Written May. 2, 2008 by Tom Webster in Podcasting with 0 Comments
In our most recent research on podcasting, our data showed a significant rise in audio podcast consumption, from 13% of Americans 12+ last year to 18% this year. The rise in video podcast consumption was even more dramatic, rising from 11% to 16%. Finally, if one examines podcast consumption only within the past month, video nearly catches audio, trailing only by one percentage point (9% to 8%.)
Certainly, anything that even smells like video has shown hockey-stick growth on the Internet over the past 18 months. I was asked on an analyst call yesterday if I thought that video would eventually overtake audio in terms of downloadable media consumption. Maybe it will, and maybe it won't--but even if video surpasses audio I don't expect that gap to be large. Content producers may be in love with the power of video, but as podcasting and downloadable media continue to become more and more viable as advertising vehicles, a lot will depend on just who an advertiser is trying to reach.
For example, if Disney is trying to reach my family (me, wife, son, dog) to convince us that a Disney vacation would be just the ticket to escape from our oppressive jobs for a while, where and how might they reach us? If they want to dangle images of Mickey in front of Sam, poolside lounging for Miriam and, uh, "It's A Small World" for me, their best bet is to catch us when we are all together--after dinner, around (if not in front of) the TV. For that messaging, video makes a ton of sense. However, if an investment bank or software company wants to get to me through some kind of downloadable media, their best bet is to grab me alone in the early morning--in the car or at the gym--and that begs for audio.
One of the great opportunities for podcasts is to create "appointment media," just as broadcasters have been doing for years. The fact that podcasts can be consumed any old time can mean that they aren't consumed at all if they lack priority or relevance. Associating a podcast with an activity, for instance, trains listeners how and when to use the podcast. Maybe it isn't "9-2-5" like a broadcast radio promotion, but maybe it's listening to an investment show whenever you are on the treadmill, or a lawn care show whenever you are outside gardening. Audio has advantages in this over video as a true companion medium, and while audio podcasts may lack some of the shared experience of broadcast media, there is an intimacy, engagement and connection with podcasts that few media can top. As long as audio podcast producers can tap into that intimacy and also become more associated and relevant with various lifestyles and activities, there will always be room between the earbuds for audio podcasts.