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iHeart's Patel: Podcasts Need To Better Address Listener Diversity And Generational Differences.

As wide-reaching as podcasts have become, there's still work to do, especially with Black, Hispanic, and generally younger audiences, iHeartMedia Executive VP of SmartAudio Intelligence Hetal Patel says in Coleman Insights' weekly blog.

Focusing on Patel's presentation at February's Audio Intelligence Summit titled “Podcasting Trends & Mythbusters: What to look forward to in 2023,” Patel notes the industry had assumed a lack of interest among Black and Hispanic consumers in podcasts, which iHeart helped prove incorrect. “When we launched the My Cultura network, a slate of Hispanic-targeted podcasts, we learned one in three Hispanics who had not given podcasting a shot said it was because there wasn’t content relevant to their interests,” she says. “It wasn’t a discovery problem, it was a content problem.”

The opportunities for podcasts aimed at a more diverse audience, Patel points out, are greater among Gen Z and Gen Alpha consumers, more than half of whom are non-white. At the same time, she suggests the industry also needs to be aware of how different Gen Zs are from Millennials when it comes to how and why they listen. “Millennials listen to podcasts for productivity, they listen to learn something,” she says, “[while] Gen Z seeks companionship, which makes sense. The levels of loneliness are highest in America right now. While digital media was made to keep us together, it has done the exact opposite.”

Another podcasting issue Patel brings up is the lack of education when it comes to platforms vs. publishers, which presents challenges on the advertising side, when buyers don’t necessarily understand that their ads travel with the content to each podcasting platform. “If you watch a video from a publisher like Vox, CNN, or Fox on Facebook, you know the content belongs to those publishers,” she says, “but many people who listen to an iHeart show on Spotify may think it’s a Spotify show. Other publishers probably feel the same thing when consuming content on the iHeartRadio app.”

While Patel sees a role for video in podcasting, she feels the key for the industry is recognizing what makes the audio medium special. “When was the last time you listened to a podcast while focused on your cell phone? The engagement, the curiosity, demands the listener commit to it.”

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