August 20, 2006


More than 6% of U. S adults, or about 9 million web users, have downloaded podcasts in the past 30 days, according to The Economics of Podcasting, a report released today by Nielsen Analytics, part of VNU’s Media Measurement & Information Group.

In a first quarter 2006 study, conducted by Nielsen Analytics at Nielsen Entertainment Television testing facilities in Las Vegas, more than 1700 participants were surveyed on their podcasting usage. About 6% of respondents described themselves as regular podcast downloaders – more than 75% of whom were male. The findings show that a significant percentage, approximately 38%, of active podcast downloaders say they are listening to radio less often.

“The incredible popularity of podcasting is the latest demonstration of consumers’ willingness to take control of their media experiences,” said Larry Gerbrandt, general manager and senior vice president of Nielsen Analytics. “While essentially still in nascent form, podcasts offer free audio and video content that is inexpensive to create, easy to access and on a portable platform that has already reached mass distribution. This exciting new medium has only just begun to stretch its legs.”

Judging by the numbers they give for popular podcasts, the Glenn and Helen Show is doing awfully well, though as with all Web stats its hard to be sure that you’re comparing apples and apples. In the same spirit, I don’t think that Nielsen will learn anything useful by sampling the habits of 400 iPod owners. First, most people listen to podcasts on computers, not iPods. (Even most people who listen on portable players tend to listen on other brands than iPods.) Second, Apple users tend to be disproportionately left-leaning, and while that’s probably less true for iPod owners than it is for Mac owners I think it probably injects some potential bias. And finally, given the vast diversity of offerings out there, 400 listeners isn’t nearly enough. Even 4000 would be a pretty coarse measure.

UPDATE: Reader Douglas Winship takes me to task, which, er, provides me with a great opportunity to showcase the self-correcting nature of the blogosphere:

I am curious about your assertion that Apple users as a whole tend to lean left. I know it is a common assumption, and Apple certainly has a tendency to lean left in the culture it uses in its advertising, but have there actually been studies on this? Could you cite one, just for grins?

I am curious, because my own experience does not support this. I know plenty of users who range from full-blown BDS sufferers, to California Libertarians (OK, there may not be a difference there….), and a bunch of moderate to conservative Republicans like myself. Now, I am aware that we all gravitate socially to like-minded people, but I find it hard to believe that Mac users gravitate that significantly Left.

He’s right to call me. You hear that about Apple users leaning left all the time, but I don’t have a study on that. Anybody know if I’m right, or just recycling commonly held stereotypes? I’m probably also wrong on the iPods vs. other players issue, as their market share (I looked this up myself) has risen to an astounding 82% of the retail market, and may be headed higher. Even allowing for the large base of preexisting players from other brands out there, iPods are probably an absolute majority of players in use. Also, interestingly, the percentage (not the number) of iTunes users subscribing to our RSS feed has dropped, as lots of people have started subscribing via Firefox and other agents. I assume those folks are listening on their computers, mostly, and certainly not on iPods.

I stand by my point about 400 iPod users not being a big enough sample, though.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Chad Irby emails that the iPod has actually dropped to a “mere” 75% of the market. But mobile phone listeners are coming on strong. We certainly get some of those.

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