As podcasting continues it steady march from niche to the mainstream, there’s been a change in how Americans access their favorite on-demand audio shows. The longer a person has been listening to podcasts, the more likely they are to access them through Apple’s podcast app. On the flip side, podcast newbies are more apt to rely on a more varied assortment of podcast entry points.
For its Podcast Download-Spring 2019 Report, Westwood One commissioned research firm Audience Insights in conjunction with MARU/Matchbox to survey 1,407 monthly podcast listeners. Fielded in March 2019, the study focuses on four distinct segments based on when people began listening to podcasts. They are Podcast Pioneers, which started listening four or more years ago; those who began listening 2-3 years ago; those who began listening in the past 7-12 months, and Podcast Newcomers, who began listening within the last six months.
Apple is the leading destination (44%) among Podcast Pioneers. But Podcast Newcomers use a much broader and diverse group of platforms to access podcasts. While Podcast Pioneers use an average of 2.5 podcast platforms, Podcast Newcomers, which only began tuning into podcasts within the past six months, use 3.5 platforms, a 40% increase.
Listeners new to the on-demand audio medium differ in another key respect. While the average monthly podcast listener accesses 2.7 podcast platforms, Podcast Newcomers use 3.5 platforms. That mirrors heavy users or what the study calls “power” podcast listeners, those who listen to 5+ hours per week and use 3.8 different platforms.
Westwood One President Suzanne Grimes says this finding signals a “turning point” for the podcast industry. “When compared to the Podcast Pioneers, who use Apple Podcasts almost exclusively, Podcast Newcomers are open to using multiple platforms to access podcasts,” she said in a blog post.
Hosts Wield Social Influence
The study also uncovers a rich concentration of fans interacting with their favorite hosts on social media. Just over half (51%) of monthly podcast listeners follow their favorite podcast hosts on social media. But the proportion leaps to more than two-thirds of the “power” segment, suggesting that podcast hosts wield more influence with heavy podcast consumers. As podcasters work to monetize their shows, this finding opens a path for advertisers to extend their podcast investments into social media buys that aligns with the podcast hosts.
And while Facebook is the top platform “power” podcast users employ to follow their favorite hosts, it holds only a slight lead over other social sites. “Power” podcast listeners equally use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to follow their favorite hosts.
“It’s not enough to just be on one social channel,” Westwood One concludes in its analysis of the findings. “Podcast hosts must maintain their presence on all four social platforms to engage with their audience as ‘power’ listeners follow on multiple channels.”
As it is for sports and talk radio hosts, Twitter is an important social media platform for following podcast hosts with 42% of “power” podcast listeners following their favorite podcast host on Twitter compared to the 22% of U.S. adults who ever use Twitter. Instagram is also a social environment where “power” podcast listeners are more engaged – 46% of power podcast listeners use Instagram to follow hosts versus the 37% of Americans who ever use Instagram.
When it comes to digital media, ad skipping and ad avoidance are a top concern among marketers. Allaying this concern for podcast ad buyers, the study finds only one in five (20%) of monthly podcast listeners say they skip podcast ads. This puts podcasting among the lower ad skip rates of more traditional media like television and AM/FM radio, each at 23%, compared to much higher ad avoidance percentages for email advertising (33%), online banner ads (36%) and online pop-up ads (44%).
“Podcasting is uniquely engaging — on trend with on-demand content platforms like Netflix or paid music streaming services, but the only one accessible to advertisers.” says Jeff Vidler, President of Audience Insights.
Impact Of Radio Promotion
Meanwhile those podcast newcomers who have only been listening for the past six months are more likely to discover podcasts through AM/FM radio than those who have been listening longer. A quarter of monthly podcast listeners cite AM/FM radio ads as the way they heard about the podcast they listen to. The percentage jumps to 31% of podcast newcomers who typically discover podcasts by hearing about them on AM/FM radio.
There’s a very good reason for that. The number of podcasts being promoted on AM/FM radio is skyrocketing. According to Media Monitors, less than ten podcasts were promoted each quarter during 2018. But first quarter 2019 saw an explosion in podcasts promoted on broadcast radio with 106 unique podcasts advertised. More than half (55%) of Americans said they heard an AM/FM radio ad for a podcast in Q1 2019. The stepped-up on-air promotion for podcasts is making an impact on podcast discovery.
And while it may seem like a no-brainer that the most important factor bringing listeners to a podcast is the topic or area of interest covered – 44% of monthly podcast listeners first start listening to a podcast because of the content – there is a tangible takeaway from this finding.
“As a best practice, generic descriptions should be avoided in favor of highlighting what specific topic will be covered in order to pique the interest of podcast consumers,” Westwood One concludes.