Podcasting Crosses The Chasm

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Last week at Blogworld, I presented some new research on the state of podcasting in the U.S.. While social media adoption has far outstripped podcast usage, podcasting has continued its steady growth relatively unabated, and today 27% of Americans 12+ have ever watched or listened to a podcast. That’s roughly 70 million people – not too shabby. What has changed significantly over the years that Edison has been tracking podcasting and other digital media is the makeup of the podcast audience. In podcasting’s early days, it was assuredly a long-tail play, attracting early adopters, tech enthusiasts and other small – but passionate – audiences. Today, however, the most popular podcasts are by mainstream content providers such as NPR and ESPN, and new devices such as the Roku and Boxee players are showcasing podcast content right next to broadcast favorites. Of course, the definition of “podcast” is now a bit slippery, and newcomers to podcasts are increasingly more likely to watch or listen to shows on-demand, rather than through downloading them and consuming them later. Today the average podcast consumer is actually far closer to the average content consumer, period. Most Americans describe themselves as either right down the middle or even a bit “behind” in terms of consumer adoption of new technologies, products and services. While podcast consumers looked appreciably different in 2005, in 2010 they more closely resemble the norm. The availability of mass-appeal content as podcasts has undoubtedly warmed up the market for podcast content in general, which opens up opportunities for digital content providers to reach new audiences. Indeed, podcasting has gone from a long-tail play to a very credible mid-tail play and beyond. The mid-tail is especially relevant for brand marketers, as podcasting is now a more attractive option for affinity groups, like BMW owners, or Harley-Davidson clubs. Podcasts of All Things Considered, or ESPN Fantasy Football Focus have converted new, less tech-savvy consumers to become podcast consumers, and this in turn presents an additional opportunity to reach these consumers that, though technically possible in years past, is now actually a viable mainstream consumer content tactic. Finally, while early podcast users were most likely to discover podcasts through the iTunes music store, or perhaps through their favorite blogs, today social media is an increasingly more important driver for podcast discovery. Social media’s hockey-stick growth over the past two years actually benefits podcast discovery by presenting (again) mainstream consumers with discovery and trial options through social media sharing that were not as viable a few years ago. As I mentioned during my talk at Blogworld, the days of podcasting-specific conferences appear to be over as the digerati switch to social media, but the general public didn’t get that memo. As such, podcasting continues to be an important platform, and a natural complement to your social media efforts. How are you using podcasting to build your brand?

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