SheListens: Insights on Women Podcast Listeners

Click here to download SheListens: Insights on Women Podcast Listeners

Edison Research Senior Vice President Melissa Kiesche gave the following presentation on October 12 at She Podcasts LIVE in Atlanta.

It’s 9am on Saturday morning. While I know that pie charts and bar graphs may not be everyone’s favorite (although, totally mine!), I love that it is data that can help frame our conversations and direct change.

My talk today is entitled – SheListens. While we’ve spent much of the last day or so focused on how to encourage more women to host, produce, write and edit, what we can also do as women in this industry is to bring more women listeners to all this fabulous women-created content.

Thirteen years ago, we added podcast questions to our annual Infinite Dial® study.  In 2006 the ONLY way to listen to a podcast was to search for content and then listen on your computer speakers or download it to your iPod. It was a tech-heavy ask for people who were used to just popping in a CD, or tuning their radio dial or maybe listening to an Internet radio station via their desktop. So, it makes sense that this was an industry born from the depths of male tech culture.

In addition, content was forever heavily male focused, so it’s not really surprising that women have lagged far behind in their interest in and adoption of podcasting. But, for the most part, these barriers have gone away. You can listen to podcasts in a dozen different ways – none of which require you to use one device to download to another. And, anyone that has spent any time looking at podcasts on iTunes or Spotify knows that there is ample content out there for anyone and everyone.

So, why is it that women are still lagging behind men when it comes to listening? We’re going to spend a little time today on this. We’ll look at women who are familiar with podcasting, but are NOT listeners, as well as compare some key podcast metrics between men and women listeners.

Beyond the buttoned up quantitative research we do, we take a lot of pride our qualitative research – it really gives us a chance to get in front of podcast listeners and pick their brains about their listening habits.

To go back a moment, for those of you that are unfamiliar with our Infinite Dial study. It’s really our flagship study, where we track a whole range of digital media consumption habits and behaviors and have been doing so for 22 years. It’s a nationally representative study, conducted using the highest standards in market research.

And, for podcasting, Infinite Dial has become the industry’s annual report card. An opportunity to understand where we came from and hypothesize on where we are going.

So, let’s start with the good news. All those metrics I talked about, they are up! We were super excited this year to say that after years of 1-2 percentage point increases, now over half of Americans (144 million people) say they have EVER listened to a podcast.


That’s a seven-percentage point increase over last year. And, just under one-third of Americans (90 million people) say they have listened to a podcast in the last month. A six-percentage point increase over last year.

But, today we’re talking about listeners who identify as women. And, when you break it down, we see that women are quite a bit less likely to have listened in the last month: 36% of Men vs. 29% of Women have listened in the last month.

This means that when you look at the composition of monthly podcast listeners, 54% are Men and 46% are Women.


And yet, the familiarity of the term podcasting is just about equal – 72% of Men and 69% of Women are familiar with the term, where up until 3 years ago, there was about a 10 percentage point gap.

So, while the gap is closing, Why the persistent lag? If they know what a podcast is, why haven’t they tried listening?

What’s unique about women in terms of their consumption habits, their content preferences? What can we learn about women that will help convert them from a non-listener to a listener and from a casual listener to a more voracious one?

Let’s start with those who are familiar with podcasting, but are not listeners. We had the opportunity to sit down with people who were familiar with the term podcasting but did not listen. So, let’s learn more about the non-listeners.

It was those conversations that lead us to include questions to non-listeners in our annual study. So, we asked people if the following were reasons they did NOT listen to podcasts.


First off, which I think is great news, is that this does NOT seem to be a content problem. Women are LESS likely to say that there aren’t podcasts that cover topics they are interested in. So, even non-listeners are aware of all that is out there for them to listen to.

But, much of this suggests there is still a bit of a tech hurdle to gain additional women listeners. And, for sure, that was originally the case. But, that is now starting to go away. A podcast app is NOT the only way to listen to a podcast. In addition to apps, listeners can access content via Spotify, Pandora, YouTube and direct links on social.

And, as the content (that you are all producing!) continues to get out into the world it will be worth it for new listeners to do whatever they need to do to access that content.

