Transcript of What Does the Future of Podcasting Look Like?

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John Jantsch: So what does the future of podcasting hold? Kind of weird that we’re gonna talk to Tom Webster on a podcast about podcasting. Check it out.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Tom Webster. He’s a writer, speaker, and creator of the BrandSavant blog. He’s also the Vice President of Strategy and Marketing for Edison Research. And today we are gonna talk about his annual series of studies on podcasting, one of my favorite topics. So Tom, thanks for joining me.

Tom Webster: Well, thanks. It’s going to be a podcast about podcasts, meta.

John Jantsch: Really pretty crazy. So tell me about the series, the study, and I guess a little bit of the methodology, and why you do it and all that good stuff.

Tom Webster: Yeah, it sprung out of a study that we’ve been doing since 1998, called the Infinite Dial. It’s developed into the gold standard in a lot of different media measurements, in terms of how consumers behave when they’re using various types of media. It’s kind of the study of record for things like streaming audio, things like Pandora and Spotify and a whole number of things. This year, we added things like the whole smart speaker category, the Amazon Echo …

John Jantsch: Right.

Tom Webster: … and Google Home and things like that. And we added podcasting to it back in 2006. And since then, it’s of course grown, but it’s grown in some interesting ways. The study itself is historically … it’s done really to the kind of gold standard methodology that you can do in market research. It’s a telephone study, random, completely random digitize sample of American’s twelfth consonants. It’s half mobile, half land line. So, we spend a lot on it, to get it right. And, we’re always thrilled to be able to put out good results and podcasting, and a number of other things.

John Jantsch: I imagine back when you started in 2006, half of the trouble was finding somebody that knew what podcasting was.

Tom Webster: Yeah, that’s really about all we could measure at 2006, was have you ever heard of it?

John Jantsch: Yeah. Yeah.

Tom Webster: And that was a small percentage of the population, and the percentage that was actually listening to it, was kind of un-reportable from our stand point. It really even took the second year for us to even start reporting a percentage. And even then, it was so small that we didn’t even break anything out of there, the sample was too small. We just said, “Here’s the percent”. But it’s today, you’ve read through the slide. It’s actually … It’s a fairly a main stream behavior now.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and from a marketer’s stand point, it’s no longer just kind of the cutting edge digital people. Pretty much everybody is putting it as a channel that they have to be playing in. What was funny about … Going back, I started my podcast in 2005. Going back and just reminiscing on that, it was A) much harder to do, as today, and B) really hard for people to listen. I mean you had to really want to listen to a podcast. You had to download something called a Podcatcher. I’d listen to it on your laptop or your desktop. We didn’t have the Smartphone penetration and all the apps, and there wasn’t the iTunes. Even though the iTunes store came along pretty quickly after that, they didn’t make the podcasting app standard for many years. So, and I think what happened too, was around 2005, it was kind of the next cool thing after blogging, but then social media came along and kind of tanked it.

Tom Webster: Yeah, it’s never been the hot thing, until really just the past couple of years. It just kind of, it poked along for decades.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and your slides definitely suggest that, that you have a little bit of growth and then it hung around a certain level for like eight, ten years, and then boy, the last few years, it’s really taken off, hasn’t it?

Tom Webster: Yeah, it sure has. And, I think there’s a couple of major things you can point to. Number one, you can point to just how frictionless the technology is, compared to what it use to be. As you mentioned, to listen to a podcast before, you had to go through this kind of rude Goldberg contraption setup, and you didn’t even mention the fact that you would then side load, as it was called then. I love that word, side load podcast. There’s something called an iPod, which is like a phone that doesn’t make calls for you, younger iPhone.

John Jantsch: Well, actually most teenagers can relate to that, cause they never use their iPhone to make pre-calls either, so.

Tom Webster: Well, that’s a very good point. So, the friction got removed. But that alone, was not enough to make it grow. It was doomed, I think, to just be kind of a niche medium, even with that. But what really helped accelerate its growth was content in investment, and that’s really what we’ve seen a lot of in the past two or three years.

