Podcasting Best Practices - The Study

April 26, 2019

Executive Summary

Time spent listening to podcasts has been decreasing as the number of podcasts listened to in a typical month increases. This is a key finding according to the ad agency buyers interviewed by Bridge Ratings.
— Dave Van Dyke, President Bridge Ratings

Bridge Ratings continues its coverage of the podcasting space with this latest update which provides never before insight and best practices learned from a three month study conducted between January 23, 2017 and April 10, 2017.

A key highlight of this study is the time-spent-listening to podcast metrics.

Tracking usage of a 2000 person sample (ages 13+), time spent with podcasts has been decreasing as the number of podcasts listened to in a typical month increases.

This is a key finding according to the ad agency buyers we interviewed for this study.

This may seem logical as our sample seemed to have limits for listening to audio during their typical week.

Trends in time-spent-listening shown in the following chart reflect a significant reduction in the average time spent per listening session falling by a third between August 2015 and April 2017.  "Listening Session" is defined as the portion of each podcast listened to during individual sessions. 56% of our panelists listened to podcasts in multiple sessions.

Click on image to enlarge

At the same time, the average number of podcasts listened to each week by our sample increased. Improved podcast search, ease-of-use to listen and greater variety contributed to this increase.

Seek And You Shall Find

What are the most popular methods of discovering podcasts of interest?

1. Social Media
2. Search
3. Word of Mouth
4. Other Podcasts
5. Streaming Channels
6. Radio Hosts

Facebook led among social media platforms as a source of podcast awareness. Word of mouth from friends and family followed search. Promotion on other podcasts listened to was the third most-mentioned source and fourth - streaming channels - both music and spoken word - is a rising source of podcast awareness.

Traditional radio ranked sixth. This is partly a function of low sharing between broadcast radio and podcasts. Additionally, low awareness of podcasts produced by radio talent was the number one reason current podcast/radio primaries (those that spent time with both platforms in a typical week) listed radio as a soft source for podcast discovery.

Best Practices

For broadcasters seeking to increase listenership to podcasts by their talent, a significant increase in promotion - both on-air and through social media - would be the primary strategy.

1. Producers of podcasts should have a clear idea of the prospect or audience - the target market. Knowing who is the target will help producers stay focused on the topics covered. Audience knowledge lays the foundation for all of the other items on this list.

2. Be organized and know where the podcast is going. Be considerate of your audience's time and don't ramble. Get to the point. The average time spent with podcasts is 22 minutes with listeners who commit beyond the first five minutes. Podcast abandonment continues to plague non-focused hosts with no clear understanding of how to capture their listeners' attention. The “session” average of 22 minutes also reflects partial podcast consumption, i.e. podcasts of longer length are often listened to in 2 or more “sessions”.  

Listening to a podcast “in its entirety” often means listening to it in multiple sessions.

3. Edit. Edit. Edit. It is easy to start a podcast recording only to find the host and/or guests have rambled for 45 minutes or an hour. Before posting podcasts on-line, producers would be best served to listen through the entire recording with a critical ear and edit out content that doesn't serve the "vision" of informative, engaging and entertaining content that listeners can't get from other media.

4. Establish a publishing schedule. Bridge Ratings' analysis found that weekly podcasts are most popular followed by twice per week and daily. Tuesday was the best day to post podcasts followed by Friday. based on our panel's responses.

5. Tagging metadata. Search is the second most-popular way consumers find podcasts of interest. Producers should be cognizant of search engine requirements including software that consumers use and directories. Metadata is that additional information embedded in an object which provides information to software platforms about that object. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a function of these tags and allows a podcast to be found. The more refined and focused the tagging data, the higher the chance of the podcast appearing on the first page of search results.

6. For broadcasters seeking to increase listenership to podcasts hosted by their talent, a significant increase in promotion - both on air and through social media - would be the primary strategy.


