How London listens to podcasts

Uh, podcasts are sooo now, but we don’t know how ‘now’ they are…

The quote above is something I genuinely heard once. It was said to me by someone who really wanted to invest in podcasts but just couldn’t see past the “podcast problem”. He was stung by the glorious projections the 2008 podcast bubble promised and then quickly, cruelly withdrew because nobody knew how to make any money. Back then, podcasting was relatively a new thing and announced itself as an ideal platform for the new, tech-savvy generation… the fact that you could listen to newsy-type, topical stuff direct from on your phone (and the internet) from trusted media sources, provided an overwhelming “wow factor”. However, as time went on, it became obvious that after some initial promise, there was a massive, dollar-shaped problem hole — advertisers just didn’t want to invest in something that didn’t provide the basic, key facts. Who the hell was listening?

Although things have improved and the medium has recovered somewhat, the underlying problem remains the same. To use several mixed-up metaphors, podcasting is an temperamental beast and the industry is very much considered the ‘wild west’ of the media world. How very gauche. Unlike their bedfellows — radio, television and other online media (such as YouTube videos) — advertisers continue to be nervous when it comes to throwing money at the practice. Exactly who listens, when they listen (and stop listening), where they listen and in what context continues to be as elusive as a tailored badger at a taxidermist’s convention. Even Ira Glass, the host of the marvellous The American Life, expressed his concern at this sticking point at a talk he recently gave in Camden.

The main thrust of all of this is that change will come. Many people predict that as podcasts get even more popular, they will move away from their traditional RSS feed-based logistics, to a much more sophisticated tracking system, delivering a plethora of statistical data whenever requested. But until that point, going out and talking to real life people seems to be the best way to gather up listener habits to provide us with a clear picture of who is listening and why.

Lucky for us then, we’ve managed to get hold of some rare London-based research. Commissioned by the guys at Dash Audio, it basically drills down into the appeal of podcasts and looks into what exactly people want more of and what turns them off. Conducted in June ’16, the survey outlines reasoning from 1,008 people, whose ages range from 18 years to the over 65s.

Below, then, are the key points…

1. New research, commissioned by Dash, has revealed that the top three apps Londoners use to listen to Podcasts are BBC iPlayer (60%), Apple Podcasts (41%) and Soundcloud (34%).

2. The majority of respondents (53%) have started listening to podcasts since 2014.

3. Most Londoners (64%) listen to podcasts around the house, while more than four in ten listen on their commute (42%).

4. The majority of Londoners (56%) listen to podcasts for news, while listening for comment and opinion (49%) comes a close second.

5. The top three organisations respondents would like to see using podcasts are their favourite newspaper (49%), favourite magazine (48%) and their favourite museum (33%).

6. The top three media formats Londoners consume are the television (73%), online videos (61%) and online news sites (60%).

7. The top three factors that are most likely to make a Londoner unsubscribe from a podcast are excessive advertising (56%), irrelevant content (52%) and excessive episode length (37%).

8. Men in London (39%) are twice as likely as women in London (19%) to listen to podcasts every day.

9. More men (40%) than women (26%) listen to podcasts via Soundcloud.

10. Men (51%) are more likely to listen to podcasts on their commute than women (32%). Men are also twice (41%) as likely as women (21%) to listen in the car.

11. Women (30%) are more likely than men (23%) to listen to a new podcast if it is recommended by a friend/family member.

12. Two thirds of men from London (67%) listen to podcasts for the news, compared to less than half of women from London (43%).

13. Men would most like to see their favourite newspaper using podcasts (57%), yet women would most like to see their favourite magazine run a podcast (44%).

14. Men (36%) are more likely than women (26%) to unsubscribe from podcasts due to a lack of content variety.

15. 25–34 year-olds (49%) are the most likely age group to listen to podcasts every day, compared to 35–44 year-olds (20%).

16. The majority of 25–34 year-olds (51%) listen to Apple Podcasts, compared to just three in ten 45–54 year-olds (29%).

17. Older London residents are more likely to listen to podcasts around the house. More than three quarters of over-55s (78%) do so, compared to just over half of 18–24 year-olds (55%).

18. More than four in five 25–34 year-olds (83%) recall hearing advertised products during a podcast compared to two in five over-55s (42%).

19. Over-55s (62%) are more likely than 18–24 year-olds (47%) to unsubscribe from a podcast if they receive irrelevant content.

20. Two of five middle management employees (40%) and senior managers (40%) listen to podcasts every day.

21. More senior managers (56%) than non-manual workers (35%) listen to podcasts on their commute.

22. The top three reasons why middle management workers in London listen to podcasts are for the news (63%), for comment/opinion (60%) and for expertise (53%).

23. Three in five Londoners who are currently unemployed (60%) are more likely to unsubscribe from a podcast due to irrelevant content than skilled manual workers (41%).