Podcasts What do listeners actually think?
Producing podcasts is all the rage today. More and more people and companies are using podcasts to convey information, entertainment, opinions, advertising and much more besides. But little is known about whether and by whom podcasts are listened to or how well they go down with listeners.
Podcasts have transformed from a niche phenomenon to a global trend, or even a craze. This has unfolded over the past 25 years thanks to various technical and content-related drivers (RSS, iTunes, podcast apps, “Serial”, “The Daily”, Spotify, etc.).
This development was boosted by a large number of independent podcasters. All of a sudden, audio fans were able to produce and broadcast their own radio programmes. In the past, this had exclusively been the domain of established institutions. But the trend is also being fuelled by gold-rush fever, with much talk of how rich podcasters can become. The fact that few people succeed in reaching a mass audience doesn’t stop individuals, companies or media groups from trying. As a result, the number of podcasts which can be subscribed to is constantly rising – it currently stands at 2 million, but this figure is contested and will also soon be outdated.
The question of who is actually listening to all this content often gets overlooked amidst all the hype. It’s difficult to determine whether someone who downloads a podcast then actually listens to it. More and more studies are being carried out to analyse listening behaviour in various countries. Spotify and other providers are making podcast streaming increasingly common, which means that better and better figures are available. But we’re still often in the dark in terms of quantitative listening research.
And qualitative listening research is even more challenging. Although there is the option of rating podcasts with stars, who is actually doing that? And while in the early days, enthusiasts raved about podcasts inspiring a “participative culture”, these hopes have been dampened. People who make podcasts rarely receive feedback from their listeners. And they often don’t even try to obtain feedback − which makes things even harder. Media researcher James G. Robinson reveals that journalists prefer to imagine their audience rather than get to know them. Unfortunately, the same often applies to podcast-makers.
What can be done? The figures on podcast consumption will improve over the medium term, thanks to studies and analytics from providers. We also expect that podcast apps will provide better feedback options at some point. But until then, those who don’t just wish to produce podcasts for their own sake will have to obtain their own feedback. Inviting the audience to write to them. Setting up a website with a comments function. Running a forum about the podcast. Allowing listeners to speak during the podcast. Discussing podcasts on Clubhouse (yes, that does still exist!). There are many ways of engaging with audiences.
Podcasting has made it easy to speak to people. Listening to them is more difficult, but at least equally as important.
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