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Field Notes from the Digital Prairie

Monday, May 11, 2015

Should You Start a Podcast? Some Stats

I handcoded my first podcast RSS feed roughly a decade ago (I don't remember exactly when we started it, but that podcast, of events in the University of Chicago's World Beyond the Headlines series, was named one of Wired magazine's favorite education podcasts back in 2006). Since then, podcasting as a medium has had its ups and downs, but with the runaway success of NPR's "Serial" last year, it certainly seems to be on an upswing. I've been digging around for some numbers about podcasting both for an upcoming conference presentation and to determine whether it makes sense for my current institution to jump on the bandwagon, and thought I'd share them here:

  • Overall, according to the New York Times, podcast consumption "is up 25 percent year-over-year.”
  • According to Edison Research, as of February 2015, 33% of Americans over 12 had listened to some form of podcast, with 17% (some 46 million people) having listened to a podcast in the previous month and 10% (27 million) in the previous week.
  • People who already have a college degree are more likely to listen (perhaps providing a great opportunity to reach potential grad students), but the numbers still break down to 24% (ever) / 11% (in the past month) / and 6% (in the past week) for those without a degree (ibid).
  • As of 2012 (the latest for which I could find age-related numbers) listeners between 12-24 were the largest single audience for podcasts, making up 26% of the audience, with those 24-35 close behind at 24%.
  • Edison Research also estimates that nearly 2% of total time spent listening to audio is devoted to podcast listening, and those who do listen to podcasts listen to an average of 6 per week.
  • Pew just posted some podcast-related numbers as well; they put the number of podcast downloads for 2014 at 2.6 billion (up from 1.9 billion in 2013), and the number of actively hosted podcasts in 2014 at 22,000 (up from 16,000 the year before).
  • Worldwide, Apple says that there are over 1 billion podcast subscriptions in its store.
Clearly, the podcast is a still-growing medium. However, the great part about such audio content is that "the podcast" in and of itself is but one of many channels for distribution. Whether you’ve subscribed to their podcasts or not, chances are you’ve listened to something on, for example, NPR's website that was *also* distributed as a podcast. Likewise, your audio content could simultaneously live and be discoverable on its own in a Soundcloud channel (as videos are on YouTube), AND be embeddable in your news stories, blog posts, or other online content, meaning that folks who wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to download a podcast are still able to encounter and engage with our content. And of course, all of this is easily trackable, so you can know if people are interacting with your content or not.