Steve Goldstein: Why Isn’t Podcasting Bigger?

steve goldstein press march 2015 canvasSteve Goldstein’s Amplifi Media works with media companies and podcasters in developing audio content strategies. This column was originally published on Blogstein, the Amplifi blog.

Often we read a blog or tweet asking “Why isn’t Podcasting bigger?”

Indeed, it is becoming bigger.  But the lens needs to be adjusted properly to see the growth.

Music and spoken word are generally presented together as “audio.” Podcasting, is a subset of spoken word.

So, let’s separate.

As one might guess, Americans spend more time listening to music than spoken audio.  Music can be consumed in the background, while speech usually requires the ability to ‘lean-forward’ and listen with intent.  For the overwhelming majority of people, the available time for the involved listening that speech (Talk shows, podcasts, sports, newscasts, etc.) requires is significantly less than what is available for music.

Edison Research’s “Share of Ear®” study measures time spent with all forms of audio. Overall, music accounts for 79% of time and speech 21%. That means spoken audio is roughly one-fifth of all audio listening time, and taking the Edison data down one more level,  the average American (age 13 and older) listens to about 48 minutes of speech-audio per day.

That’s a lot.

When one drills into the speech-audio market, where podcasting lives, we see that it has quickly made a significant mark.  Podcasting has quickly taken 10% of the speech-audio market.

Importantly, that number rises sharply when focusing on millennial and teen listeners.  Among 13-34 year olds, fully 29% of speech goes to podcasting.  That is approaching a remarkable 1/3 of all spoken word audio among younger listeners.  This more than suggests habits are being formed now that will likely impact audio listening of all forms.


Broadcast radio, with its hundred-year head start, is the biggest player in the space — talk radio, news, and sports stations — and satellite radio is a factor.  But podcasting is rapidly transforming the spoken word space from its historical form as a river of content that listeners dip their cups into as it flows along, to an on-demand medium that provides the exact content they are seeking at the time they wish to listen.

In a short period of time, podcasting has grabbed a sizable portion of the speech based market.

As technology becomes easier with smartphones, voice assist devices such as Amazon’s Echo become more prevalent and infotainment systems in cars become friendlier, podcasting is poised to grow more rapidly.

Thanks to Edison’s Larry Rosin for the data and inspiration.  

Steve Goldstein