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

john simonds

I've found podcasts to be very useful for both business and personal issues. For work, I can hear something later that I couldn't make due to conflict.

Personally, I've found others that have similar interests, but better perceptive skills helpful when listening to their podcasts. For example, I listen to 24 cast to hear about things in the show I missed (24 which I'm a big fan), the same with Formula Pod for F1 racing. I can go back to the event (I use a DVR) and catch details I missed the first time.

Alan Reid

The biggest indicator might be either a tag within the podcast like a html tag to indicate a listen or paid for podcasts (not my favourite option). Otherwise the automatic downloads may overstate the number of real subscribers.

Webmetricsguru

I don't agree with Li's assessment on Podcasts; I think there are way more than 700,000 households that listen to Podcasts on a regular basis.

In 2010, Podcasting will be alive and well along with a dozen other things that have yet to be invented.

Nicole Simon

I agree on the number of households downloading content more regulary. It reminds me also of the study where only single digit number knew what RSS was but over a third 'knew' that they did not use it.
How can you say you don't use something when you don't know what it is?

Also, from a perspective of the potential listener: Even in my surrounding of people not connected to be speak to me about "this blog and podcasting thing" they have heard about - and this is Germany. We are a non developped country in this regard, both podcasting and blogging.

If you would ask them if they downloaded ever once, you will get a no from them. But why? Because the content they where presented till now did not meet their expectations or did not raise their interest.

But they have understood what podcasting is and the moment they will encounter something they are interested in, they are 'ready'.

Missing out on this oportunity is a bad advise for companies, because now they will have the time to experiment with it without too much hassle. How much people again do use Tivo or other services like it? And are they aware, that when they choose special shows, that this is called podcasting?

Also I doubt the numbers of 2010; I do think that media usage in itself will shift and it will be much more natural to have "XXX with a pause button to go". Maybe we will just not call it podcasting anymore, but the idea behind it will grow on much more than just that.

mradio

I think that podcasting will work and that generally it is already accepted and validated by consumers and iTunes.

Rob Safuto

Just because you only listen to one podcast does not mean that the medium is floundering.

I listen to half a dozen business and technology podcasts. I also listen to three or four music podcasts. This represents quality content that can't be found through more traditional mediums.

Now I only regularly watch one or two TV shows. Does that mean that the medium of TV is not worthwhile?

And does anyone think that the metrics for print advertising (or TV for that matter) are very accurate? Not being able to count every usage does nothing to diminish the power of the medium.

I've got over 10,000 listeners and viewers subscribing to podcasts that I produce. If you like I can ask them to send you an email every time they consumer a podcast.

Matt McAlister

Don't forget that there's potentially a really really big opportunity for somebody to be a breakthrough leader on the content side. A comedian like Ricky Gervais could make podcasting a must-have medium. I wonder what cable would look like today if MTV and HBO hadn't made it so desirable.

robgreenlee

This survey exposes the tendency that people have to gravitate towards content providers they trust and have a relationship with already. It does make sense that we tend to stay with the familar and with the massive crowd of new podcasting content online it is difficult for listeners to easily discover audio content that can fill the big shoes of a long trusted broadcaster like an NPR or persononalities like This Week In Tech podcaster Leo Laporte, who spent many years on broadcast radio in major markets like LA's KFI.

The iPod is just a transitional step in the evolution of Podcasting. The Mobilcast server logs are showing that over 8o% of our podcast listeners experience the audio as a stream into the mobile phone.

I believe that our stats are confirming a long held belief by many in the Internet Radio space that when we all get reliable and inexpensive wireless broadband coverage to mobile devices then it will be checkmate and game over for the hard drive based side loaded content systems like the current iPod.

Podcasting is built on the principle of side loading and automatic download syncronization of mp3 files. Yet all the use data is showing that most people are listening to audio from a webpage as a stream. It is logical not to see that the next evolution in podcasting needs to be on-demand streaming of podcast content and the concept of podcast downloading will only have a long-term support role for listeners that are outside of wireless internet range or want to archive the content for repeated listening.