Now, back to our actual listeners. For Podcast Movement this year, we took a deeper look at Rookie monthly podcast listeners (those who started listening in the last six months) and veteran monthly listeners (started listening 3 or more years ago). We wanted to see the difference between those who have been dedicated listeners for years and those who are just getting started.

And as part of that study, we sat down with some veteran and rookie listeners and this is what they said.

After defining the length of listenership for the groups, one of the first things we looked at was the gender composition of each group. And, let me tell you, my colleagues and I practically leaped in air when we took a look.

So, let’s start with those veteran listeners – 63% are men and only 37% are women. Now, look at the rookies – 47% are men, but the majority, 53% are women.

This is the number excites me the most. It says we are at a tipping point! And, I feel it every day in my household. I have twin daughters – they are five. When we get in the car, the FIRST thing they ask is for me to turn on a podcast!

When asked if they might like music instead, they’ll choose the podcast every single time. And, as an aside, the content they choose is about a gal-powered as you can get.  I did a quickie content analysis on all their favorite shows and of their top shows eight of the ten feature a female host, co-host or in the case of a fictional podcast, a female protagonist.

So, while they may not qualify to take our survey for another seven years or so, I know their listening (and that of their peers), will help to rocket women listenership farther.

And, when women become listeners they are committed to the cause!

Women are listening to just about as many podcasts on average per week as men – 7.2 podcasts vs. 6.8 podcasts.  They also subscribe to just about as many podcasts as men (3.2 vs. 3.4 on average) but, more impressively, they are on average doing more hours of listening then men – 7.3 hours vs. 5.9 hours.

While women are less likely to download and listen to a podcast within 48 hours – 72% of women vs. 83% of men, they eventually listen to 76% of all the podcasts they download (same as men at 77%). Women are also a bit more likely to listen to the entire podcast (54% of women vs. 52% of men). And, again, super impressively, women are more likely to say they are listening to MORE podcasts than one year ago – 45% of women vs. 39% of men.

Now, why do women say they are listening to podcasts? We asked seven different reasons why they might listen and this is how they ranked:

And, everyone knows that women are the ULTIMATE multi-taskers. On any given Saturday, you can find me loading groceries out of my cart at checkout and responding to an urgent work email, while simultaneously leading my daughters in a sorting activity – red fruits in one bag, boxed items in another.

So, this next stat is right in line: 75% of men say they ever listen to a podcast while not doing anything else, while only 65% of women listeners say the same. So, women are a bit more likely to sometimes be multi-tasking while listening. They are consuming your content, while still going about their day-to-day. And to many of them, it’s the soundtrack of their day.

We recently talked to a group of moms about how they listen to podcasts and how it fits in to their daily lives.

Our next video brings up discovery – we know why women listen, but how is it that they discover what they are listening to. Let’s watch.

While women and men discover podcasts in many of the same ways, their primary means of discovery is quite different. Women are more likely to use “recommendations from friends and family” as their primary source of finding out about podcasts– 25% vs. 18% (#1 among women and #2 among men).

Women are social. They are far more likely overall to use social media and women podcast listeners are no exception. Women listeners are more likely to use ANY social media than men listeners – 96% vs. 87%, especially Facebook 80% vs. 58%,  Instagram 57% vs. 43% and  Pinterest 59% vs. 21%.

And, for podcast discovery social media really just becomes an extension of their recommendations from friends and family. Nineteen percent of women listeners use social media as their primary means vs. 14% (#2 among women and #3 among men). So, that means that 44% of women say their primary means of podcast discovery is via recommendations or social media compared to only 32% of men.

What’s the number one means of podcast discovery for men? Far and above, it’s searching the Internet. Over a third (34%) of men listeners say it’s the number one way that they discover new podcasts, while only 18% of women listeners use it as their primary means.

We also asked people what topics they would be interested in listening to on podcasts. And, while there are some commonalities here in the top ten (e.g music, news/information, entertainment/celebrity/gossip, history, mystery/thriller and true crime), what’s most striking here is that wellness/self-improvement tops the list for the type of content that women would be interested in listening to on podcasts. It’s number one for women and not even in the top ten for men. And, then, we have food at number three for women and again, not breaking the top ten for men.

