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Notes on the Podcast Consumer 2019

Seven findings that really stood out to me.

ICYMI: Edison Research dropped its Podcast Consumer 2019 report — which builds upon and adds to the Podcast section of its annual Infinite Dial research — yesterday afternoon, and as always, there are things you’d probably want to sift through in there.

I’ll put together some thoughts for Tuesday’s newsletter, but for now, I’d like to flag seven findings that really stood out to me:

1. The vast majority (75%) of Americans who are aware of podcasts, but have never listened, say their reason for not listening is “Podcasts just aren’t for you.” I thought Edison SVP Tom Webster rightly pointed out that this is largely an issue of branding and consumer education — and perhaps, I might add, something that touches upon the broad public identity of the medium. Though, I do wonder what happens if we sought to transpose this reasoning framework to other niche-transitioning-to-mainstream media formats, past and present: “Blogs just aren’t for you.” “Video games just aren’t for you.” “Web comics just aren’t for you.” What do we learn from this transposition?

2. The demographics of podcast consumers were understood to have shifted slightly more male and white this year. However, the presentation emphasized that we need another year to see if this becomes a longer-term trend. Still, 🤔

3. A pretty healthy portion of monthly podcast listeners have tried listening on Spotify — and Pandora. 43% for Spotify, and 35% for Pandora. Which might come to a surprise for some folks; I’ve heard a ton of Pandora-skepticism over the past few weeks whenever I’ve raised their name within the context of discussing the Spotify deals.

4. The top three sources that monthly podcast listeners use to discover new podcasts: “Searching the Internet” (73%); “Social media posts” (67%); and Recommendations from Friends/Family (66%). Webster argued, again rightly I think, that the “Searching the Internet” response highlights the very lane that Google’s podcast efforts can properly tap into.

5. The three sources of podcast discovery on the lower end: “iTunes music store/Google Play” (45%); “Recommendations found in publications” (41%); and “Recommendation by apps with personalization” (40%). Note that this certainly does not mean that these are the three “worst” or “least” effective discovery points for listeners — the worst ones, I imagine, are those that aren’t even mentioned. I’m laying this out more as a matter of relative scale.

Two quick things: firstly, I think this can be read as a spread of opportunity, that the Apple Podcast and Google Play directories, publications, and apps are currently useful for discovery…. but can be so much more meaningful for browsing listeners. Secondly, and I’m not entirely sure if this is the right framework to perceive this spread, but I see these two data points as an expression of how podcast publishers have more power to directly connect with new listeners themselves — by properly gasping SEO (Searching the Internet), by mastering social media (Social Media Posts), by tapping into their existing audiences (Friends/Family) — than having to rely on pushing intermediaries (Apple Podcasts, Publications, Third-Party Apps).

Of course, the other way to read this is by saying: Podcast Publishers have fully tapped their own networks for more listeners, and so they need to better activate intermediaries. Depends on how you look at it, I guess.

6. I love this: 70% of monthly podcast listeners say that they sometimes listen to podcasts without doing anything else, highlighting the deep engagement of the medium. I thought it was just me…

7. The topic that monthly podcast listeners are most interested in: Music (39%). Followed closely by News and Information (36%) and Entertainment/Celebrity/Gossip (32%). Shout-out to Who? Weekly. True Crime sits at 28%. There are three topic citations that I think can represent Fiction Podcasts as we know it: Adult Fiction (16%), Drama (19%), and Fantasy/Sci-Fi (21%), though I imagine Fantasy/Sci-Fi can equally apply to culture fandom podcasts like The Greatest Generation and Binge Mode. The way to view this, of course, is how respondents might interpret these buckets, as opposed to what those buckets are inherently supposed to mean, if such a thing can be defined.

Okay, bigger picture thoughts on Tuesday. Let’s move on.