New Data: The Mainstreaming Of Podcasts

steve goldstein press march 2015 canvasSteve Goldstein was EVP of Saga Communications for nearly three decades. He left Saga last year to start Amplifi, a new podcast company. This column was originally published on Blogstein, the Amplifi blog.

Ah, the velocity of change.  Sometimes it is eye-popping, as is the case with the growth in podcasting.

In a relatively short period of time, podcasting has gone from an arcane and difficult download to a computer followed by an upload to an iPod, to a mainstream media choice which 21% of Americans used last month. That’s a remarkable year-over-year increase of 24% according to new Edison Research/Triton Digital data just released.  That translates to 57 million Americans. To put that number in perspective,  32% of people in the U.S. listened to Pandora last month.

As podcast content becomes more mass appeal, and the technological barriers give way to easier listening on smartphones, the trajectory for audio on-demand seems clear.

Today, over 70% of podcasts are listened to on a smartphone. Just 3 years ago, 60% were listening on a computer.

One of the more interesting nuggets in this report is how people listen to podcasts. It is rapidly migrating from downloads to a click and listen model. In essence, people are streaming the content.  That’s a game changer.

A big finding, which should cause consternation in radio stations, is what happens when someone becomes a podcast listener. Their use of linear radio drops in half from 54% to 25% while podcasting becomes their prime audio choice at 32%.  Eye-popping.

About a month ago, I shared data from Edison Research’s “Share of Ear” study which shows that 1 out of 5 minutes (20%) of all audio consumption comes from the smartphone. That’s today. Not some time in the future.  And that’s before the connected car really takes off.  For radio, that’s problematic as few companies have built a strategy that gives them presence on smartphones.  Eye-popping.


Let’s get this one out of the way once and for all.  Of late, I have seen several posts and articles from pundits questioning the value of the name “podcasting.”  With over half the US population now aware of the term, let’s move on.  It’s called podcasting.  Go focus on bigger problems such as why Grape Nuts are called Grape Nuts, when they are neither grapes nor nuts.

57 million listening monthly certainly makes podcasting mass appeal.  This may make it more vivid – some 25% of adults 25-54 are now listening monthly. Certainly it skews younger, but the trend line is clear.  Eye-popping.

Podcasting is rapidly moving from downloading to streaming. It’s all about the intense combination of choice and control married to instant gratification. It is a similar arc to the way people view TV today. 60% of users are selecting and then listening to a podcast right away. There are numerous deployment tactics and strategies to think about with this finding.  When you launch and how a podcast is promoted, may make a big difference.  Eye-popping.

For those who download, advertisers want to know the time frame between a download and a play.  Over half are listened to within 24 hours of downloading, so if an advertiser is running a limited time sale or something similar, the recency of play works nicely.

Much of podcast content is consumed in the home. In a previous blog, I contrasted that with the number of people who report they do not have a radio in their home (among millennials, 1 out of 3 do not).  For them, podcasting is the new radio.  And, as the connected car proliferates, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto become more of a thing, the 21% currently listening in the auto will likely increase.

The full Edison/Triton study is available here and has more goodies including some tasty demographic data.

Thanks to Tom Webster, who always does an excellent job presenting with clarity, especially when it is eye-popping data.

Steve Goldstein