How many people and businesses use podcasting? When it became the new social media buzzword in 2004, it promised the world. Has it lived up to the hype?
Looking at the Social Media Landscape
The question really is divided into two parts: one, businesses using podcasting to advertise and expand their marketing audience, and two, the people who actually are part of the audience.
While it's possible to take a snapshot of any given moment as far as showing an exact number of listeners and business podcasts, any snapshot is going to be inaccurate. The current state of podcasting is not as important as where it has been and where it is going. Follwing that model, the answer to both questions is the same: more and more people and businesses use podcasting every year. The facts behind this answer show some fascinating new trends in the way people use media and the Internet
Studies on How Many People and Businesses Use Podcasting
Since the start of podcasting around 2004, many media skeptics considered it to be a flash in the pan. Why would people go to the trouble of downloading amateurish content to an MP3 player when they could have things free on the radio? However, the statistics showed a steadily increasing growth in listeners. In 2009 eMarketer reported that podcast listeners had increased from 17 million users in 2008 to 21 million users in 2009. Further, they extrapolated that by 2013 the numbers would grow to 37.6 million listeners, accounting for 17 percent of all Internet usage.
That study from 2009 may have turned out to be conservative. According to a recent Nielsen study about the habits of business users, the single most common activity among Internet users is social media and blogging (which includes podcasting, as a kind of audio blog). This is not a steady, small incremental increase as projected by eMarketer - this is a 43 percent increase from 2009 to 2010.
The Edison Study
In 2015, Edison Research updated and published a study on consumer attitudes to podcasting with more startling results. The way young people consume media had changed immensely over the past 10 years, with time on the Internet catching up to time spent listening to the radio and watching TV. In fact, the statistics about podcasting showed that the grass-roots "citizen journalism" had taken a firm hold in the mainstream media landscape:
- 49 percent of Americans have heard of podcasting,
- 33% of Americans listen to podcasts
But that's only half the story. That's the media audience; what about the businesses that want to use podcasting?
Old Marketing is Dead; Long Live the New Marketing
Advertising and marketing in general have been going through a revolution since the introduction of social media to the landscape. Suddenly people are much less apt to be swayed by traditional advertising techniques such as print ads and commercials. Worse, it's harder to tell what will induce people to buy. This has made many businesses hesitant to spend money on advertising in podcasts. Until, that is, the statistics started coming in.
According to the Edison study, an amazing 37 percent of podcast listeners have a positive impression of the businesses that advertise on podcasts. That's in sharp contrast to the six percent that have a positive impression from TV ads. Many other stats showed that podcasts are a remarkably effective way to get listeners to be more receptive to ads.
Businesses Turn to Podcasting
Looking at iTunes podcasts show that many traditional media businesses have adopted the podcast model for distribution. Examples include NPR, CNN, brands such as Nike and even higher education like the University of Pittsburgh. In fact, there are over 150,000 podcasts on iTunes, and it's impossible to say which ones are businesses and which ones are simply sponsored by businesses. The only real statistic that is known is that the number is growing every day.