While it continues to grow, podcasting has yet to become a mass market medium, leaving plenty of room for radio stations to jump into the on-demand audio fray. Only 21% of radio listeners who participated in Jacobs Media’s TechSurvey 13 say they listen weekly to podcasts, up slightly from 20% in 2016. And 48% have never listened to a podcast.
But the podcast movement is gaining strength, led by Millennials, one-third of whom say they listen weekly. “Even though it’s been around, podcasting is still in something of an embryonic stage,” Jacobs Media president Fred Jacobs said during a webinar Thursday afternoon. “There’s still an opportunity to get in as consumers discover podcasting.”
That opportunity is greater for some formats than others. Sports radio listeners are the most avid podcast consumers with nearly one-third (32%) listening weekly or more. The other top formats for podcasting are rhythmic CHR (31%), adult alternative (30%) and alternative (30%). Here’s another indicator of the appetite for podcasts among sports radio listeners: 16% say accessing podcasts is the main reason they visit a radio station website. That’s nearly triple the all-format average of 6%.
Despite overall low usage, podcasting is showing forward momentum, especially in the younger demos. Among those who listen to podcasts or on-demand audio at least monthly, 25% say they’re listening more and 18% say less. But there are generational differences—roughly one-third of both Gen Z and Millennials say they’re listening more compared to 20% of Baby Boomers and 16% of the pre-Boomers Silent Generation. Sports radio, alternative and adult alternative formats have the highest percentages of listeners spending more time with podcasts.
A majority of monthly podcast listeners (56%) only listen to 1-2 podcast episodes per week.
The smartphone is by far the preferred podcast listening device, selected by 51% of those who listen, followed by desktop/laptop (30%) and tablet (11%). Web browser (38%) and iTunes/Apple’s podcast app (37%) are neck and neck as the top podcast sources.
The online poll of radio listeners shows the value of repurposing radio programming in podcast form. In fact, “radio shows that aired” (39%) was second only to music-related content in the podcast categories most preferred by monthly podcast listeners. After that it was comedy (29%), news & politics (25%) and sports and recreation (23%). But “radio shows that aired” scored No. 1 (51%) among news/talk radio listeners.
For most listeners (73%), podcast listening is having “no change” on how much they listen to radio. But 11% said podcasts have them tuning to radio less and 8% indicated “a lot less.” Those listening less tend to be male and Millennial and are more likely to tune to rhythmic CHR, sports and alternative stations. Another 8% said podcasts are causing them to listen more to radio.
The shift to on-demand consumption is further along at television than radio, with 50% of those who watch any video on any screen in an average day saying that half or more of their overall TV viewing takes place on-demand, using a DVR, on-demand video or a service such as Netflix or Hulu. But consumers accustomed to on-demand access for their video content could port that habit over to audio, Jacobs said.
Generally speaking, the younger the listener the greater the likelihood they are involved in podcasting, the study found. And with tech habits typically starting young before gravitating toward older demos (think Facebook), chances are good that podcasting will catch up with Gen Xers and Boomers over the next several years. “Podcasting is growing, not by leaps and bounds, it is still an emerging platform,” Jacobs said. “That tells us there is still an opportunity to get involved and develop a strategy.”
The online survey polled 51,760 respondents in the U.S. and Canada from Jan. 16- Feb. 27, most of whom were members of radio station databases.