The world of online radio in general and podcasting in particular are seeing major growth, according to recent data from Pew Research Center. But in podcasting, there’s still plenty of room for things to improve, especially in terms of advertising and analytics.
As a medium, podcasting may have just hit a breaking point. And if your association has been sitting on the sidelines, now might be a good time to take a listen.
A recent fact sheet from the Pew Research Center, based on statistics from a Edison Research and Triton Digital survey of radio listening, says podcasting is starting to reach new heights as a medium.
Podcasting was once a niche medium that only about 10 percent of the U.S. population had used. Now, 40 percent of Americans say they’ve listened to a podcast at some point in their life—the largest reporting number since Edison Research started tracking the statistic in 2006. Additionally, nearly a quarter of Americans over the age of 12 (24 percent) say they’ve listened to a podcast in the last month—a high for the survey and roughly double the rate in 2013.
The most successful podcast network, of course, is NPR, which reported 3.5 million weekly downloads in 2016, a jump of 1 million from the prior year.
While a relatively small percentage compared with the U.S. population that listens to terrestrial radio broadcasts each week—a number that has steadily stayed above 90 percent since 2009—it does reflect something of a breaking point for podcasting.
Online radio as a whole, which includes services like Pandora on top of podcasts, is also showing major signs of success, with more than half of Americans (53 percent) listening to all forms of online radio weekly, and 61 percent listening to online radio each month.
The most popular format for online radio listening is on phones in cars, which 40 percent of cellphone owners say they’ve done.
The Economic Picture
While podcasting seems to be an increasingly mainstream endeavor, there are some things that could improve with the medium over time—including the advertising picture. As Acast cofounder Karl Rosander wrote in a MediaPost op-ed this month, podcasting is expected to generate $200 million in advertising revenue this year, a drop in the bucket compared with the $33 billion streaming audio market.
(Of course, a $200 million ad industry is nothing to shake a stick at, either—and associations could gain some perks from podcasts as a source of nondues revenue.)
Part of the problem has been an unclear analytics picture, which has many in the industry keeping a close eye on a recent move by Apple. The company announced this month that it would expand the data it releases to podcast publishers. This move could potentially help or harm the industry, letting publishers know whether their audiences are listening all the way through, along with whether users are skipping ads in podcasts.
But either way, it could help the industry’s long-term development, as Nicholas Quah of Vulture recently explained:
The new analytics are something many in the industry, particularly those looking to scale up their businesses and build out media empires, have been seeking for a while now, because such metrics will potentially enable producers to overcome the roadblock that is believed to be preventing more advertising money from flowing into the space: credible measurement accountability, and probably a more reliable general knowability of just how much listening is actually happening within a podcast episode.
Whether those additional analytics, and the more-in-depth picture they encourage, lead to more ad dollars in the podcasting space, one thing is clear: It’s a sign of a continually maturing medium.