If there’s one thing that’s changed in this space over the past three years, it’s been the amount of money poured into it from all directions. And public media has led the way, certainly. And it helped to legitimize the space, which has made advertisers perk up and want to know more about it, and so more is being spent on content and measurements and now, where we are today.

John Jantsch: Yeah, I think that the entire media category really all of a sudden said, “Hey, this is not only a channel, this might be for survival for some of our content. You look at some of the NPRs of the world that are using a significant distribution.

Tom Webster: Yeah, we work with NPR, and it has opened up a whole gigantic other audience for them. I think in early days, there was … we wondered whether or not if we put NPR or other public media content on a podcast, does it cannibalize the on air …

John Jantsch: Right.

Tom Webster:… listening type. And it turns out, not to really. It turns out, that it opens up a whole, specifically younger audience, for a lot of this content. And, that’s really been the story with podcasting is. What you think about podcasting is that the sweet spot, demographically is absolutely 18 to 34. It’s huge 18 to 34, compared to the other demos. But, it’s also spoken word content, and the audience for spoken word content in this country, specifically things like talk radio, is much, much older, north of 50.

John Jantsch: And, is it [her 00:07:00] behavior that is driving that? I think of the 20’s something that I hang around with, and it’s more than that’s the device that they have, and that’s where they want to consume everything and so, they’re not gonna go find an FM radio.

Tom Webster: No, it’s very device driven. In fact, it’s one of the stats that we recorded in the Infinite Dial. I think 21% of households report that they don’t even have a radio in their house. And it’s much higher 18 to 34. I know our friend, Mitch Joel, talks a lot about the fact that there is no second screen or third screen, there’s only the screen in front of you. And there’s no doubt that having you pick what it’s always on, broadband, wifi and a super computer in your pocket, that led to consumption of audio content in places and environments, setting where it used to never be consumed. So, the size of the pie is much, much larger than it used to be.

John Jantsch: Man, I hear people talking about this American life and the Moth and shows like that, that probably had never heard it until they found it on their podcasting device.

Tom Webster: Oh, absolutely. And I think the great thing about the medium now is you’ve got a lot of experimentation, but it’s the experimentation that’s being funded and supported, which is kind of exposing us all to new content forms. You have to have a show like F-Town, which is one of the most popular podcasts in the world right now. It took them three years to make F-Town. Now, it’ seven hours long, right? It’s definitely a short audio book, in seven episodes. Having that kind of latest estimates of time and treasure is not something you could of even imagined three years ago.

John Jantsch: So you talked about the biggest growth area being 18 to 34, what about in terms of content? Is it a business driven? Is it entertainment driven, or are we just seeing it kind of the across the board?

Tom Webster: Well, I think a lot of what you see, especially in the top 100, lets’ say, on the iTunes charts, which iTunes and the IOS podcast app are responsible for, about 60% of the traffic. So, a slight majority of it, but not all of it. There’s a definite lead for what you see in there. There’s a lot of content, public media dominates it. There’s a lot of … I would casually sum it up as high brow content. That’s still going to be the case for a while. There’s still very significant leads psychographically with podcast listeners. They tend to be more educated, they tend to have higher incomes, but that’s descriptive and not the future.

And the one thing I always tell people when I talk about podcasting, is if you look at the top 100 podcasts in the iTunes chart, and then you look at the top 100 rated tv shows in Nielsen, they look nothing alike. And I’m not suggesting that they ever will, but one could look a little more like the other. And I think that’s going to be the key to opening up even more success for the medium.

John Jantsch: I always liked when they go through statistics and slides like that. It’s fun to pull and then that they kind of jump out at you. And the number that surprised me was 15% of the people that you surveyed, claimed to listen to 10 plus hours a week of programming.

