Podcast audience growing after years of stagnation

Interesting bit of news related to podcasting this morning.

eMarketer announced that the 2007 podcast audience reached 18.5 million active users. It’s good to take any projection with an ounce of skepticism, but the same study estimates the 2112 podcast audience at 25 million.

When you start segmenting that audience, however, it’s hard to see how the average newspaper podcast garners enough regular listeners to drive sufficient revenue.

That’s no reason not to try, however, but more on that below.

One question not answered by eMarketer is how they define podcast. To many people, podcasts are more than audio shows, but include episodic video as well.

Could video be driving podcast growth?

I know I prefer video “podcasts” to audio, but that could be just me.

Video, however, seems to represent great revenue opportunity because of the larger overall audience for online video and the visual nature of video advertising.

Either way, newspapers should tread lightly here. It’s one thing to take the lo-fi approach with illustrative video, or even periodic story video. It’s an entirely different matter with episodic audio or video.

Any time you expect an audience to develop a habit for a regularly scheduled shows, quality is paramount — and it’s not just production quality. The content must be engaging and the talent behind it must be finely honed. The demand for top-notch on-air audio and video talent will only grow as podcasting grows.

That talent isn’t likely to come from traditional broadcast, because of the more informal nature of online media, which is a mystery to highly trained professionals from traditional media.

In other words, these growth numbers, if true and they hold, represent opportunity for newspaper companies and journalists willing to try new things.

6 thoughts on “Podcast audience growing after years of stagnation

  1. Howard,

    I personally strongly prefer audio podcasts to video and many of the top podcasts on iTunes are audio podcasts. The reason?

    I like to listen to podcasts while I am on the go or while I am doing something else. I might be doing chores in my apartment or listening to a podcast while I work. It’s kind of similar to what many people do with radio.

    There is money to be made with podcasts, but only with good ones. Most newspaper podcasts really suck and have no chance of making money. They suffer from inside the box thinking.

    Like I honestly want a podcast that tells me the biggest stories of the day, but doesn’t actually go into detail about the stories. Podcasts like that are supposed to drive traffic to the actual written stories, but podcasts like that just cause me to never listen again.

    Newspapers need to listen to Buzz Out Loud (http://reviews.cnet.com/8300-11455_7-10.html?tag=cnetfd.pdcst). It’s CNET’s premiere podcast, and it has built quite an audience. It goes over some of the biggest tech stories of the day, but instead of merely just rehashing them (most BOL listeners already know them), it discusses and explains the stories. A lot of tech stories are hard to understand in written form, but having knowledgeable people discuss them can be very helpful.

    I listen to several podcasts regularly. None of them are from newspapers.

  2. Personally, I love the odd video peppering my (mostly) audio podcasts. Podcasting does not equal radio, it’s a different medium and has it’s own ideal uses.

  3. I’ll echo Pat Thornton in expressing my preference for audio podcasts over video, for much the same reason. I use my iPod primarily while driving, while riding my bike, or while at the gym. Hard to watch video in any of those instances.

    I’ve tried newspaper podcasts over the last two years, and unsubscribed from all but one: New York Times Music Popcast. It’s the only newspaper podcast I’ve experienced that strikes me as leveraging the medium to any significant degree. But I also have to admit that news headline podcasts don’t do anything for me (with apologies to Amy Gahran, who incidentally reecntly wrote some good recommendations for improving newspaper podcasts). My preferred podcast genres intersect quite directly with my music, food and sports passions.

    Maybe the lack of newspaper podcasts that tap into such passions is more of an indictment of our newsroom cultures than I’d previously realized. Perhaps in addition to creating more content that is useful and helpful to the everyday lives of our readers, we also need to better tap into their passions — via podcast or otherwise.

  4. I think these comments are getting at something important that is often overlooked: The pod. You can’t expect people to download headlines and sit in front of a computer to listen to “radio.” Podcasts have always been for a specific audience with a specific purpose: Time-shifting thoughtful entertainment to a part of their day when they’re on the move, jogging, working out, between classes, on the subway. It’s not efficient to download and time-shift breaking news headlines once in the morning for listening to later in the day.

    It would be good to think of this with print as well: In what part of the day do your readers want to pick you up, and what else do they have in their hands at that moment?

  5. I also echo Pat’s comments about preferring audio over video podcasts. I listen to two or three news podcasts in morning while checking my e-mail and Google Reader, eating breakfast, etc. before I go to class or the newsroom.

  6. How to predict the growth of something we can’t measure? Podcast is download, no more than “hits”. i m afraid nobody can give any proof of the real usage.

Leave a Reply