Is Podcasting a Passing Fad or the Place to Be?

As with any new technology or content medium, podcasting faces frequent and often opposing questions, most centrally: Is podcasting a passing fad or the place to be?

Andreesen Horowitz released a comprehensive 2019 research report, addressing many of the questions. Among their findings:

  • In the world of podcasting, the flywheel is spinning: new technologies including AirPods, connected cars, and smart speakers have made it much easier for consumers to listen to audio content, which in turn creates more revenue and financial opportunity for creators, which further encourages high-quality audio content to flow into the space.”
  • “Over the course of the last 10 years, podcasts have steadily grown from a niche community of audiobloggers distributing files over the internet, to one-third of Americans now listening monthly and a quarter listening weekly.”
  • People are already spending a lot of time on podcasts, and it’s growing: listeners are consuming 6+ hours per week and consuming more content every year.”
  • The demographic of podcast listeners is not your average American. Roughly half of podcast listeners make $75,000 or more in annual income; a majority have a post-secondary degree; and almost one-third have a graduate degree.
  • Current headlines about podcasts today hail them as the next major content medium, describing them as “suddenly hot,” as the next battlefield for content, and as an “antidote” for our current news environment.

Edison Research Infinite Dial 2019 data:

  • Audience quality: Age (18-55: 74%); Income (29% have median household income > $100K; 12% > $150K); Education (28% some grad school or advanced degree; 53% four-year college degree or more)
  • Attention: They’re consumed without distraction: Driving, walking dog, exercising, cooking, or even doing nothing (70% of monthly listeners say they sometimes listen to podcasts without doing anything else)
  • Loyalty: Listen-through rates (87% listen to most or all of podcast); brand influence (54% of consumers “somewhat” or “much” more likely to consider brands they hear advertised on podcasts)
  • Intentionality: They’re passive, in that the audience just listens (for now); but they’re active and intentional in that the audience must choose to download and push play (WSJ: “The podcast business is posting a tidy 18% compound annual growth rate for weekly listeners.”)
  • Topicality: The pertinent question isn’t: “Are there too many podcasts?” but rather: “Are there too many podcasts for the topic in which I’m interested?” Edison Research 2019: “65% of consumers would listen to more podcasts if more podcasts were available on topics interested in.”

Bottom line: Podcasts are uniquely personal experiences; you’re almost literally in the listener’s head. Listeners want more. And once you’re there, it’s a powerful place to be and stay.

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