A Major Shift in Podcast Consumption

In this year’s Infinite Dial report from Edison Research and Triton Digital, there was some good news for podcasting: a 25% bump in the percentage of Americans 12+ who have listened to a podcast in the past month, as the graph below illustrates:

Podcast Consumption_Page_42

As a podcaster myself, I can tell you this: Podcasting is hot (again!) Certainly there has been a proliferation of new podcasts over the last couple of years, with  early experimenters coming back for a “round two,” as well as brand new shows from actors, entertainers, and sports stars such as the ones currently featured by our clients at PodcastOne.

Quality content is certainly one of the drivers behind this year-over-year increase in consumption, but I don’t think it’s the only (or even the principal) driver here. We’ve tracked podcasting since 2006 in this research series, and I still remember the days of hunting down an RSS feed, copying it and pasting it into iTunes, downloading the podcast to my computer, and then syncing it to my iPod to listen to later. Today, all that friction has been reduced to just one step, thanks to the convergence of Broadband access, computing, and media server that is the modern mobile phone.

There is no question that the mobile phone has dramatically changed podcast consumption–”syncing” and downloads have effectively been supplanted by the immediate gratification of a single click. While this may not be surprising to you, here’s a stat from this year’s study that surely will be:

Podcast Consumption_Page_44

 

In a long-running, longitudinal tracking study like The Infinite Dial, we are used to seeing incremental shifts in many things, but this is a stat that got completely upended in just one year. While mobile consumption of podcasts has been steadily rising right along with the growth in smartphones, this is the first year that a majority of podcast consumers  have reported that the phone is their primary consumption device. Untethering podcasts from desktops and laptops is the key to creating new, heretofore untapped listening opportunities for podcasts, and the results are fairly clear. It’s a good time to buy that USB microphone you’ve been jonesing for.

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