portable Media Players, Podcasting Research, Podcasting Statistics, Video Podcasts
The audience for podcasts has grown 18% in the last year, according to an upcoming report from Edison Media Research. Awareness of podcasting has grown even more, jumping from 22% in 2006 to 37% in 2007.
At the Corporate Podcasting Summit, held March 19-20 in London, Edison Media Research VP Tom Webster gave a preview of their latest research on podcasting. Webster’s statistics suggest that podcasting, like other Internet media, is growing rapidly, drawing attention away from other media. In addition, podcasts are getting a very attractive group for advertisers – well-educated people with money that like to buy things online.
Here are some of the highlights of Webster’s presentation:
- The audience for podcasts is up by 18% from a year ago. In 2006, 11% of those surveyed listened to audio podcasts; in 2007, the number was 13%, about 18% growth. This figure looks like it may be the most controversial info in the report. At Marketwatch, for example, Frank Barnako is calling this anemic growth. While faster growth would be great for podcasters, a lot of industries would kill for 18% growth.
- Podcast awareness has exploded in the last year, growing from 22% to 37%.
- Video podcast use is up by 10%, going from 10% to 11%. The relatively small growth indicated by this stat doesn’t jive with obvious trends in Internet video. Internet video is exploding, and by many accounts, it has leapfrogged audio podcasting. It looks like their survey isn’t capturing much growth in interest in video blogs and video podcasts, maybe because of fuzziness about the definition of what a podcast is or isn’t. Is Ask a Ninja a video podcast? If you use Edison’s criteria, probably not.
One of the things that jumps out of Edison’s research is that awareness of podcasts is up by about 70% over last year, but use is only up 18%. What’s unclear is if this gap is a normal stage in the adoption of technologies, if the figures reflect limitations of the research or if podcasting is a stagnating or “broken” technology.
What is a podcast?
The term “podcasting” has had a great deal of mainstream media exposure. Nevertheless, like “blogging” before it, many people that have heard of “podcasting” don’t know what it means.
This issues is complicated by the difficulty of explaining podcasting in layman’s terms. According to Edison:
- Podcasting is the concept of downloading various types of longer-form online audio programs, in the form of digital files you can listen to at any time you choose.
- Podcasting does NOT refer to the downloading of individual MP3s or songs.
- Podcasting does refer to the download of program-oriented online audio (such as a talk show or a hosted music program), usually as an automatic download that can be listened to at the user‚Äôs convenience.
While Edison has done an decent job of defining podcasting in terms that make sense to the general public, their definition is technically inaccurate and excludes whole categories of podcasts that don’t happen to conform to the radio show precedent.
We’ve talked a lot about music podcasts this month, and many of them are not traditional shows. Many are channels of free music mp3s, something excluded by Edison’s definition.
Edison’s concept of podcasting also emphasizes that podcasts are downloaded; many podcasters find that more than half of their audience streams their content, rather than subscribing and downloading it.
Edison’s research on podcasting needs to be interpreted with their concept of podcasting in mind.
The podcast audience
The survey found the podcast audience to be a well-balanced, attractive demographic for advertisers. Podcast listeners are:
- 49% female, 51% male.
- All ages. The survey found more listeners 55+ than in the 18-24 age group.
- Well-educated. Twice as many podcast users have advanced degrees as others.
- Well-to-do. Podcast users are twice as likely to have incomes over 100K and nearly twice as likely to have incomes between 75K and 100K.
- Wired – spending more than 50% more time online.
- More likely than others to own an HDTV and use a TiVo or other digital video recorder.
- More than twice as likely to own an iPod or other portable media player.
- More than twice as likely to own video gaming systems.
- Twice as likely as others to use NetFlix or other DVD rental service.
- 36% more likely than others to have made online purchases.
- Nearly 4 times as likely to have purchased songs or other digital audio online.
The survey also included some interesting information for advertisers:
- Podcast users are twice as likely to have clicked on a banner ad.
- However, podcast users are also much more likley to actively block spam, pop-up ads, spyware and other unwanted advertising.
Edison’s Webster draws three conclusions from the research:
- Podcasters need to start promoting benefits of podcasting, instead of capabilities or features of podcasting.
- Podcasters should partner with traditional media broadcasters to make more compelling content and to sell it.
- Podcasters need to create unique content formatted specifically for podcasts.
Webster sees Edison’s numbers as a challenge to podcasters:
Consumer-controlled content is clearly the future for both audio and video, and podcasting, by whatever name you choose to call it, is the precursor to that vision of the future. But realizing that vision takes vision–and persistence. If you think podcasting isn’t “broken,” think on these graphs again. 15 million more Americans learned about podcasting this year, and the vast majority responded…”meh.” You can grouse about the numbers, you can grumble about mainstream America’s apparent inability to grasp how great podcasting is, and you can blog about “the end of podcasting.” Somewhere, though, somebody will see this data for what it is–a challenge to work harder, to claim the greater prize. Some of you reading this will do the work to make podcasting different, and better, than it is today–and those people have the opportunity to reap great rewards.
Technology adoption precedents
While Webster suggests that podcasting is “broken”, his viewpoint seems to ignore the adoption precedents of Internet technologies like blogs, and recognized models of consumer technology adoption.
For example, in the 60′s, Everett Rogers demonstrated that technology adoption follows a fairly consistent pattern. Technology flows from innovators to early adopters, to the early mainstream audience, to the mainstream audience and finally to laggards.
Podcasting has been adopted by innovators and early adopters, but is just beginning to be used by the early mainstream audience.
Gartner, a technology analysis firm, uses another analysis tool to help understand technology adoption, their Hype Cycle. Their analysis suggests that technologies consistently go through a Hype Cycle:
- Technologies emerge and innovators begin to use them.
- As early adopters start using new technologies, the technologies’ potential tends to get overhyped (ie, podcasting will kill radio).
- As people figure out the technology was overhyped, people get disillusioned with it. This appears to be where podcasting is now, with people like Webster saying podcasting is “broken”, and others arguing that podcasting is irrelevant.
- Finally, after the overhyped expectations and the over-skeptical responses, technologies begin to be widely understood. This happens when people start seeing numerous examples of successful implementations of the technology.
In Gartner’s hype cycle, podcasting appears to be somewhere between their Peak of Inflated Expectations and their Trough of Disillusionment.
Edison’s latest research is an important new set of data on the evolution of podcasting. In order to make the most sense of their research, though, it needs to be looked at within the context of technology adoption trends, and with the understanding that it is based upon a definition of podcasting which is an unfortunately necessary kludge.
Edison’s site has Webster’s take on the new research.