2018 was a banner year for podcasting, as the number of Americans who say they have listened to at least one podcast reached more than half the population for the first time.
In this special two-part episode of AudioMag, we hear insights on the podcast industry from Tom Webster, Senior Vice President at Edison Research; Chris Boyce, Co-Founder of Pacific Content; and Dan Misener, Pacific Content’s Head of Audience Development. Through these conversations we unpack audience data and take a close look at best practices for podcast production.
Edison Research has been tracking podcasting data since 2006. Every year they release a report called the Infinite Dial that tracks spoken word content across platforms like iTunes, YouTube and Spotify. Over the years growth has been slow and steady, but that changed in 2018 when the percentage of Americans aged 12+ who said they had ever listened to a podcast increased from 44% to 51%.
“Podcasting has never really been a rapidly growing medium. It’s grown steadily 2 to 3 percentage points per year since it started but this past year we saw a discontinuous jump in terms of the percentage of people who say they’ve ever listened to a podcast or the percentage who are the more regular listeners,” says Tom Webster. “So it’s really the first time of history in tracking we’ve seen that kind of growth curve—a real milestone.”
That 51% covers those who say they have listened to a podcast—and that could be just one podcast or it could be more depending on the individual.
“But more important are the increases in the percentage of more regular consumers. So we look at monthly and weekly listening. The percentage of people listening in the last month has gone from 26% to 32%. That’s 90 million Americans. So it’s absolutely become a much larger part of America’s media diet,” says Webster.
Weekly listenership also rose from 17% to 22% of Americans. In real numbers that’s 62 million Americans every week listening to a podcast.
With more listeners moving into the podcasting space, publishers as well as brands are getting in on the action. But creating a program that listeners will connect with takes resources and a solid strategy.
“You have to ask a bunch of questions up front. Who is the podcast for? What is the intended audience of this? It’s hard to create something if you don’t know who’s going to be listening,” says Chris Boyce, co-founder of Pacific Content, a production company that makes podcasts with brands that was recently acquired by Rogers Media.
Creating shows that people want to listen to takes a lot of work up front in order to figure out what to make. Not thinking through fundamental questions around who your podcast is for and what kind of content it will be made of can lead to failure.
“When I talk to people who tried making a podcast and ran into trouble, I think where they ran into trouble is they didn’t think through before they started what they wanted to make and why and all those fundamental [questions] around strategy,” Boyce explains.
For magazine publishers, who have been partnering with brands for years to create native content, the approach is similar on the editorial front. Knowing who your intended audience is and building your programming around that audience is something that needs to be considered at the very beginning of the process.
“Not starting with an idea of who you want to reach from the very beginning and having a very clear idea of who you want to reach at the very beginning is a recipe for disappointment down the line,” says Dan Misener, Pacific Content’s Head of Audience Development. “So I guess the biggest challenge is shows’ producers and publishers who don’t think about audience development early enough in the process or consider it sort of a second or third step—the thing you do after your show is already made, which I completely advise against.”
Although there has been a significant jump in the number of people who listen to podcasts, there’s still a huge segment of the population who haven’t made podcast listening a part of their lives. Dan Misener sees a real upside for publishers when it comes to developing bigger audiences.
“I think it is challenging but there’s huge opportunity in taking an existing audience you have and introducing them to the medium of podcasting. That is where opportunity is. If you have an existing media property and people are passionate about that—running, food, sports—the opportunity for magazine publishers is to be many peoples first introduction to the medium. That is a powerful place to be,” says Misener.
AudioMag is produced by Tina Pittaway, an award-winning independent writer and broadcaster. Tina has been a contributor to CBC Radio and Television for more than 20 years. Her radio documentaries have been recognized with honours from the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, the New York Festivals, Amnesty International and the Gabriel Awards. Visit Tina online at tinapittaway.com to learn more about her work.
AudioMag is made possible with the support of Ontario Creates.
Magazines Canada acknowledges the support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage, as well as the Canada Council, for this project.