Rob Greenlee
Melodeo Mobilcast
http://www.melodeo.com

WebTalk Radio
http://www.webtalkradio.com

Marc Wesseling

Podcasting is really taking off in Japan: my company started to produce the daily Yomiuri podcast (Japan's biggest newspaper) last November and we now have more than 500,000 subscribers! We're currently producing 3 out of the Top-10 podcasts here in Japan and the future is looking even brighter when we will start to offer podcasts through the cellphones (in Japan 80 cellphone users!): we're already talking the cellphone providers who're already offering music downloads.
Marc

Marc Wesseling

Podcasting is really taking off in Japan: my company started to produce the daily Yomiuri podcast (Japan's biggest newspaper) last November and we now have more than 500,000 subscribers! We're currently producing 3 out of the Top-10 podcasts here in Japan and the future is looking even brighter when we will start to offer podcasts through the cellphones (in Japan 80 cellphone users!): we're already talking the cellphone providers who're already offering music downloads.
Marc

kenondemand

Charlene,

Delighted that you're gearing up for some Mandarin lessons.

At this point, the fate of podcasting rests heavily on the rate of RSS adoption.
For now that is slow, but once the application designers at Google/Yahoo/Microsoft, begin to use it as part of their plumbing, things will change.

From a language teaching perspective it is just too good not to happen: low cost production/distribution, with fresh daily lessons, interactive discussion forums, etc. The combinnation of blogs, podcasts, and community is much cheaper and much more effective than the traditional audio-book approach. It's going to happen.

Ken Carroll
ChinesePod

Steve

Dear Ms. Li, your study certainly is interesting, but I am also quite bewildered by it at the same time: maybe to make things more clear to the reader, what was the base of your analytics to find out about the figures you publish? I just wonder how corporations like Apple have changed their product strategies over the last year (say in their products iTunes and GarageBand) to incorporate podcasting if there is only so little interest in the matter as you have outlined. I do not believe that Apple would do such a thing and go into the pains of adding functionality to their applications only just because Mr. Steve Jobbs thinks that something "is cool".

The United States of Amercia have aprox. 280 mio. inhabitants. Together with other English speaking countries, there are some 380 million NATIVE speakers of the English language not to count the number of speakers that use English as a second language.

I think it is wrong in the days of globalization to base such studies only on estimates of households in the U.S.A. It seems a typical closed boundaries look of the world, even an arrogant believe to think that the effect of, say a business podcast or weblog, only spreads on mainland U.S.A., don't you agree?! Take, for example, the Microsoft Weblogs of their developers. These are read and shape the image of Microsoft WORLD WIDE.

I think your study lacks many aspects the globalized markets hold today and also the base of calculation seems a bit inapropriate to me. It would be interesting to undertake a real survey with, say, companies such as Feedburner, whose daily business consits in aggregating and enhancing feeds (including podcast feeds) and giving precise statistics to its users over the subscription rate and use of those feeds.

While the word "Podcasting" might certainly not be as common place such as for example "Computer" or "Internet" amongst the Fortune 500 top executive league, understanding for the concept and maybe even subscribing to podcasts certainly have gained a big push amongst the avarage population by Apple's success of the iPod and the iTunes application which, not at least, have been featured in detail in mainstream media over the past year(s).

I hope I could give some inspiration that is of value to you!

Greetings from Munich, Germany, Europe!
Steve.

Ron Evry

I had posted this earlier today on baranko.com, in reference to a blog about this blog, so I thought I'd put it here as well --
Eventually, the strength of podcasting will not be in how it duplicates what is available from existing media sources (ie -broadcasting), but in how it offers programming that cannot be found on them. My own Podcast, Mister Ron's Basement, a daily reading of humorous stories from the public domain, ought to be a tiny niche player, but it has been getting about 10,000 downloads a day (approx 100 GB of bandwidth daily) and passed the One Million download mark in less than a year.
In the broadcasting field, these numbers are tiny, but the point is that thousands (eventually maybe millions) of different podcasts of "uncommercial" nature will give people choices that simply aren't available on traditional mass media. Find something that stirs your interest, and you'll listen to it.
The old fashioned model of chain radio stations cherry picking pre-packaged content is going the way of the horse-drawn omnibus. :)

Christine Pierpoint

It seems to me a study about "household" usage of podcasts misses the mark. In our experience, podcasting is much more a b2b enterprise. The popularity of TWiT, NPR, Businessweek and the like combined with the growing culture of knowledge workers, suggests that podcasting will hit critical mass in business long before liesure.