This graphic from Goodman Marketing Partners is an excellent quick-view of key ways to distribute content. Until podcast search is more refined and catalogued, podcast producers should make every attempt to have their content available on as many platforms as possible.

As mentioned earlier, social media has become a major marketing tool for podcasters, but each of the funnels below are available to podcasters who are seeking increasing audience awareness and trial.

Media Agencies ranked their understanding of podcast advertising at 5.1 on a scale of 1-10 and 7.2 for streaming audio.
— Interactive Advertising Bureau

Podcast Listening

To get a more complete picture of podcast consumption, Bridge Ratings' annual review of the podcasting space often reveals information that previously was unavailable. Our ad agency clients are not only interested in the number of people listening to podcasts but how long they listen and the potential for growth.

These metrics are also helpful in fine-tuning best practices for those producing and hosting podcasts.

The following chart covers basics like weekly and monthly podcasting and it also covers "likely to listen to a podcast in the next 30 days" and an on-going measurement of the population that have no interest in listening to a podcast.

The trends are significant and speak for themselves. It has been confirmed in multiple studies that podcast listening is growing and in this annual "Best Practices" look, the potential for growth is highlighted by the two sets of bars to the right.

The percentage of our panelists who don't currently consume podcasts and who may listen to a podcast in the next 30 days has doubled since the February 2016 version of this study.

This is supported by the continuing fall of the number of consumers who have "no interest in podcasting". 41% of our respondents said they have no interest in podcasting at this time, down from 60% in our February study. For the first time the number of consumers who have ever listened to a podcast is greater than the number that have no interest.

Awareness through word-of-mouth from friends and family, increasing publicity of podcasting in general and high-interest topics are motivating more people to try podcasting.

The recent U.S. election cycle and subsequent news and political coverage through podcasts is one of the top two primary reasons for the increased interest.


Media Agency Growth

The understanding of podcasting in media agencies trails that of streaming.

From a study conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) as reviewed by Mumbrella reporter Abigail Dawson from February 2017, "Media agencies are showing a greater understanding of audio streaming and podcasts, with the aim of increasing awareness of their clients' brands as the main objective".

Increasing brand awareness is considered the most important objective for audio advertising, according to this study, with support for specific promotions coming in second followed by direct response.

Nearly half of media agencies in the study are planning to use targeted audio advertising platforms with 46% of agencies considering streaming digital audio as a regular part of their strategy.

Two-thirds are planning broadcasting and streaming audio together.

Final Thoughts

  • Podcasting continues to have great potential to drive a broader trend toward on-demand audio that is reshaping the $75B+ global audio market

  • Innovators continue to press to solve the major challenges to podcast growth in order for it to become more mass appeal:

    • Podcasting still has an issue with discovery and needs to become more social in order to drive audience growth in addition to simplified search mechanisms.

    • Monetization/advertising expansion should expand considerably in 2017, but universal measurement metrics are still needed that offer ad buyers and clients confirmation of consumption and advertising response

  • 75% of podcasters are concerned with generating new listeners and app presence, monetization (70% dissatisfied) and social media presence (58% dissatisfied.

  • Social media, search and word of mouth are the most popular channels for audience growth.

  • Barriers to faster growth: 1) "Finding Podcasts I'm interested in", 2) "Programs are too long or have uninteresting hosts".

  • The differential between the number of "professional podcasters" and "podcast hobbyists" is closing.

The trends look promising and slowing the technical issues that had previously contributed to slow or non-growth are being resolved. But podcasting is approaching a state of mass appeal which will increase monetization, improve production quality and distribution.

The second part of this study, "Consumers' Advice for the Podcaster" will be published in May.

Methodology: A panel of 2000 persons ages 13 and older were contacted by random digit dialing phone method to both landlines (45%)  and mobile phones (55%) in the continental U.S. Phone interviews, on-line questionnaires and daily diaries were utilized to gauge the consumption behavior of current podcast listeners and potential listeners. Margin of Error for this study is +/- 2.2%.