And, while we learned before that women are well aware of all the content available out there, the Top Ten lists on both Apple, Spotify and Stitcher are not exactly reflecting the content preferences of women listeners.

Take a look at the Top Ten on Apple Podcasts.  I think we can say we have True Crime covered! Five of the top ten podcasts fall into that genre. Only ONE podcast makes the cut as a Wellness/Self-Improvement podcast and that’s The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos. And, that one just launched on September 17th – so fingers crossed it remains a success.

The next Wellness/Self-Improvement-related podcast doesn’t show up on the list until #21 and that’s Dax Sheppard’s ArmChair Expert. No where do I see a food-related podcast.

Same patterns on both the Spotify and Stitcher Top Twenty.

Equally as important as the content is the advertising included in each episode. And, while I know that many of you have not yet taken on advertisers yet, if you do, this is key. So, I end with a bit of a warning – maybe more of a challenge than a warning. In addition to understanding why and how they listen, I also felt compelled to understand how women perceive advertising on podcasts.

And, in my own humble opinion, advertisers don’t always do the best job in appealing to women on podcasts. So, when I saw this data (while it made me cringe), I was not surprised. Women are less likely to consider a brand advertised on a podcast than men. Only 38% of women vs. over half (52%) of men are at least somewhat likely to consider them.

At Edison Research, we host a Podcast Club (book club for podcasts) and our September listen was To Live and Die in LA. Their main advertiser was SimpliSafe –a security system for your home. Right on, right? Great connection between podcast about a murder and beefing up your home security so you feel safer.

But, another advertiser, who popped up later in the series, was For those of you who are unfamiliar, Zola is a wedding planning website. Women just LOVE hearing about a wedding planning site while unraveling the mystery of whether or not a man brutally murdered the woman with whom he was cheating in order to hide the affair from his fiancé.Cue the cringes of every woman in our Podcast Club.

But, there is a little light on this topic. And, it comes in the way of video we put together of women discussing audio advertising.

So, what does this tell us? For me, it’s simple. When a brand is properly aligned with a podcast and the execution is women-friendly, women can be equally as engaged with the advertising.

And, we know this from the dozens of brand lift studies we conduct every year. We’ve seen smashing successes when an advertiser takes the time to craft messaging that is relevant to the audience. But, we’ve also seen utter failures when an advertiser just repurposes advertising from another medium and doesn’t take the care to make it podcast-friendly.

So, not every advertiser belongs on every podcast. And, even if it is a product or service equally purchased by men and women, how that product is represented in a women-friendly podcast can and should be different. Tell the advertiser about your audience. You know who they are what they want to hear.


Let it be known that our differences as women hosts, producers, writers, editors (and market researchers) are our STRENGTHS. Being a woman involved in making all this content puts you in a powerful position to continue to move women’s listenership numbers in the right direction.

This is industry that is growing. As you saw, all the awareness and listening metrics have gone up, but there is still a gap between men and women. But, heck yea, rookie listeners are more likely to be women!

Let us not forget. Women are social creatures and they rely on their personal and social networks as their main means for discovery. Lean into that – create a community. If you are not already heavy on social, you need to increase your efforts there.

Also, that same listening gap between women and men is reflected pretty clearly in those Top Podcasts lists. We saw — women have different content preferences and the Top lists don’t yet mirror that. Let’s make sure we are producing what women want. Again, this is your strength. Women are undeniably going to be better at producing content for women.

And finally, advertising is just as important as the actual content. Push your sponsors to give you copy or the liberty to create copy that is appropriate for your listeners. Take on sponsors that speak to the desires of your audience. Sell to your advertisers that being a woman –producer gives you a leg up in knowing what women want.

For more on podcast research done by Edison Research, click here. 

Florida Voters and Climate Change

By Evan Amereihn

As the hurricane season comes to a close, it’s a natural time to take stock of how climate impacts voters and where voters stand on climate change.  Nationally, 57% of Americans say that climate change is a major threat, up from 40% in 2013, according to Pew Research Center.  The 2018 Exit Polls allows for a closer look at voters’ opinions on climate change in Florida – a state that may have more at stake than others as it contends with hurricanes, tropical storms, and rising sea levels.

