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April 05, 2006

Forrester podcasting report - just 1% use podcasts

We just released some new data on podcasting, in a brief “Podcasting Hits The Charts” (available only to clients). Here’s the summary:

Podcasts have hit the mainstream consciousness but have not yet seen widespread use. One-quarter of online consumers express interest in podcasts, with most interested in time-shifting existing radio and Internet radio channels. Companies that are interested in using podcasts for their audio should focus not only on downloads but also on streaming audio as a means to get their content and ads to consumers.

Our survey showed that only 1% of online households in

North America

regularly download and listen to podcasts. And when you include all of the people who are just interested or have used podcasts, they strongly favor listening to existing content like Internet radio or broadcast radio, not necessarily new content. (And for newspapers thinking about podcasting, putting print stories into audio format just ranked ahead of original content from bloggers) I think this has something to do with 1) original content just isn’t as well known; and 2) existing content benefits from users that simply want to time shift it. (Shameless plug: there’s lots of other demographic and measurement data about podcasting in the brief).

Here’s my personal experience/confession. I subscribe to several podcasts, but eventually winnowed them down to just one, NPR’s On The Media. And frankly, it takes a back seat to my audiobooks which I get from Audible.com. Oh, and I happen to be downloading the NPR podcast on two computers synched to two iPods (a 20GB biggie and my Mini), which is why counting podcast downloads is a dubious way to measure usage.

Which leads me to my skepticism about the adoption and breadth of podcasting – measurement is still really hard to do (there's some light at the end of the tunnel from firms like Podtrac and Podbridge, the latter of which has a way to track listens as well as downloads).  Forrester projects that just 700,000 households in the


in 2006 will use podcasting, and that it will grow to 12.3 million households in the


by 2010. (See Forrester's  "The Future Of Digital Audio" report). Just to give you some context, we expect MP3 adoption to be almost 11 million households in the


this year, and grow to 34.5 million households by 2010. So that means in four years, about a third of those MP3 owners will be listening to podcasts on those devices. Podcasting will get easier and the content will get better, but it will all take time.

So should companies be putting podcasting on the backburner? Hardly. Content that already exists – such as earning calls, training updates, and executive presentations are all excellent fodder for podcasts. Think of us poor analysts who must listen to streamed quarterly calls while chained to our laptops! My caution is that companies shouldn’t be dashing out to create expensive original content for a small audience – unless they gain value from being seen as innovative.

Aside: Here's a great use of podcasts: language instruction. There's a series of Chinese language podcasts at www.chinesepod.com that I've just downloaded (not subscribed to yet) to try out as I'm hoping to brush up my very poor Mandarin. If I like it, I'll probably subscribe to the podcast so that I can get my regular Chinese lesson.


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Robert Walch


Would you be interested in being interviewed on Podcast411 to talk about this report and what it means to indie podcasters?

Best Regards,

Rob W



Very interessting. Did you take the chance for the interview, charlene?

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