State of American Podcasting | TALKERS magazine : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

State of American Podcasting

| November 19, 2015

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant


cookewriterBLOCK ISLAND, RI — AM/FM broadcasters enjoy inherent advantages, are confronting formidable challenges, and should be further along exploiting obvious opportunities.

  • This year, radio hit an all-time high: Nielsen says 245 million in the USA (P12+) listen each week.
  • And word got around, as that news reverberated throughout the business press nicely. We winced when Forbes’ otherwise flattering write-up was titled, “Radio: The All-But-Forgotten Medium With The Biggest Reach.”  Often we sound too defensive, with well-intentioned messages like “Radio still matters.”
  • Meanwhile, AM/FM’s most habitual users are becoming less-prominent economically. By 2017 Generation Y will out-spend Baby Boomers.  USA 20-somethings already spend $1.2 trillion.
  • Broadcasters aren’t up-to-speed on digital, the new media where this new audience talks to each other (and recommends things to each other). I hear too many promos announcing THAT-the-station-has-an-app, and too few about WHY-to-use-it.

Broadcasters’ opportunity came into crisp focus during “Westwood One’s State of American Podcasting” webinar.ww1Webinarpanel15  Cumulus/Westwood One CMO Pierre Bouvard (pictured second from left) hosted panelists:

  • Brendan McDonald, Executive Producer & Co-Creator, “WTF with Marc Maron;” (second from right)
  • Stuart Last, VP, audioBoom; (left)
  • Jenna Weiss-Berman, Director of Audio, Buzzfeed. (right)

Could the opportunity be more obvious?

  • Real-time radio rocks…if stations invest in live programming. At 4-past-the-hour “Traffic-on-the-threes” = “wait nine minutes,” which listeners will if the traffic reports are as useful as what you hear on WTOP.
  • Otherwise, undeniably, we’re an on-demand culture. At a couple conferences I’ve attended, NPR executives have disclosed that they derive more Time Spent Listening from archived audio than live on-air listening.  Unsurprising, as “TV” has been re-defined by all the non-broadcast video we now consume (and often binge) on various devices.  ICYMI at last week’s NAB Show/New York, Sony Pictures Television Chairman Steve Mosko described how viewers use 35 shows his company produces for 18 “networks.”  See my coverage of that here.

We’ve reported here each time Edison Research updates its ongoing “Infinite Dial” study; and on-demand audio was already on-a-roll even before Hubbard Radio chair and CEO Ginny Morris shared that the groundbreaking “Serial” prompted her to invest in Norm Pattiz’ PodcastOne.  Westwood One’s webinar offered data and participant experiences that demonstrate they’re onto something.

They’re audio’s heaviest users.

As Bouvard ticked-off research factoids, attendees should have been salivating.  89 million in the USA have listened to a podcast, and 27 million do weekly.  “Podcast listeners love audio, and they want more of it.  They listen to podcasts more than anything else;” and AM/FM radio is #2.

And who they are – and when and where they listen – suggests an irresistible opportunity:

  • Median age: Podcast listener 30, AM/FM 45, TV 57 [Edison Research, Media Dynamics]
  • 61% are employed (vs. 49% of all audio users); 57% are in $50K+ households (vs. 48%); and they’re slightly better educated and slightly more likely to have children at home [Edison Resesarch]
  • The majority of podcast listening occurs during midday and evening hours; complementing radio’s strength in morning/afternoon drive, and weakness 7:00 pm – 12:00 midnight.
  • Also complementing radio’s on-the-go utility: 60% of podcast listening is in-home.

Smell money?

Increasingly, advertisers do.  Fresh survey data from Advertiser Perceptions’ Omnibus Study (September interviews with 120 marketers and 164 agencies):

“How likely are you to consider advertising in podcasts in the next six months?”

  • Definitely would: 18%
  • Might: 54%
  • Would not: 28%

“How likely are you to actually advertise in podcasts in the coming six months?”

  • Definitely would: 10%
  • Might: 50%
  • Would not: 40%

WTF’s McDonald admitted that Maron’s show started off doing what hustling radio reps do: cold-calling.  Compelling content (President Obama uttered “the ‘N’ word” in his WTF interview) has grown a big audience, and now major brand advertisers are on-board.

Unlike radio ads, podcasting ads aren’t “spots.”  Buzzfeed’s Weiss-Berman calls the live-reads that work best in this intimate medium as “somewhere between the public radio [underwriting credit] style and commercial radio ads…the sweet spot between the two.”  In WTF, five ads are scattered beginning/mid/end, and are all live.

2016 Predictions

  • audioBoom’s Stuart Last sees “more of the radio industry getting involved,” for obvious reasons: “They have talent and can promote [podcasts on-air].”
  • Weiss-Berman: More politicians will advertise in podcasts.
  • McDonald: “Growth!” And what he calls “a taming of the podcast wilderness,” in which podcasts will mainstream even more, like Netflix-for- audio.

MORE on Westwood One’s “State of American Podcasting:”

This hasn’t happened overnight.  The term itself is antique.  “Podcasting” originally referred to iPod.  Remember those?  Suddenly, everyone had one.  Then, just-as-suddenly, everyone didn’t, when iPhone came along.  Why carry a device that merely plays thousands of songs, when you can tote a device that does thousands of things?   How can broadcasters NOT be there?


Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and he covers industry conferences for TALKERS and RadioInfo. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke.

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Category: Analysis