June 1, 2019

33 Minutes

Much excitement has been building in media quarters as more and more consumer research is released on podcasting.

Bridge Ratings' Podcasting Audit revealed that 30% of the sample had listened to a podcast in the last month.

It's clear in most of the studies that the number of people listening to podcasts is at an all time high and that podcasting has become a medium which reaches a lot of people and is becoming a formidable advertising platform.

The good news is that podcast consumers are more affluent and educated than average and younger as well.  These are traits advertisers love and revenue growth potential for the medium remains positive.

Bridge Ratings projections for podcasting growth in both users and advertising potential points to a solid future as well.

We also pointed out that there are three possible paths for revenue growth depending on market drivers and marketing.

Drivers that can influence both usage and revenue include word-of-mouth from family and friends, promotion in other podcasts and continued support and promotion through broadcast media - especially radio - which brings large numbers of potential podcast listeners in their weekly audiences.

High profile radio personalities that have been expanding their reach beyond their radio shows into podcasting has contributed to particularly strong growth. As more broadcast companies invest in podcasting, the future of the medium can be considered potentially bright.

And more frequently highly popular podcasts like "Serial", "This American Life" and the "TED Radio Hour" are drawing in new listeners weekly as awareness of these shows becomes mainstream.

Interestingly, while marketing spend has seen growth of 20+% over the last five years, listeners have grown by around 8% and listens have grown by 11%.

Marketers are gaining more confidence in the platform.

In terms of growth of Market Spend, over the last five years podcasting is seeing accelerating growth signaling an unusual year over year spike (+ 48%) due this year. Cost-per-thousands are tracking with increases as well.

Total Digital media spent continues to steamroll with no end in sight through 2022.


However, measurement improvement of podcast consumption is generally not accommodating the increasing interest from advertisers and ad agencies whose ad buying experience in traditional media - and on-demand streaming media more recently - has involved more granular metrics. While some ad buyers today are investing budgets in the podcast space based on "unique downloads" or number of "subscribers", most we interviewed for this study wanted to see more specifics related to listening behavior of podcast consumers.

Metrics such as number of downloads and subscribers have been used to measure popularity and have been driving ad sales. However, unlike other media, podcasting does not at this time have a strong entity to serve as a check and balance for consumption metrics. A download doesn't mean the same thing for all players in the space and that presents a problem for advertisers.

Return on investment (ROI) remains a high-value metric for advertisers and number of downloads only presents part of the picture. "Mindshare" or top of mind awareness of a brand for consumers is important especially for brands who seek an action on the part of the listener to go out and purchase the product or service advertised.

Television, radio and internet radio have clear measurement tools that provide advertisers with not only how many people are listening, but when and for how long and where.

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

This more granular detail is not yet available on a grand scale for most podcasters.

Different Strokes

We all use on-line content for different purposes - some engage us for minutes - even hours. Others keep our attention for only a few minutes or seconds. The ideal length for on-line content varies widely and podcast length has been under discussion for years.

We have found that the majority of our study participants tend to listen to podcasts over 30 minutes in segments due to either a lifestyle interruption (commuting or working) or interest levels become “challenged” if the host(s) cannot hold attention. Comments range from “the podcast was just too long and I didn’t have time” to “the hosts seemed to think a rambling conversation would be of interest.”

Podcast Time Spent Listening

While the current research available from most analysis firms gives us insight into podcast usage and its growth, Bridge Ratings went a step further to determine how long consumers spend listening to podcasts. Currently, advertisers and producers of podcasts don't know if listeners spent 5 minutes or an hour with their podcast and this is a key area of need.

The time-spent-listening data we’ve published here has helped some ad agencies place a portion of their 2H 2019 ad budgets in the podcasting space.
— Dave Van Dyke, President Bridge Ratings

In our just-completed year-long field study, Bridge Ratings empaneled a group of over 3000 consumers 12-64 years of age who had listened to at least five different podcasts in the previous 30 days.

The panel of podcast listeners were given a choice of either a paper or electronic "diary" with which they were instructed to keep track of their podcast listening over the course of 7 days. Listeners wrote down the name of the podcast and the start time and end times of listening in each session.

The study was conducted between April 1, 2018 and March 30, 2019.

According to our panelists, on average 26 percent tuned out or abandoned the podcast started within the first thirty minutes. Multiple reasons were given for tuneout during podcast listening including topic, host, lifestyle impact, technical quality and whether or not the podcast held their interest.

19 percent abandoned the podcast at the 30-45 minute time.

And 15 percent abandoned podcasts over 60 minutes in length.

These numbers are additive, i.e., 40 percent of the panelists in our study abandoned podcasts over 45 minutes in length. (see chart)

These abandonment responses should provide some guidance to podcast producers seeking to establish the most effective program length for the greatest audience.

The average of all 3100 participants in the study was 33 minutes. This covers a wide spectrum of interests and production types but we now have a good understanding of time commitment by podcast listeners.

Different Strokes, Part 2

The Bridge Ratings study also learned that abandonment rates differ with podcast subject matter. The top podcast subjects with the greatest average time spent listening were:

  • Sports & Recreation - 47 minutes

  • Games and Hobbies - 45 minutes

  • Technology (including internet/digital topics) - 40 minutes

  • Business - 35 minutes

  • The average of all 3100 participants in the study was 33 minutes. This covers a wide spectrum of interests and production types but we now have a good understanding of time commitment by podcast listeners.

A New Metric

An exiting new metric was discovered in this study: Repeat Exposures.

We found an actionable number of podcast consumers repeated listening to a specific podcast.

Podcast genres that showed the greatest evidence of repeat listens were:

  • Business

  • Technology

  • TV & Film

  • Games & Hobbies

  • Science & Medicine

The most-often mentioned reason for repeat listens to the same episode were:

  1. Complex concepts requiring repeated listens.

  2. Post-referencing

  3. Instructional content

Final Thoughts

Podcasting is maturing - there's no doubt about it and the industry is on the verge of realizing advertising revenue growth worthy of the higher income, higher educated and young audiences that are attracted to the large variety in subject matter, presentation and hosts.

Continued clarity of audience behavior will accelerate growth as ad buyers we've spoken to intend to invest a portion of their advertising budgets in the podcasting landscape. A greater number are waiting on the sidelines in anticipation of better accountability and return on investment.

The time-spent-listening data we've published here already has helped some ad agencies take the leap and are placing a portion of their 2H 2016 ad budgets on podcasts.

We are working with a number of ad agencies in need of advanced data. We hope these discussions result in increased ad dollars placed in the podcast space.


Some graphics and source material provided by Radii Group, Gautham Iyer.