66% of Floridian voters in 2018 and 65% in 2016 said that climate change is a serious problem, according to the Edison Research Exit Polls.  While the 2018 Exit Poll was conducted less than a month after a destructive category 5 hurricane hit Florida, voter concern changed little in the state from 2016 to 2018.

Just as a majority of Florida voters said that climate change is a concern, a majority of voters also indicated that they support additional government action on the problem. The 2018 Exit Poll found that almost 70% of voters said the government should do more to protect the Florida environment, while only a quarter said it was doing enough.

While it is primarily Florida Democrats who are championing government intervention, with 93% saying the government should do more, almost three quarters of Independents (73%) and nearly half of Republicans (49%) also agree with that sentiment.

While it is unsurprising that Democrats are more concerned about climate change than Republicans, it may be surprising that concern is similar across all age groups.  More than 60% of Florida 18-29 year olds, 30-59 year olds, and voters age 60 or older say that climate change is a serious problem, and concern among voters age 30 and older has increased since 2016, from 63% to 67%.

Florida will receive a lot of attention in 2020 as both a swing state and as a state at the forefront of climate change.  While there may be increasing attention on climate change, based on what we know from the Exit Polls in 2018, it is unlikely that any one extreme weather event will move the needle significantly on public opinion.

About Edison Research:
Edison Research conducts survey research and provides strategic information in over 50 countries for clients including AMC Theatres, AMC Theatres, Amazon, Apple, The Brookings Institute, Facebook, The Gates Foundation, Google, the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, Oracle, Pandora, The Pew Research Center, Samsung, Spotify, and SiriusXM Radio. The national tracking study The Infinite Dial® and the syndicated Share of Ear® are two of the most widely-cited studies in the audio space. Edison is also the leading podcast research company in the world and has conducted research for NPR, Slate, ESPN, PodcastOne, WNYC Studios, and many more companies in the podcasting space.  Edison’s network of more than 20,000 experienced interviewers allows the company to conduct research in almost any location. Since 2004, Edison Research has been the sole provider of Election Day data to the National Election Pool. For the 2020 U.S. elections, Edison will provide exit polls and will tabulate the national vote across every county in the United States for ABC News, CBS News, CNN, and NBC News.

Super Listeners 2019 from PodcastOne and Edison Research: Save the Date

Who Are Podcasting’s Super Listeners and Why Are They So Important?

Click here to reserve your space on Tuesday, October 22nd, 2 PM EDT for an informative webinar unpacking the results of the first Super Listener study from PodcastOne and Edison Research. PodcastOne CEO Peter Morris and Edison Research SVP Tom Webster will walk attendees through an exclusive look at podcasting’s heaviest listeners, their attitudes towards advertising, and how they view podcasting in the greater media landscape.

In every market there are avid users – the smaller number of consumers who account for the majority of demand. In the podcasting space, we call them ‘Super Listeners,’ those who spend multiple hours listening to podcasts each week.* These are the people most likely to hear podcasting ads and to really have an opinion about them. With both direct response and brand advertising increasing over the past few years, how do podcast consumers feel about the role of ads and commercial messages in the content they love?

To find out, PodcastOne and Edison Research have produced the first Super Listeners study to gauge consumer opinions on podcast advertising. These Super Listeners are more than just fans of the medium—they are exposed to more messages and ads than the average listener, and thus can serve as a kind of “early warning system” on the impact of advertising on podcasting.

We hope you will join us.

*Super Listeners listen to 5 or more hours of podcasting weekly

The Secret to Longer TSL

Edison Research Vice President Megan Lazovick presented the following at The Radio Show in Dallas on September 26, 2019 in conjunction with the Radio Advertising Bureau. 

We are proud that the RAB asked us to look into what radio can do to increase time spent listening. And note I said “Radio”.  This is not just about your station, this is about all of Radio. Because TSL is falling.  Everyone’s TSL is falling.  Even if your station’s share is strong, even if that share is actually growing, I can almost guarantee that your station has less aggregate TSL than it did one year ago, and I can fully guarantee this if we compare to five years ago.

