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Listeners Reveal The Plusses And Minuses Of Podcast Listening.

Listeners love you, until they don’t. NuVoodoo released a survey of what podcast consumers think about the medium, and their results are mostly positive. The top takeaways of the survey include more things they like about podcasts – from the ease to listen wherever and its subscription-free option - and what drives them crazy, including episodes that are too long.

Plus: Podcasts Help Listeners Feel Smarter & Better Informed.

Half of listeners think people who consume podcasts are more curious and better informed than the average joe, and nearly as many think they are smarter too. NuVoodoo President Carolyn Gilbert said it may seem like a “no brainer” that podcasts make listeners feel smarter, but what is surprising is that a podcast doesn’t need to be educational to benefit from that halo thanks to how the brain works. “If you think you’re just entertainment, they’re not just coming to you for entertainment. They want to be informed,” she said during a presentation during Podcast Movement in Dallas on Thursday.

Plus: Podcasts Allow Listeners To Engage In Deeper Topic Areas

Broadcast radio and television works to appeal to the largest number of people with the least-objectionable programming. But podcasting’s one-to-one model allows shows to focus on a niche, and it is something listeners say they like about the medium. Mirroring the podcast charts, NuVoodoo saw strong interest across a variety of genres. True Crime and Comedy tied for first at 51% who said they were interested in podcasts on those topics, with Self Help (48%) and Managing Money (47%) not far behind.

EVP of Research Analysis Leigh Jacobs said “there’s a lot of room” for new shows to jump in, however. “People are still looking for a better podcast,” he said.

Plus: It’s Easy To Listen In Lots Of Places And Circumstances

The survey shows podcast listening remains a fairly solitary endeavor as 39% of those surveyed said more than half of their podcast listening is done using headphones. But thanks to new dashboard entertainment units and smart speakers, it is not always the case. Jacobs says in-vehicle listening is the real gamechanger for podcasters. NuVoodoo data shows people who are more likely to listen in the car are also more likely to have a connected dashboard system.

Plus: Podcasts Are A Topic For Listeners

Word of mouth recommendations has been one of podcasting’s best discovery tools for years and that continues. Nearly three in five surveyed said they have learned about podcasts from friends. And two in three have recommended a podcast to a friend. Those recommendations were even more important among heavy podcast listeners. NuVoodoo says three-quarters of the people who listen to ten or more hours of podcasts per week have learned about new shows from friends. And 81% of those heavy listeners have returned the favor and recommended a podcast to a friend.

“The scary part is 61% said they used to talk about podcast with my friends, but it’s rare about them now,” Jacobs said. “It’s a matter of inciting your listener that if they’re enjoying this [show] they should let their friends in on it.”

Plus: Podcasts Represent Lots Of Voices

There may be 2.4 million podcasts, but Gilbert said the data shows the market is a long way from saturated. “There is still lots or room for the indies with something to say,” she said.

Fields said there is also an opportunity for lots of different styles. “It doesn’t have to be that ‘radio booming voice’ anymore, but what you know – your perspective and knowledge – those are unique to you, and you can leverage those,” she said.

Plus: You Don’t Have To Pay. Free Is An Option

Subscription podcasts may be growing, but a lot of listeners still like the option of listening for free. Gilbert said the data shows most actually do both – either directly or indirectly-- with 46% listening to some podcasts with ads, and also some ad-free thanks to a subscription to a service such as Spotify. One in five (21%) said they don’t pay for podcasts.

Field said that consumers are being trained by the video streaming services that sometimes they need to pay to get special content or bonus episodes. “That is something you don’t have to bear the burden of creating. That’s already happening, and so I think that podcasting is going to reap the benefit of that training,” she said.

Negative: Too Many Podcasts

Millions of podcasts and discovery is still a challenge. With that as a backdrop, NuVoodoo says half (49%) of those it surveyed said there are too many podcasts. That number is even higher among heavy listeners where 61% of people who listen to podcasts 10 or more hours a week say there are too many shows. And 57% say they never have enough time to listen to all the podcasts in their queue. “Among those heaviest listeners, most (58%) say they listen to two podcasts or more a day – that’s a lot of episodes for people to keep track of,” Jacobs said.

Field said it puts the emphasis on making sure content is relevant. “If they know something is coming, they will make the time if it’s something they’re really interested in,” she said.

Negative: Commercials

The tradeoff for not paying is advertising, but that does not mean all listeners like hearing ads. Among heavy listeners, 63% said they are hearing too many commercials, and across all listeners a majority 54% said the same.

“That’s pretty strong. Yet, most listen to commercials where the host endorsements come into play,” said Jacobs. The survey found 43% of heavy listeners will sit through the ads. But Jacobs said the data also showed how podcast advertising works. Two-thirds of podcast listeners said they had taken some action after hearing a podcast ad. That includes 26% who said they have made a purchase and 12% who have used a discount code from an ad. Another 27% looked up the product online.

Negative: Many Podcasts Are Too Long

Closely associated to too many podcasts to listen to, NuVoodoo says 42% of listeners think episodes are just too long. And 55% of heavy listeners agreed. “One of the complaints we heard was about senseless banter,” said Gilbert. “They don’t care what you did over the weekend. They want you to get to the topic.” The data also showed too short was also a complaint.

Despite thinking episodes are too long, Jacobs said over half said they listened to the entire episode, even if it meant returning to an episode at a later time.

“An hour seems about right to the plurality of listeners,” Jacobs said.

The NuVoodoo study is based on survey data collected from 5,010 Americans aged 14-57. The sample included 1,691 people who said they regularly listened to a podcast for one or more hours each week. Nuvoodoo says the largest share of podcast listeners in their sample were Millennial males, who made up 36% of the sample.

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