Forrester: Few Have Ever Heard a Podcast

The growth of podcasting has so far fallen short of its great expectations, with only one percent of connected North Americans using them on a regular basis according to a new Forrester Research report. More dismal for the nascent medium, about 73 percent of people say they’ve never heard of podcasting and don’t care to learn more about it.

The figures, derived from a recent survey of 5,051 online consumers in North America, throw into question the research firm’s year-ago forecast that podcast use would grow to 12 million households by 2010.

A total of three percent of those surveyed said they’ve ever tried listening to a podcast. Of those, one percent are avid downloaders, and two percent had tried it but don’t use it on a regular basis.

In a potential upside for the channel, 23 percent said they’d either like to learn more about the medium or have already heard lots about it and would like to begin listening in the next few months.

Time-shifting audio content is what appeals most to those who have tried podcasting or shown an interest in it, with large numbers of people saying they want to hear Internet radio content (39 percent), radio news programs (23 percent) or broadcast radio shows (20 percent). Only eight percent said they’d like to hear audio content produced by bloggers, the medium’s grassroots founders.

Podcast listeners and would-be listeners tend to skew young, male and wealthy, perhaps unsurprisingly. They’re also more likely to own an MP3 player and have broadband at home.

The report’s authors conclude that to draw more advertisers and a larger audience, podcasts must become easier for marketers to measure and for listeners to manage. Sound quality remains a challenge for original content. Forrester cites new services that support podcasters, such as Odeo, Podtrac and Apple’s iLife, as positive signs for the medium’s legitimacy.

Podcasting also faces procedural challenges in the media brokering process, Forrester says.

“Actually buying ad space on a podcast is nearly impossible, hence the development of podcast ad networks… that aggregate shows and audience profiles on behalf of advertisers,” according to the report. “The challenge will be to match the inventory of ads against the diversity of podcasts.”

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