The Podcast Consumer · April 24, 2008

The Podcast Consumer Revealed 2008

By Edison Research

The Podcast Consumer Revealed 2008 is the third study in this annual series on podcast consumption, and contains data derived from the 2008 Arbitron/Edison Media Research Internet and Multimedia study. Highlights of this study were originally presented on April 16th at ad:tech SF, as a part of the Association for Downloadable Media’s “Get The Download” event.


Principle Findings:

The audience for both audio and video podcasts has grown tremendously since last year. Americans indicating that they have ever downloaded and listened to an audio podcast grew from 13% to 18%, while video podcast consumption grew from 11% to 16%. Furthermore, 9% of Americans have downloaded and listened to an audio podcast in the past month, a figure that equates to 23 million Americans. Over one in five Americans have ever downloaded and consumed either an audio or video podcast.

Podcast listeners enjoy additional listening opportunities. The time spent listening to all forms of online audio for podcast listeners is approximately 90 minutes longer per week than it is for other online audio consumers. While some of this may be due to increased interest in audio content in general, at least part of this increased listening is attributable to additional listening occasions and opportunities in settings where online audio was not previously consumed. The portability of podcasts has enabled new contexts and environments for listening to downloadable audio.

Podcast consumers are extremely attractive advertising targets, though difficult to reach via traditional interruption models. Podcast users are far more likely to have attained at least a college degree, and are also more likely to live in households earning in excess of $75,000 per year, than Americans who have not consumed podcasts. Furthermore, Americans who have watched or listened to a podcast are more frequent online shoppers and spend more money online than other Americans. Podcast listeners and viewers are also far more likely to block pop-up ads, SPAM, and use non-traditional means to view television.

Podcast consumers are heavily involved with social networking. Over a quarter of persons 12+ who have ever consumed an audio/video podcast have a profile on MySpace, and the percentage of podcast consumers with profiles on other social networking sites is significantly higher than the percentage of non-podcast consumers. Podcast consumers also spend markedly more time on the Internet every day than the average American.


Implications and analysis

Podcasting is a viable alternative means to target attractive consumers who are otherwise proving difficult to reach with traditional advertising. Consumers who go through the process of selecting a program (rather than passively consuming whatever is on traditional media), downloading it and potentially moving it to a portable device are exhbiting an increased level of engagement with the programs and hosts of the shows they select. This engagement may translate to an increased credibility and level of trust in the show’s sponsors and advertisers. Further research should be conducted in this area to quantify this potential lift and engagement in order to properly value podcast advertising beyond simple reach and frequency metrics.

Podcasters should consider lifestyles, context and even potential ‘dayparting’ for their audiences. One of the great benefits of podcasts is that they can be consumed anywhere, at the users’ convenience. As a result, much of the messaging around podcast usage has to date centered around that convenience. However, podcast producers might also consider ‘educating’ their audiences to listen to or watch their content at specific times or in specific places. “Training” audiences, for example, to listen to a lawn-care podcast while mowing their lawn, or a podcast for commuters featuring custom traffic and quick dinner tips to be synced just before leaving the workplace provide a context and appointment to ensure that media which can be consumed “any old time” is consumed at a certain time, every time. Creating appointment media has been a foundation of broadcast radio and tv for decades; there is no reason why podcast producers can’t generate the same immediacy and relevance for downloadable media in order to create powerful associations and build habits.

Take lessons from broadcast media and improve production, staging and create true ‘theatre of the mind.” While there will always be listeners who will ignore poor audio quality, confusing numbers of voices and unscripted rambling, podcasters interested in attracting and delivering and audience for advertisers would do well to remember that the consideration set for podcast listeners now includes extremely well-produced downloadable media from sources like NPR, ESPN and the BBC. Production quality is more important than ever as more and more well-produced content fights for space and time between the earbuds.

Remember the ‘Mid-Tail.’ There are many podcasts serving the countless niches enabled by the ‘Long Tail’ capacity of the Internet, as first noted by Wired editor Chris Anderson in his book of the same name. However, there is tremendous opportunity for well-produced, commercial quality podcasts serving the “mid-tail”; formats and topics that may not be mass-appeal enough to be supportable at the local level by a broadcast radio station, for example, but could generate very sizable audiences nationally or globally. Podcasts for affinity groups like ‘parrotheads’ (fans of Jimmy Buffet) or BMW drivers, for instance, have enormous potential to aggregate audiences significantly larger than most ‘long-tail’ propositions, and be valuable advertising targets as well.

Download the complete presentation (PDF) here.

The Arbitron/Edison Internet and Multimedia Study 2008

For this national study, a total of 1,857 people were interviewed to investigate Americans’ use of various forms of traditional, online and satellite media. From January 18 to February 15, 2008, telephone interviews were conducted with respondents age 12 and older chosen at random from a national sample of Arbitron’s Fall 2007 survey diarykeepers. In certain geographic areas (representing eight percent of the national population), a sample of Arbitron diarykeepers was not available for the survey, and a supplemental sample was interviewed through random digit dialing.

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