Podcasting Growth Slows to a Crawl

70 million Americans have listened to or watched a downloaded podcast, according to a recently updated report by Edison Research: The Current State of Podcasting. That’s 23% of the population, a number that’s increased just one percent from a year ago.

Awareness of podcasting is sitting steady at 45%, up just slightly from last year’s 43%. That’s not the kind of growth that inspires hope that the medium will spread like wildfire. Podcast listening and/or viewing just hasn’t gone mobile – 71% of people who listen to podcasts do so on their desktop and that number has actually increased from last year, according to the study. 

So while cell phone usage has soared, podcasting usage has gotten stuck on the desktop, which is one possible explanation for the stagnant growth of the audience. Smartphone streaming has made downloading audio files for listening on mobile phones unnecessary.

It looks like streaming is taking a bite out of podcasting at this point. Online radio’s audience is 70 million monthly (Arbitron/Edison’s Infinite Dial Study).

Podcast consumers tend to be early adopters and social networkers, according to the study. They tend to respond to sponsor ads – 71% said they had visited a website because of an ad they had seen or heard in a podcast.

With wifi and 3G, and soon 4G access more readily available to consumers who want to stream and listen on demand, it’s looking more and more like podcasting is an interim audio technology that has limited long term audience growth because it’s replaceable by audio streaming.

7 responses

  1. Every emerging technology has peaks and troughs in the rate of adoption; it’s true that in 2010 the percentage of listeners didn’t grow a bunch, but having 70 million Americans watching or listening to a downloaded podcast isn’t a sign of podcasting becoming overlooked!

    Let’s remember podcasting is all about content provided on demand, available whenever the consumer wants to watch or listen.

    Which makes your last sentence a little confusing: “… it’s looking more and more like podcasting is an interim audio technology that has limited long term audience growth because it’s replaceable by audio streaming.”

    What if you’re not around when the content is streaming? Do you listen to a recording? Then that’s a podcast!

  2. Many programs are now available for streaming on demand – for example all the npr programs – so there’s no need to download the program, you can stream it whenever you want, not just when it’s streaming live.

    Thanks for listening!


  3. I think that’s where people sometimes get confused or pigeonhole podcasting. The majority of my podcasts are streamed, rather than downloaded. There’s really no difference between podcasts and ‘streamed media’ – podcasts offer listeners the opportunity to stream or download!

  4. Hi Dave,

    Here’s the definition of podcasting from the study, which is the definition that I subscribe to as well: “Podcasting is the concept of downloading various types of longer-form online
    audio programs, in the form of digital files you can listen to at any time you choose.”

    Streamed programming is not, at least by my definition, podcasting, and it is not included in this data as podcast listening.

    thanks for the input!

  5. The original definition — which still shows up when your favorite search engine looks for “define podcast” — included the notion of episodes and subscriptions. Along the way people started to refer to an audio file available *somehow* as a podcast, but that was a lazy use of the term that tried to bolster their tech savviness. I subscribe to a podcast, and I listen to its episodes.

  6. This survey seems flawed. I don’t think most participants understood the difference between a “podcast as defined” and “streaming.”

    A lot of “streamed” content is downloaded into the browser cache. With html5, you could take this content with you for offline viewing. Is this a “podcast” or a “stream.”

    Many listeners/viewers download and then move/sync the content with their mobile device. While they aren’t downloading the media directly to their mobile device, they are viewing/listening on the device.

    Many listeners/viewers access the podcast media “on demand” – which is even highlighted in the survey. How is that different from “streaming?”

    No one can deny the phenomenal growth of audio/video on the Internet. Splitting it into “podcast” and “not a podcast” buckets is silly. Many sites offer both “on-demand” and “download” options. What is the purpose of this survey? To discourage providers from accessing an audience of 70 million? If you want to reach more people – you should make it easy for people to access your content. It doesn’t really matter if it is a “podcast as defined.” What matters is that your content is available regardless of the device, platform or user preference.

  7. I agree with Dave & Geo, the study is flawed. Pod-casting
    is in fact “on demand” audio or video. Jennifer, I think your
    perception of what constitutes pod-casting is perhaps a bit

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