This is a topic we seldom discuss as an industry. We try, smartly, to keep advertisers’ eyes on the incredible reach story and while our reach on most of our stations and on the medium, in general, remains resilient and robust…the time spent listening to radio overall is dropping.

It’s not that long ago when there were essentially only two real choices for listening to audio: the radio or a CD player.  Think about the proliferation of options since then – principally streaming, satellite radio, and podcasts or digital audiobooks.  Think of the devices that we all carry now that make listening to anything easier.  Radio TSL kind of had to fall.

Edison Research has been tracking radio’s “Share of Ear” as compared to all other forms of audio.  And the numbers tell a real story.

Radio’s “Share of Ear” currently stands at 44% of all listening.  If you compare AM/FM, including its streams, to all other things people might listen to, radio commands by far the biggest share at 44%.

But if you look at this data point by age groups a far more interesting story emerges.  Among those 55 years old and older 63% of all listening goes to radio.  This is the world as it once was, with radio completely dominant. Among 35-54-year-olds, forty-seven percent of listening goes to AM/FM radio and its streams. But the story really changes when we look at younger people.  Today’s 13 to 34-year-olds, who make up one-third of the 13-plus population, give 27 percent of their listening time to radio.  They still cume – they listen – they just listen a lot less.

You almost certainly have noticed this phenomenon when it comes to shares in any market.  When Nielsen publishes their six-plus ratings each month, Classic Rock, Greatest Hits, Mainstream AC, keep gaining share, and younger-targeted formats keep losing.  It’s not that long ago when the top station in pretty much EVERY market was a CHR.  Now it’s next to impossible to find a single market that IS led by a CHR.  In market after market the top station is playing music for Baby Boomers.

While the competition for radio is a challenge for all age groups, that competition, naturally is way worse among younger people.  So as the RAB requested, we have engaged in several research inquiries to try to look at what is going on with TSL.

We conducted a national survey to find out why radio listeners tune out. We ultimately fielded a study of 1067 adults age 18 and older in early September, but before we put it in the field we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss any important topics, so we first we went directly to listeners. We brought some younger radio fans – all under the age of 35 – into our offices in New Jersey and talked to them about their radio listening.  And you will see they are legit fans of radio.  Let’s meet them on this video and find out what the like about radio…

While young people made me feel great about the future of radio – mainly because they were really good at pointing out all things the medium does well, they also did something else. They were extremely helpful in outlining the reasons why people tune out of a radio station. So, we added their responses into a long list of reasons why people tune out and we went on to quantify those behaviors in our national survey.

We asked which of the following is a reason why you change the station? I should note that we did not include things like “arrived at destination” or “had to leave” in the answer options. Here is our full list of reasons, which is a lot to digest, so they are grouped into five different categories of tune out and we’ll review this data by each category.

The five categories of tune out are:
Seeking Specific Content
Music Preference

FORCED: There are some things that you as radio programmers do not have much control over. These are reasons that force your listeners to change such as driving out of the signal range. Or often in my case, little children in the back seat insisting I play Lady Gaga. 64% of listeners say bad signal is a reason the sometimes change the station and 30% say that having kids in the car is a reason. 

SEEKING SPECIFIC CONTENT: Changing from talk to music at 64%, or from music to talk at 43%.  Fifty-one percent say they have changed the station to listen to a specific program on another station. And 32% have changed for traffic updates. There’s not much you can do to address this category of tune out other than making sure you have incredible programs that people will want to switch to.

 MUSIC PREFERENCE: Seventy percent say they change when they don’t like the song, 68% when they don’t like the genre of music, 66% change based on their mood, and further down the list we see 56% say they change after hearing too many repeated songs. The best you can do to address music preference tune out is to do your music research and make sure that you have a strong enough relationship with your listener that even when they switch away they will remember to come back.

ENGAGEMENT: The number one item on this list of reasons people change is “Want to find something different” at 74%. Yes, we know there are people out there that like to switch. But, this is something you can tackle by engaging them. By grabbing them in the first few seconds of a talk break with something compelling and by making sure you are playing the best music. All of these other reasons might seem like behaviors that you have no control over, when in fact, they all fall under the not-engaged category: seeking variety at 67%, want to browse channels and hearing too much talk both at 65%, bored or lack of interest at 58%.

