Podcasting's "Unreachable" Consumers

Written Jan. 29, 2010 by Tom Webster in Podcasting with 2 Comments

Yesterday, Edison released a study we conducted in partnership with the Association for Downloadable Media, NPR, Wizzard, RawVoice and Revision3 that looked at consumer attitudes about podcast advertising. One of the data points from that study was that 30% of the sample indicated that they regularly listened to commercial radio, by far the lowest self-reported usage of any media channel we tested. Now, we all like to recite the statistics about radio's 90% reach, so clearly this self-selected sample is not quite in the middle of the bell curve.

But, that's exactly the point. These active podcast consumers, whether they are understating their radio usage or not, are telling us that radio plays a very small role in their lives, and that channels which enable them to control their media experience, like podcasting, are vastly more important. We know from our Infinite Dial series with Arbitron that 1 in 4 Americans have ever listened to a podcast, and 1 in 10 are at least monthly consumers of podcasts, so while podcast consumption is not a mainstream activity, it is still enjoyed by tens of millions of Americans.

And, overlaying yesterday's study results with the Infinite Dial data, we see that those tens of millions are generally better educated, more affluent, and bigger spenders than the average American. So they are certainly a compelling advertising target. What a sample of the most active podcast listeners told us in our most recent research is that they HATE traditional mass media interrupt advertising. That hatred, however, does not extend to contextual, relevant advertising. Far from it--in fact, these "left of center" media consumers actually welcome advertising messages delivered in context, especially if they are delivered by the hosts of their favorite podcasts themselves (you already know how effective this is; radio has sold live reads at a premium for years.)

It is tempting to look at the results from our survey and dismiss these active podcast consumers as not representative of radio's audience (they aren't) and "unreachable." That, however, is a false choice. Podcasting never did become the "new radio" as many once speculated, but it is a viable plank in a cross media strategy. No, the folks who are active subscribers and downloaders of podcasts are not the same people as your average radio listener. So why give them the same content? Radio doesn't have to make this false choice--it can pursue the mainstream on-air, and the potentially lucrative niches of the podcast audience off-air, with different, portable and relevant content focused around a specific niche (and in conjunction with a specific advertiser that makes sense.) The big story from our Edison/ADM study for radio is this: your efforts in podcasting shouldn't be redundant, because the audience isn't redundant. But by no means are they "unreachable." They just want relevant content--whether that content is your content, or advertising content--and they will, in fact, take action upon hearing those messages. They've got the money!

The key is to adapt to them, and not to make them adapt to you. Time-shifted clips of the same old content is only a baby-step. Bite-sized snacks of unique content--passionately delivered, and laser focused--are they key to reaching the unreachable. Now, you can make this content, or you can ask your audience to help you make it, but the demand is there, and the prize is worth winning.

If you missed our latest podcast research presentation, or have an hour and want to relive the magic :), here it is:

The Edison/ADM Consumer Attitudes To Podcast Advertising Study from Tom Webster on Vimeo.

Reader Comments

Your 2¢, in chronological order — add your comment below.
1  Chris MacDonald on January 29, 2010 2:04 PM

Quick disclaimer, I am very involved with this study and it's outcomes both as a publisher of short form audio content and with ADM, so with that grain of salt applied:

By way of illustration consider this engagement. Our IndieFeed Network just ran a successful two month ad buy with Ford's new Sync product. Sync is the brand for a bundle of technology enhancements that are available in-car, including integrated access to iPod and other mobile devices, voice activated content navigation, wifi, etc.

This was a relevant buy. Our studies indicate the somewhat obvious, that our listeners tend to have portable media devices, are in the target demographic (young men with discretionary income) and trust our judgement on matters involving digital media distribution.

We delivered a blended "sponsored by" short intro, followed with a 15 second inserted ad. In a perfect world we could have considered other options including host-read content but this was an acceptable approach.

In the end we look at this engagement as a win-win for all, as the ads were minor in intrusion, spoke to our audience in ways that made sense, and left our listeners with retained interest and trust in our own brand.

These are the sorts of engagements publishers and smart ad buyers seek, ones that makes sense for all parties. We are considering a re-up and everyone involved is happy with these specific results.

2  Larry LeKool on February 3, 2010 6:51 PM

For the average person, the concept of the podcast is still shrouded in mystery. When this programming is made more 'user friendly,'it will really take off, much like the current state of GPS, with many non-technical consumers. The way is paved; the direction clear, but the podcast is still vague and in the weeds.

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