Podcasts Attracting Well-Healed Millennials

Audience Insights' Jeff Vidler
Audience Insights' Jeff Vidler

Jeff Vidler's market research firm Audience Insights has just published its latest "Radio on the Move" findings that focuses on the growth of podcast listening. It is a niche market that is growing and, surprisingly, is attracting audiences that currently lies outside the reach of mainstream, commercial radio.

There’s a lot of buzz around podcasts these days. And why not? Given the way Netflix and YouTube have revolutionized TV, you would think on-demand audio programs would be a no-brainer.

Yet it’s only recently that podcasts have commanded much attention. Or that much listening. In our most recent Radio on the Move study of more than 2,000 Canadian drivers/passengers, in-car podcast listening is showing steady if unspectacular growth—8% say they have listened in the past week, up from 5% five years ago. Edison Research, surveying a broader base in the U.S., shows somewhat more robust growth—with 13% of Americans listening to podcasts in any location, up from 10% last year.

The advertiser potential is certainly promising. Podcasts attract a young, well-educated audience, many of whom lie outside the reach of mainstream commercial radio. In Radio on the Move, in-car podcast listeners are more likely to listen to public radio and niche radio formats and are less likely to devote their in-car listening to AM/FM radio. That means podcasting also offers the opportunity for content-rich broadcasters to extend their reach into new market segments and/or those targets where they may be losing traction.

What’s the secret sauce for podcast content? Season 1 of the “Serial” podcast got due credit as a major content breakthrough. It certainly ignited industry interest in the medium. But the truth is more complicated. Season 2 of “Serial” was nowhere near as successful (swamped perhaps by “Making of a Murderer” on Netflix).  The current reality is that podcasting, at least as it now stands, represents the very definition of a long-tail medium. When we asked listeners to podcasts and streamed audio programs which shows they listen to most often, only eight programs were mentioned by 1% or more of all listeners—the most popular shows were “This American Life” and “TED Talks,” each receiving a whopping 2% of all mentions. It’s a diverse universe that extends from public radio shows to comedy, and pretty much all points in between.

What’s the next breakthrough for podcasting? Will it be a new content frontier, an easier way to consistently access the shows you want to listen to, and/or new branding that frees “podcasting” from its association with what’s rapidly becoming the eight-track of 21st century audio technology, the iPod? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered before on-demand audio programs can fulfill their obvious promise.  

-- Further data extrapolations can be found via a slideshow published by Audience Insights HERE