If you had the most engaging content would they really be seeking variety? If you are crafting your talk breaks with the most succinct, entertaining topics, would listeners think it was too much? I’m not going to pretend I can coach a better talk break. Tracy Johnson of Johnson Media Group gave a great webinar recently about avoiding tune out,  much of it which covered how to create more engaging programming. I highly recommend watching it.

But, here’s the thing. You could have the most engaging content out there for three-quarters of an hour, and if you have one-quarter of less-than-engaging commercials, you’re going to have tune out. And especially among young people, that tune out may not be to other stations in your cluster or other stations on the radio dial.  They might tune to Spotify, or Pandora, or a podcast.

59% of listeners say just the start of a commercial break is a reason to change the station. Sixty-six percent of listeners said that hearing too many commercials is a reason. Certainly this is not something an advertiser wants to hear. When we take the time to think about improving the content on our radio stations between the ads, shouldn’t we also take the time to think about improving the commercial breaks as well? I’ll come back to this topic, but first, this slide shows all the reasons for tune out. Let’s now look at what listeners say is the main reason.

When we asked the main reason why they change the radio station, responses in the engagement and music preference categories tied for first at 28% and commercials next at 19%.

But let’s look at the response by just the 18-34-year-olds. Here we see the problem of engagement jumps up to 35%, and that’s not so surprising given we often hear how attention spans have dropped with the younger generations. If you are targeting this group of listeners perhaps you should think about making everything shorter. Short talk breaks, songs with shorter radio edits, and dare I say, shorter commercials?




When we look at those age 35-54, we see that the 24 percent say commercials are the main reason they change the station. This group, the group more often advertisers’ target demo, is the group that is more likely to flip the station when a commercial comes on.






Conversely, when you look at adults age 55 and older, commercials are tied with the lowest percentage on the list at 13%. Adults age 55 and older are bit more tolerant of the commercials on radio, but also, perhaps, more likely to be listening to commercial-free radio. Music preference and engagement are highest on the list of reasons why they tune out.





So now that you’re familiar with some of the top reasons for tune out, I’d like to go back to the video of our young listeners. As you watch the video, listen for the top tune out categories I have outlined.

So we heard a few of our main tune out categories: “If I’m getting a little bored” (ENGAGEMENT) & “whenever a commercial comes on because no one likes those” (COMMERCIALS).

But here’s what really concerns me about that video. When they flip, many of them are flipping out of AM/FM radio. We know that people are used to flipping stations. It’s a behavior that many have said they even enjoy. The challenge for radio as an industry should be to keep the switchers within the medium. Keep them from switching to internet radio or owned music.

Let’s imagine a world where a person is not allowed to switch. We decided to do an experiment with the young radio listeners that we interviewed. We asked them to listen to some local radio, and we played for them a recording of the top of the 10am hour from one of the U.S. top market’s highest-rated stations.  We recorded their reactions and commentary as they listened. The unedited audio segment included almost eleven minutes of commercials and over two minutes of non-commercial content.

I want to stress that this type of commercial break is something that hundreds of stations do all the time. A huge number of radio stations around the country, especially in PPM markets, stack up incredibly long blocks of commercials in order to play long blocks of music or other content.

And there is another crucial point to be made here – what this station is doing is almost assuredly SMART.  Despite the complete, undeniable impossibility of listening to all of these commercials, or at least maintaining any level of concentration through them all, this is PPM-maximizing strategy: have long blocks of content to rack up the quarter hours, and then sacrifice an entire quarter-hour completely.  It’s like gerrymandering – you isolate the people who vote for the other party into a single district.

But, I urge you to sit down with your actual listeners and ask them to listen to that type of commercial break straight through and you’ll witness what we at Edison saw. Respondents shifted in their seats. They fidgeted. They would have switched away from the station, given the opportunity. One young man began scrolling on his phone. Participants simply could not believe a commercial break could last so long.