Tom Webster: Yeah. Well, there’s another product that we have, another study called Share of Ear, which is kind of a giant online and offline diary of all forms of audio. And an interesting thing about podcast listeners, is the average American listens to about four hours of audio per day, but the podcast listeners listen to about six hours of audio per day, 50% more audio in the average day. And some of that is if they just happen to love audio, or they have more available time to do it in. But I think, ultimately, the cap on podcasting is more the audience for spoken word programming in general, than anything else, which does have a cap. It’s not a limitless field.

John Jantsch: I wonder how much of those ten plus hour people are on a train or a car commute for two hours on each way every day.

Tom Webster: Yeah, that’s definitely a huge part of it, and I think there’s still so much to be done. Our research shows that podcasting has really penetrated the car, pretty successfully. There’s more … I would say that there’s more podcasts being listened in cars, than cars that are natively equipped to handle them, right? These people are finding all kinds of ways to listen to podcasts in the car.

John Jantsch: Yeah, you can plug your phone in, and whatnot. But that’s interesting though, cause that’s coming, of course. Everyone will have a Podcatcher in their car, so what’s that gonna do?

Tom Webster: Well, I think the interesting thing, and I’m glad you brought this up, John, is that there’s frontiers as yet unexplored here.

John Jantsch: Right.

Tom Webster: And there’s a lot of room for different variety of forms. And what I can envision in the not very distant future. In fact, in the very near term, is being able to get into my car, and having whatever my entertainment system is, whether it’s native to my dash, or coming from my Smartphone, to know that my commute’s 26 minutes, and four of my podcasting clients to assemble the perfect 26 minute commute.

Maybe it starts with my local weather, maybe it starts with a little bit of traffic. Again, our clients at NPR has just come out with a ten minute news podcast called Up First, which again, is sort of innovating on the form a little bit. Maybe you stick that in there. So I think being able to aggressively manage what you listen to on your commute and have more and more control over it, there’s another key to increasing consumer demand.

John Jantsch: Yeah, I think Alexa’s actually trying to do that, or Amazon is trying to do that with Alexa, that you can get … you can sort of program it to curate what you want to hear, as the hard boiled eggs are cooking or something. So, do people tend to just go out there and find the content that they want to find, or is more show loyalty. You know, I have my four shows that I always listen to, or is more I have this range of topics that I like to dive into and jump around?

Tom Webster: Yeah, there is still, I think, kind of discoverability issues in podcasting. It’s mostly driven by word of mouth. But if you think about your average day, right? How you spend your day, or how I spend my day, there’s only so many hours a day that I could actually listen to a podcast. It’s a very lead forward medium.

John Jantsch:  Yes.

Tom Webster:  I can’t listen to a podcast and work at the same time.

John Jantsch:   I can’t run or walk even, cause there’s so many things that I want to consider.

Tom Webster: I can’t either.

John Jantsch: Yeah.

Tom Webster: Yeah, I live in downtown Boston. I can’t listen to any kind of spoken word content and run here, or I will die.

John Jantsch: Right.

Tom Webster: I think that the secret weapon in podcasting right now is cross promotion. And that’s why there are so many public radio, public media podcasts in the top 100, because they have a heavy and active cross promotion strategy. And it’s why eXhound premiered as high as it did, because it was heavily cross promoted by This American Life and Cereal.

John Jantsch: Yeah, it’s a great point. I see some business people doing that on a much smaller scale, but creating kind of communities of podcasters to promote each other. So … go ahead, I’m sorry.

Tom Webster:  No, I was gonna say, there’s no question that network has a real value in discovery, but I do think a lot of time is spent amongst podcasters talking about how to get their podcasts discovered. Like how to pull people into discovering their content. And frankly, there’s not enough pushing. Large podcasters like NPR and Chicago Public Media and WNYC, and things like that, are proving is that pushing helps, and promoting outside of our own airwaves or pod waves is really the key to growth.

