Last year more people listened to podcasts than ever before, and that number will continue to grow. That’s info we’ve had for a couple of months from the Infinite Dial annual study from Edison Research. Last week we got a bunch of new specifics to go with that info. Some of it is rather predictable – podcast consumers are more affluent and educated than the population at large, they are more male than female, and the bulk of the listeners are 18 – 54 years old.
The survey asked people about their “method of listening to podcasts”, and from that we learn that 59% of regular weekly podcast listeners usually “Click on podcast and listen immediately.” The other choices are “Download manually to listen later” and “Subscribe to and download to automatically to listen later.” It’s tempting to conclude that 59% of weekly listeners are now streaming podcasts. Not so fast. “Click on podcast and listen immediately” does represent on-demand behavior, but it does not equal streaming.
Say you want to listen to Serial. You have a few choices of how to do that. You can go to Pandora, and “Click on podcast to listen immediately,” or you can open your podcast listening app on your smartphone, where you have the choice of streaming it, downloading it, or subscribing to it. Streaming it is a fine choice if you’re planning to stay connected while you listen, but if I’m planning to listen while running, or walking, or getting in my car I choose download so I can have offline listening if I want it. I’m still clicking and listening immediately, but I’m not streaming. This isn’t a meaningless nuance. Part of the appeal of podcasts is that you can download and listen on or offline.
The bottom line of course is that podcasts are consumed more and more in an on-demand fashion. Click and listen immediately includes two different technical options – streaming or downloading, but it does translate to on-demand behavior. It would be nice to know the data within that segment, but it’s possible that trying to get more specific with that question would only confuse casual podcast consumers. As an additional data point we have this chart tweeted out during the data presentation last week, which shows that most listening is still via downloads rather than streaming (this is the activity of one podcast, not the industry):
The immediacy of listening is a selling point for the medium, since advertisers like to buy placements for their ads that are going to be heard within a certain period of time. A transition to streaming is certainly beneficial to the ad supported model – it’s easier to count connected listeners, monitor session length, and confirm that a listener heard an ad when they are continuously connected. But knowing that they clicked and listened immediately, either by streaming or downloading, makes ads at the beginning of the podcasts a lot more attractive to advertisers as well.
Podcast consumption is moving to on-demand. Immediate consumption in any media is a good trend, which lends itself to greater time spent listening. By introducing the “Click and listen immediately” phrase, Edison Research has given the industry a nice way to represent on-demand listening that merges downloading for immediate listening and streaming into one behavior that’s appealing to advertisers.