Perhaps you are asking, “What about all the NEW listeners that would be tuning during that long commercial break?” Sure there are, but, don’t let anyone tell you that tune-in balances tune-out and each commercial in a break will still get the same amount of listening.  This is a myth, based on a tricked-up study from over a decade ago. They used a train as an example, saying that when the train comes to a station, some people get off and at the same time more people will get on. That would be a great analogy if the train was the only form of transportation – but we know that’s not true today. People can use uber now! Today listeners can easily switch to Spotify, or Pandora, or a podcast, and as the young people in our video showed, plenty of people do.


Here we asked all of our survey respondents if you had to listen to commercials and couldn’t change the station, which of the following commercial breaks would you prefer to hear on AM/FM radio?

Now also in this fantasy world, we are only playing eight minutes of commercials in an hour, but we asked respondents to choose which they would like to hear in that one hour: between one commercial break lasting eight minutes, two commercial breaks each lasting four minutes, or four commercial breaks each lasting two minutes. Just under a quarter of listeners preferred what is the current norm on commercial radio – which is one long break per hour.

The very things we are currently doing to maximize TSL – to maximize an individual station’s share of the ratings – these terribly long commercials breaks – are driving down TOTAL TSL.

I maintain that in positioning around long blocks of content interrupted by long (sometimes amazingly long) blocks of commercials, we are hurting the radio industry itself.  Because remember it is called the COMMERCIAL radio industry.  The commercial radio industry mostly makes money from getting paid to play commercials.  Advertisements.  And…therein lies the problem.

We program our radio stations, and we think of our obligation, around playing commercials.  And I am here to argue that the single biggest thing we could do to reverse the downward trend in listening time, is to think of our jobs as getting people to hear commercials.

If you listen to almost any podcast, you hear them thanking the sponsors for supporting their show and imploring the listeners to use these products and services. Getting someone to listen to a commercial is good for the advertiser…and it can be good for the listeners.

We should CELEBRATE commercials.  We would showcase and feature them.  We should thank our sponsors and explain to our listeners that by supporting our sponsors they are supporting us.  How many stations do you hear these days doing the exact opposite?  Demonizing the commercials?  Ending a break by saying: “Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get back to the music.”  Just using the phrase “commercial-free” positions the commercials as a negative. And if you must do long sweeps of music, at the very least make it a true sponsored occasion.

If we had commercial ratings we would, let’s be honest, almost surely play fewer commercials – showcase them more – in an attempt to maximize listening to each one.  Is there any doubt that if we played fewer commercials the total TSL might go up?  I personally think there is no doubt at all that advertiser ROI would improve. Why do I feel this way?  I have a real-world example.

In 2016 truTV cut national commercial time by 50% for all new series episodes in primetime. Turner Research conducted a study to determine the effects of Limited Commercial Interruption.

The results were that cutting national commercial time by 50% led to significant effects:

– Viewers watched longer, enjoyed the programs more, and were more likely to watch other programs

– Fewer ads led to greater brand recall and higher incremental sales

There is your precedent if you need something to bring home in order to make this happen.

And there are other ways to make radio’s ads more impactful: one is by making sure they are relevant to your listeners. Zonecasting – which is a technology that allows a station to air locally targeted ads and content, for example, is a way that radio can better serve its advertisers and its listeners. Advertisers get more targeted ads, and listeners get ads relevant to their lives.

Also, if the goal is to get people to hear the ads, and maybe even like the ads, we should test them. Jerry Lee has been arguing for this forever.  He has offered to test commercials for free.  Instead, we have 22-year-old salespeople with no experience writing ad copy (through no fault of their own)!

We asked our young listeners what they might improve about the ads and they had a few good suggestions:

How much time do you spend thinking about how you can improve your shows? And how much time do you spend thinking about how you can improve the ads? I’d argue that you should be just as concerned about the talent working on the ads as you are the talent live on air.


Think about people leaving radio completely not just about people switching to another station in your cluster

Rethink the game from “playing commercials” to “getting people to hear commercials

Plan the best clock for your listeners AND your advertisers

Reduce commercial load

Incorporate creative sponsorships within your shows

Create engaging commercials

Hire the best talent to write copy

Test your commercials

It turns out the secret to longer TSL was not much of a secret after all. You probably knew this all along but were too shy to say it aloud. Serve your advertisers with the most creative, most engaging, smartly-placed ads. Your story is not about reach anymore. Your story is about having the most engaging content – before, during and after the ads – Every. Single. Quarter-hour. Not just three out of the four.