John Jantsch: Hey, thanks for listening to the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. If you like this one, you might also like my other podcast, The Consulting Spark, where I interview independent marketing consultants and agency owners. We talk about how they built their business and the struggles they face, and what they love about being in this business. So, you can check it out at

So, my question was, you probably just sort of answered it, but from all the data, I’ll ask you kind of two questions, and I’ll come back and remind you of the second one, if you get going too far, but what can brands learn from this study? And then what can podcasters learn from this study?

Tom Webster: Sure. I think what brands can learn from this study, is that there is a significant portion of the American buying public, that is increasingly difficult to reach through traditional advertising. And one of the things that podcast listeners have in common, they’re heavy listeners of online radio, like Pandora and Spotify, which are either commercial free or very light on commercials. They listen to Podcasts, which are very light or have no commercials. Over half of them subscribe to Netflix, which has no commercials. And if you think about all of these hours that this particular demographic of people, who are affluent, educated and heavy buyers, are spending with media, that does not have traditional advertising, it prevents kind of a crisis for brands. So, in a lot of times, when I talk to brands who say, “Prove to me that podcasting is worth it or not worth it”. My response back to them is, “How are you gonna reach me?” How are you gonna reach me? Cause your options to do so are increasingly limited.

And then as far as what podcasters can learn, I do think that there’s still a lot of innovation in content that can be done, and what got them here is not going to get them there. I think if you have spent your podcasting career trying to optimize video, I chose charts. In some ways, you’ve created a self fulfilling prophecy. I think there is plenty of room out there to have even more mainstream content, right? They’re a kind of mystery programming, mysteries and things like that, in podcasting. It’s not exactly CSI or Law and Order, that kind of stuff, right? There’s plenty of mainstream content that can be done. And I think also there’s not, as I mentioned before, there’s not a lot that has been done in the format to educate the public, the mainstream public, of what a podcast is and why you would even bother.

John Jantsch: I think a lot of the media is doing more and more of that, but you’re right. There are some assumptions that people … the people who get it, get it, and all you need to do is mention that we have a podcast.

Tom Webster: Yeah. And that’s not always the case. And I know a lot of the podcasters I talk to are kind of incredulous when I tell them this, but I do a lot of research in a lot of fields. And I do a lot of focus groups. I’m sure you’ve sat in the back rooms in some of them yourself, John. And I can’t tell you how many that I talk to, and mentioned the word to, and I’ve either been told, “I don’t know what that is”, or I’ve been told, “Oh podcasts, I can’t listen to those cause I don’t have an iPhone.” I mean, I hear those things.

John Jantsch: Sure, sure, sure. Absolutely.

Tom Webster:  And when I tell that to other podcasters, they’re like, “Get out of town”.

John Jantsch: Yep.

Tom Webster: But they don’t get out of their bubbles very much.

John Jantsch: Yeah.

Tom Webster: So, getting out of your bubble is key inside, I think.

John Jantsch: Absolutely. So Tom, what can people find more on, or even just very, very high level on this? Where can people find more about this study, and about the work that you’re doing?

Tom Webster:  Sure. Well, our main website is, and there you can find the podcast consumer 2017 and the Infinite Dial 2017 and a little bit on, actually the thing we’re best known for is we’re the sole providers of the exit poles during the election, primary and things. We’ve done that since 2003. I love telling people that when I speak, they get questions, as you might imagine. So there’s information on that as well. And I’m on the twitter at webbie2001.

John Jantsch: All right, awesome. Well, Tom, thanks so much for joining me. Hopefully you have … it’s pouring down rain. You can’t see Missouri today. I suspect we sent some of it all the way to Boston. It’s been raining here so long.

Tom Webster: You have indeed, yes. Not been pleasant.

John Jantsch: Well take care. Thanks so much for joining us, and hopefully we will run into on the road soon.

Tom Webster: Thanks Tom.

John Jantsch: Hey, thanks for listening to this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. Wonder if you can do me a favor. Could you leave an honest review on iTunes? Your ratings and reviews really help, and I promise, I read each and every one. Thanks.


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