Podcasting’s “Mobile” Listening At Home

Over the past couple of weeks since the publication of the 2017 Infinite Dial, one particular finding has prompted more questions from podcasters than any other: the data on listening location. When we asked people to name all the locations where they listen to podcasts, one location clearly stood out:

80% of podcast listeners said that “At Home” is one of the locations where they listen to podcasts. Not the only location. But the most commonly-named location. Furthermore, when we asked people to name the location where they listen most often to podcasts, “At Home” once again rose to the top of the list:

These data have been misinterpreted in a number of ways since we published The Infinite Dial 2017 just two weeks ago. First, I’ve seen it reported a number of times as “most podcasts are listened to at home,” which is not at all what it says and not necessarily true. We don’t survey podcasts; we survey humans. Most humans who listen to podcasts, tell us they listen to those podcasts at home, among other places. So this finding doesn’t speak to the percentage of podcasts or the amount of time spent listening to those podcasts in any way.

Most often, however, a number of podcast producers have challenged me in various fora about the amount of “mobile” listening they see in their own data. I’ve had someone with a podcast company say “At Home” can’t possibly be the most common location–after all, the vast majority of their podcasts are accessed by mobile devices (which, by the way, is a finding supported by our Infinite Dial data.) I’ve had others tell me that their listeners tell them that they listen in their cars, or on the go. Our research supports that, too. I’ve even had someone who produces a very popular podcast in a European capital city tell me that their podcast is almost exclusively consumed by “on the go” listeners. That’s probably true–and as we bring The Infinite Dial to other countries, we will no doubt see other results.

But for now, “At Home” listening is an important part of American podcast consumption. I’ve been a little surprised to see how many people have pushed back on this, to be honest, by citing their “mobile” numbers. There is no question that the mobile phone is the dominant device for podcast consumption. But a device is not a location. If you primarily listen to podcasts on your smartphone, that behavior is going to hold true whether you are on the bus, or on your couch. As my friend Mitch Joel is fond of saying, there is no “first” or “second” screen–there is only the screen in front of you. And for most of us, most of the time, that screen belongs to a smartphone equipped with a podcast listening client.

Certainly in-car listening is growing (19% of American drivers 18+ say they have listened to podcasts in their car, which is a pretty big number!) And we also shouldn’t be surprised to see “At Home” be larger than “At Work”–it would certainly be difficult for me to simultaneously do my job and engage with a lean-forward medium like a podcast! But for today, “At Home” listening–on a mobile device–remains the most often-cited listening location, and this should encourage podcast producers. After all, it is at home that any form of media has your full attention, and it is precisely that full attention that fosters engagement, loyalty, and (not unimportantly) recall of sponsors.

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