Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Podcast User Demographics: The broad picture of a niche medium

Podcast User Demographics: The broad picture of a niche medium

It would be a mistake to think that the average podcast user is a 23-year-old male with a college education and a really big comic book collection. Podcast users are not a homogeneous group, and downloads range from music to religious broadcasts to museum tours. That said, overall podcasting user demographics give a broad perspective on the medium.

iTunes accounts for 75% of all podcast downloads, according to Podtrac, so comScore's October 2006 study of iTunes podcast downloaders captured most users. On the whole, podcast downloaders tended to be male, young and educated. Notably, people between the ages of 35 and 54 represented about half of the podcasting audience.

While the conventional wisdom says that only young, tech-savvy consumers are downloading and listening to podcasts, there is also a sizable market among 35-to-54-year-olds, indicating that the audience is broader than previously thought. Since many of the top podcasts are in the educational and business genres, it's not surprising that podcasts today appeal to the more educated and higher-income consumer segments.

Time online is also a determining factor in podcast usage, according to a Pew Internet & American Life Project study conducted from February to April 2006. Internet users who had been online for six or more years were twice as likely to have downloaded a podcast as someone online for three years or less (13% vs. 6%, respectively).

It is important for potential podcast sponsors and other marketers to avoid thinking of podcast users as a single composite entity. One of the medium's strengths is that regular followers are hugely interested in the topic of a given podcast, be it comics or cash management, allowing for a deeper host-listener (and therefore brand) relationship than is possible with a general audience — or a composite picture of one.

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