The slower podcast adoption rate among the country audience can be used to the format’s advantage as radio continues to look for ways to capitalize on the ever-expanding companion medium.
One third of Americans (32%) say they have listened to a podcast in the last month, or nine million people over the age of 12, Tom Webster, Senior VP at Edison Research, told attendees of the latest CRS360 webinar. But looking specifically at country radio’s biggest users, the so-called P1s, that number is 27%. “Or about where the country audience was at last year,” he said. Using data from the company’s Infinite Dial 2019 study, Webster pointed out that weekly podcast listeners in the U.S. clock in at 22% overall (12+), with country radio P1s at 17%, unchanged from last year’s figure.
“Country radio partisans are about a year behind, but they’re not at zero,” Webster said. “They are certainly listening to podcasts. The podcast market in general has been growing at a pretty good clip recently so there’s no reason to believe that won’t take place with country radio partisans as well.”
Another factor playing into country radio’s wheel house is the fact that more women are listening to podcasts than ever before. Among monthly podcast listeners, the ratio is 54% male to 46% female. But back when the first Infinite Dial was commissioned, podcast listeners were two-thirds male.
“When we first started covering podcasting back in 2006 it was a lot of dudes,” Webster explained. The reasoning, he said, was content. Early podcasts leaned tech-heavy, appealing to early adopters who were looking to be educated from their favorite podcasts. But podcast genres have greatly expanded over time and the listening audience has changed with them.
“Over time more and more women have discovered the content that is in this space,” Webster said. “A lot of that is because so many content producers and the podcast networks have been producing more and more content to appeal to a broad variety of Americans.”
Rookie podcast listeners, or the 27% who began listening to podcasts in the last six months, also lean more female with a strong surge in women 12-34, Webster revealed. “The content choices have become more robust and as distribution channels have expanded, we’re getting a younger audience and we are getting a more female audience. That is all balancing out the demographics of the podcast audience.”
One of the main things that would make participants in the most recent Infinite Dial study listen to more podcasts is the availability of shows on topics that interest them.
“The truth, there are plenty of podcasts available in the topic [they] are interested in,” Webster offered. Podcast discovery has long been an issue and one that he believes radio is perfectly aligned to solve. “If you are in country radio, or radio in general, you’re sitting on one of the greatest discovery platforms in America,” he continued. “With reach and frequency, radio can build anything and there’s no reason why radio can’t be one of the most powerful forces in building awareness of podcasts.”
Country radio has the advantage of seeing the future with the percentage of those who tune into podcasts about a year behind the general listening audience. This, Webster suggested, “provides country radio with the opportunity to introduce podcasting to millions of Americans. To actually be the introductory vehicle of podcasting for these millions of country radio fans that may have not discovered ‘the show’ yet or discovered the reason why they should be listening to podcasting.”
Country radio is already positioned to create on-demand content that appeals to listeners. “Country listeners, as you know are very engaged with the music,” Webster told attendees. “They are very engaged with the artists. I think there are loads of opportunities to create compelling content both at the local level and certainly at the group and national level that talks about music.”
Podcasting represents a tremendous opportunity for country radio to serve its listeners off the air, in ways that aren’t necessarily practical on air, he added. “In particular, I think about the community. Country radio stations care as much about the issues that affect their communities as any format, and certainly in many cases more than other formats, in the communities that they serve.” Community issues, events and celebrating businesses and entrepreneurs are all content that appeals to country radio listeners that stations can create for their on-demand programming offerings, he suggested.
“Country radio has always served as a facilitator of the relationship between the people in the community, the people who provide goods and services to that community and, of course, the artists and entertainment that you serve,” Webster concluded. “Country radio has a great opportunity here.”
— by Jay Gleason