“Why Nearly Half of Americans Never Podcast”

“Why Nearly Half of Americans Never Podcast”

Last week, I wrote about a brand new podcast that I am now hooked on. It’s called Testify, and it’s a true-crime podcast about the Borderland produced in El Paso.

Over the past few years, I’ve devoted more than a few column-inches to various podcasts. I suspect it may have started with Radiolab, followed by Serial and S-Town and Longform. I’m sure there have been others along the way.

And while there is little question that podcasting continues to be a platform that is growing in popularity, it may come as no surprise that nearly half of Americans have never listened to a single podcast.

According to Jacobs Media, one of the nation’s leading media consulting and research firms, between 30 and 45 percent of radio listeners say they do not listen to podcasts. The firm conducts three major nationwide surveys each year:

• The Jacobs Media Techsurvey, which measures how commercial radio listeners consume media

• The Public Radio Techsurvey, which does the same for those who listen mostly to public radio

• The Christian Music Broadcasters Techsurvey, which is targeted toward listeners of Christian radio stations

In this year’s surveys, all three groups were asked about their podcast consumption. Jacobs Media found that 45 percent of commercial radio listeners never listen to podcasts. Among Christian radio listeners, 43 percent don’t ever listen to podcasts. Public radio listeners are the heaviest consumers of podcasts — with just 30 percent saying they never listen, and 16 percent saying they listen to podcasts daily.

That last figure might be the least-surprising finding of all the surveys. After all, public radio platforms like NPR, PRI and the Public Radio Exchange have really pioneered the podcasting platform. NPR was an early adopter—making popular shows like All Things Considered, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, Fresh Air and Tiny Desk Concerts available to download as podcasts. Public Radio Exchange, which produces and syndicates the wildly popular This American Life, also shared a hand in producing the bombshell podcasts Serial and S-Town — two podcasts that really helped the medium break into the mainstream.

It’s not clear why podcasting lags so far behind its video counterpart — video on-demand. By comparison, about 59 percent of American adults are now using Netflix, according to Statista, which aggregates studies from more than 22,500 sources.

But Fred Jacobs, the president and founder of Jacobs Media, posits that it may have something to do with the quality of centralized platforms. That is, Netflix is easy to navigate — and one can subscribe and begin using it with little friction. If you feel like branching out, the largest alternative platforms — Amazon Prime Video and Hulu — are pretty intuitive, and work very much like Netflix.

The same can’t be said of podcasting. Even for those accustomed to using iTunes, the platforms for discovery and subscribing can be clunky and fragmented and hard to navigate. There really isn’t a centralized platform through which one can access the best of the medium without much friction. And there’s no doubt that this can be off-putting to some would-be listeners.

Spotify has started offering podcasts on its platform, which may help expand the medium to a wider array of listeners.


I’d just like to conclude by saying that, if you haven’t yet discovered the world of podcasts, you’re truly missing out on a whole universe of really compelling listening.

Originally Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News, 11/15/18

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'Testify,' a true-crime podcast for the Borderland

'Testify,' a true-crime podcast for the Borderland