And please, let’s not keep this a secret any longer.

Click here to view The Secret to Longer TSL presentation.

The Infinite Dial South Africa 2019

The Infinite Dial®, the leading study on digital audio from Edison Research, debuted in South Africa last week as Edison Research President Larry Rosin presented the findings in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. The study was commissioned by South Africa’s National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Commercial Radio Committee and sponsored by Triton Digital, the global technology and services leader to the digital audio and podcast industry. 

Following an online presentation of  The Infinite Dial South Africa earlier today, the findings exploring digital audio, mobile, smart speakers, podcast consumption, and social media among South Africans living within the major metro commercial areas, covering the upper two of the three SEM Supergroups (or upper three of the five SEM Clusters), are now available for download.

Click here to download The Infinite Dial South Africa 2019

The Infinite Dial® research for South Africa is patterned on the longest-running survey (1998) of digital media consumer behavior in the USA and provides an up-to-date profile of the South African digital consumer.

Findings include:

    • 88% of the South African major metro commercial population own smartphones.
    • 68% of the South African major metro commercial population have listened to AM/FM radio in the last week.
    • 44% of radio listening at home by the South African major metro commercial population was done on a non-radio device.
    • 39% of the South African major metro commercial population have listened to online audio in the past month.
    • 22% of the South African major metro commercial population are aware of podcasting, and 19% of the population have ever listened to a podcast.

View a recording of the webinar here:

How the Study was Conducted:
In July 2019 Edison Research conducted in-person interviews with a total of 1,510 persons aged 15+ living in South Africa within the major metro commercial areas, covering the upper two of the three SEM Supergroups (or upper three of the five SEM Clusters). The data was weighted to reflect the gender, age, and race of this population. The purpose of the study was to explore the digital audio, social media, mobile, radio, and podcast habits of South Africans.

About Edison Research:
Edison Research conducts survey research and provides strategic information in over 50 countries for clients including AMC Theatres, AMC Theatres, Amazon, Apple, The Brookings Institute, Facebook, The Gates Foundation, Google, the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, Oracle, Pandora, The Pew Research Center, Samsung, Spotify, and SiriusXM Radio. The national tracking study The Infinite Dial® and the syndicated Share of Ear® are two of the most widely-cited studies in the audio space. Edison is also the leading podcast research company in the world and has conducted research for NPR, Slate, ESPN, PodcastOne, WNYC Studios, and many more companies in the podcasting space.  Edison’s network of more than 20,000 experienced interviewers allows the company to conduct research in almost any location. Since 2004, Edison Research has been the sole provider of Election Day data to the National Election Pool. For the 2020 U.S. elections, Edison will provide exit polls and will tabulate the national vote across every county in the United States for ABC News, CBS News, CNN, and NBC News.

About the National Association of Broadcasters of South Africa
The NAB is a voluntary association funded entirely by its members, comprising radio and television players in the public, community and commercial spheres. The NAB regularly engages with policy makers on behalf of its members in advocating for an enabling broadcasting environment that is robust and sustainable. It promotes an industry grounded in the principles of democracy, diversity and freedom of expression.  A wide range of organisations belong to the NAB and hundreds of individuals working in the broadcasting and associated industries involve themselves in its activities.

About Triton Digital
Triton Digital® is the global technology and services leader to the digital audio and podcast industry. Operating in more than 40 countries, Triton provides innovative technology that enables broadcasters, podcasters, and online music services to build their audience, maximize their revenue, and streamline their day-to-day operations. In addition, Triton powers the global online audio industry with Webcast Metrics®, the leading online audio measurement service and Podcast Metrics, one of the first IAB certified podcast measurement services in the industry. With unparalleled integrity, excellence, teamwork, and accountability, Triton remains committed to connecting audio, audience, and advertisers to continuously fuel the growth of the global online industry.  Triton Digital is a wholly owned subsidiary of The E.W. Scripps Company (NASDAQ: SSP). For more information, visit