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Having been around for only a little over 10 years, podcasts are still a relatively “new” part of our business.  Only in recent years, though, have we seen podcasts achieve what some might term mass market appeal.  The financial story, with some estimates touting that podcast advertising will hit 1 billion USD in 2020, further underscores how podcasting has grown into a successful business model for our industry.  As consumer researchers, the team at Global Media does not envision this level of growth stopping any time soon.  As of 2019, 41% of monthly podcast listeners say that they listen to podcasts more often now as compared to one year ago.  While we are seeing growth across all demographics, many are pointing to consumers between the ages of 12 and 24 as the biggest users of podcasts.


For advertisers, podcasts offer various advantages such as the ability to target a very specific demographic, increased website traffic, brand visibility, and content marketing variety, e.g. The Trader Joe’s Podcast.  For the purposes of this article, though, we wanted to focus more on the appeal that consumers have for podcasts.  First and foremost, consumers say that they appreciate the versatility and informative nature of podcasts.  Additionally, here are some of the top factors that we consistently see in our research of podcast consumers that seem to be major contributors to the success in podcasting:


Convenience: Listeners appreciate the convenience that podcasts offer.  Audio files are a uniquely flexible format that’s particularly easy to access via a mobile device.  As Steve Jobs once said, podcasting is the “TiVo for radio” whereby listeners can enjoy their podcasts anywhere, even when they are driving.  All of our research underscores this key listening benefit with roughly ¼ of listeners reporting that they tune in to podcasts in their car nearly every day.


Time-Bound: The ideal (and average) duration of a podcast is podcast is between 25 to 30 minutes.   Listeners appreciate this efficiency and knowing how much time they need to invest in something like a podcast.  A 25 to 30-minute podcast serves that purpose and it’s also roughly equivalent to how much time the average American spends commuting from home to work and vice versa.  This is a win-win!


Connectivity: Podcasts offer a sense of community and connection.  In our qualitative testing, we resoundingly hear that listeners say that they tune into podcasts to gain “a daily dose of personal connection.”  Podcasts offer an intimate form of communication in which listeners can bond with people of similar interests in a way that is different from their interaction with other types of audio entertainment.


An endless bounty of topics and subject material: Most podcasts are tailored to niche audiences: whoever you are…a gardening enthusiast, a wine lover, someone with a passion for unsolved mysteries, or a digital marketing guru, there are countless podcasts tailored specifically to your area of interest.  This particular competitive advantage is a primary driver as to why podcasts have had such strong appeal to advertisers; they can target their marketing to a very specific audience in a way that traditional radio struggles to do.


Ability to Multitask: Again, we often hear that a great benefit to podcasts is that they can be consumed while working, cleaning, exercising, cooking, taking a bath, etc.  Relative to visual mediums like broadcast television and outlets like Netflix, this is an important competitive advantage that we in the radio industry would be wise to exploit.  As iHeart Media's Bob Pittman recently espoused "Americans can listen to audio while engaging in other activities - cooking, working out, driving - while video is constrained by the notion that the consumer has run out of time for their eyes."


Less Time in Front of a Screen:  Similarly, as per a survey conducted recently by Spotify, one in three respondents said that they listen to podcasts because they are screenless.  Given the increase in concern over the harmful effects of screen time and too much time in front of the TV, consumers find it “healthier” to tune into podcasts, particularly when they perceive that the podcast serves an educational or enriching purpose.  This observation may offer some explanation as to why podcasting is posting consistent gains while traditional media is doing the opposite.  In a recent finding from The Podcast Trends Report, 61% of consumers are reporting that they spend more time listening to podcasts than they do consuming TV shows.


At the moment, the US is far ahead of other countries in terms of podcasting.  However, we are starting to see marked signs of growth in podcasting in other countries where we work as well.  According to a report from Voxnest in March, 2019, the five fasting-growing countries in the podcasting space are Chile, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, and China. Interestingly, four of these five countries are Spanish-speaking ones.  Much of this growth we think can be attributed to Spotify’s aggressive expansion into Latin American markets.  Additionally, our clients in LATAM are launching new podcasts on practically a daily basis, suggesting that it may not be long before a Spanish market eclipses the US in achieving the coveted award for the highest monthly unique streams and/or downloads.


Podcasting continues to be an exciting space, both for the consumer and for the audio content industry, one that we will stay on top of and look forward to sharing more news of its success in the months and years to come.