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No Big New Shows? Survey Says Podcasting’s Real Breakout Hit Is The Power Of Niche.

Podcasters in recent months have lamented the fact that there have been no mega-hits in the medium in the vein of 2014’s Serial, which opened the eyes and ears of millions of Americans to this new entertainment option. But a new study from Signal Hill Insights suggests that it is the niche appeal of podcasts that is behind the lack of big new hits, and that while it does not deliver the same sort of buzz, there are other advantages.

In a survey of 416 Canadian podcast listeners, Signal Hill asked them if they were more likely to listen to podcasts that are popular or to shows that speak directly to their personal interests. Nearly half (45%) of listeners leaned toward more personally engaging podcasts compared to 17% that find popular shows appealing. It then benchmarked that against the media that is the most blockbuster dependent: motion pictures.

“Asked to rate the extent to why they consume popular versus personally engaging movies and podcasts, past-month podcast listeners are nearly two-times as likely to give podcasts rather than movies a high rating for content that speaks directly to their personal interests,” Signal Hill says.

The comparison finds that active podcast listeners – those who had listened to a podcast in the past week – were even more likely to choose podcasts that speak directly to their interests. Signal Hill says more than half (51%) of that group gives a high rating to podcasts that talk about their interests compared to a third (33%) of podcast listeners who did not listen to a show in the past week.

Signal Hill says the preference for personal over popular podcasts delivers a significant benefit for podcasters in the form of greater loyalty. It points out that listeners who strongly prefer that podcasts speak to them directly are also significantly more likely to have a favorite podcast than those who lean more towards popular podcasts. Its survey finds 63% of the personal preference group reports they have a favorite show compared to 50% of those who listen to more popular podcasts.

There are other benefits for podcasters, too. Signal Hill says two-thirds of listeners with a favorite podcast say they would attend a live event for that podcast (69%) and feel a sense of community with other fans of the show (65%), while more than half express an affinity for brands that support the podcast (55%), and would participate in a social media interaction about the show (51%).

Signal Hill’s survey was conducted Oct. 25 and 26 by Maru Voice Canada. The idea came from Annalise Nielsen, Senior Manager of Business Development at the branded podcast studio Pacific Content. In a blog post, Nielsen says her takeaway from the data is that podcasts are “uniquely powerful” for reaching targeted, niche audiences.

“Perhaps podcasting is not a ‘hit-making’ medium,” Nielsen says. “If you’re trying to make a podcast that will appeal to everyone, you run the real risk of appealing to no one. When producing your show, keep the target audience member who will be clicking ‘play’ on your show in mind. Make something that appeals to them.”

Nielsen says the data also translates to some practical considerations for producers, such as keeping the listener in mind when making production decisions, including speaking their language. She says jargon and terms that may turn off the masses are probably okay when speaking to a more niche audience. That also includes covering issues that matter to them.

“Don’t worry about appealing to a broad audience,” Nielsen says. “Create something that will feel like a gift for your audience.”

See all of the Signal Hill Insights findings HERE.

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