Jonathan Marks

I note with interest that BBC is launching an all-out publicity blitz on radio, with regular trails about podcasts from "podcasting house". However, I am sure people do not know the difference between download and podcast. BBC is not stressing that podcasting is subscription, whereas downloading is usually one-off. In the Netherlands, podcasting is struggling because of the lack of production values. People get tired of listening to poor quality stuff and the story-telling needs some serious editing. The tools for serious production are not there for the average user - still mainly in professional radio stations and on the laptops of journalists.

eric

Something's very askew here. First, "podcasting" is being too narrowly defined. If you consider video podcasting, for example, Rocketboom, who receive 200K downloads DAILY, does that mean that Rocketboom accounts for over 25% of all Podcast Consumption in the marketplace?

Also, if you keep an eye on iTunes/Podcasts in the next week+, you will see the first Broadcast-2-Podcast content going "live." Which is going to change the entire equation. Finally, most podcast consumption takes place at the Site Level, not via Feed (depending on the Podcast, that can be as high as 95% is site based listening/viewing).

I would recommend you discuss some actual numbers with the podcast companies (providing ad support) in the marketplace now -- not just those with big PR departments, but all of them.

MattV

I can't imagine that even 1% listen to podcasts. I know I don't and no one else that I know listens to them. Originally, I did listen when it was a new concept, mainly Adam Curry, but I soon just simply lost interest. That's not to say that it won't gain greater popularity in the future, but it may need some time to mature.

Gaurang Kanvinde

If choice of podcast content is big issue in acceptability of podcasts, why not create audio content for yourself?

There is a web-service http://www.proaxsysreader.com that allows individuals to create podcasts of text-blogs of their choice.

The user just has to provide the blog-URL and the service creates audio from that, and mails the user when done. The user can then access the text-blog as if it were a podcast blog!

It also allows users to create audio-books of their choice. The user must provide the e-book. At present only plain-text ebooks such as those available from Project Gutenburg are supported, but other formats will be supported soon...

-Gaurang

AnnaM

I listen to podcasts for an hour or more almost every day. I'd much rather listen to information than to music. I mostly listen to various types of news (science, health, technology), but also to TV-related podcasts (Lost, Ebert & Roeper) and even one or two short fiction podcasts. Everyone in my household subscribes to and listens to podcasts.

If it becomes easier, kids will be creating podcasts for their friends just like they do myspace and blogs.

Michelle

Podcasting is the most convienient way to get information on the run. I download my stuff overnight and then listen on the way to work. Check out some podcasts website and see how many people are there, commenting on shows and giving feedback! I dont think you did your research very well.

Knobtweakers

This doesn't tell us much unless we already know how many people are represented by that 1%, and what these numbers were a short while ago. Considering that podcasting was virtually unheard of before September of 2004, I'd say that reaching 1% already is impressive growth. I think people need to put this news into perspective. Podcasting has been growing exponentially, and I don't see that growth slowing any time soon.

yong fu

I used Jpodder, Juice, and iTunes, but not all at the same time. I did sync when I have time to do so, and then sync to my MP3 players. But my PC is not 24 hr on, so I do listen to podcast program a lot, but I am not a regular listener.
Podcast, from or point of view, should be easier to use before it can get the real momentum.

ELine

Podcasting business is growing very fast. Maybe 1% by now, but in a month it's probably doubled etc.
For people who want to know what podcasting is or want to know more about podcasting, go take a look on PodcastPlatform.com . Here you can find EVERYTHING about podcasting. From listening, producing, how to use music, legal issues, how to make money and more!
Have fun!

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