Podcasting Grows In Popularity

According to new research from The Pew Internet and American Life Project, 29 percent of Americans over the age of 18 with iPods or other MP3 players have listened to podcasts. Pew had predicted the growth early this year after studying sales of portable MP3 players.

Pew estimates over 22 million American adults own an MP3 or iPod player, and more than 6 million of these owners have listened to podcasts. The study surveyed 2,201 people, 208 of whom were MP3 or iPod owners. Pew did not survey anyone under age 18.

The podcasting phenomenon began last year as iPod and other MP3 device users began to broadcast audio files to download onto media devices. Podcasts are based on RSS enclosure technology, and can be subscribed to much as a user can subscribe to a text blog. In fact according to Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, there’s a direct relationship between blogging and podcasting.

“An impression of mine not backed up necessarily by any underlying data is that podcasting is riding atop the blogging wave,” Rainie told ClickZ Stats. “Bloggers in particular have discovered how easy and potentially interesting and potent it is to share their thoughts with others. Podcasting is fuelled partly because it is easy, partly because it allows people to publish material that in the days before podcasting wouldn’t have been possible for them to publish. You would have needed to be in a recording studio with a broadcast license to do this, and now you don’t.”

Both men and women are equally as likely to have tried downloading podcasts. Only 20 percent of MP3/iPod owners over the age of 29 have downloaded a podcast. In contrast, nearly half of those between 18 and 28 have used their device to listen to a podcast.

“It turns out that there are significant and growing numbers of people that want to hear their own voice and think that other people want to hear their voice,” Rainie said. “That’s why the number of podcasts is growing, and the options people have to download them is growing.”

Podcasting’s growth of is also based on growth and penetration of MP3/iPod devices, which tends to be more pronounced among younger Americans. MP3/iPod ownership tends to be higher among 18-28 year olds at 19 percent ownership, while 14 percent of 29-40 year olds have such a device. The ownership numbers continue to decline among the older age groups with only 11 percent of younger Baby Boomers (41-50 years old) and 6 percent of older Baby Boomers (51-59 years old) owning an MP3/iPod player.

iPod/MP3 Player Ownership by Age
Age Percentage Who Own
18-28 19
29-40 14
41-50 11
51-59 6
60-69 6
70 and older 1
Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project ,2005

Pew also determined MP3/iPod players are generally owned by more affluent Americans. Thirty-one percent of those with household incomes over 50,000 (18 percent $75,000+; and 13 percent $50,000 to $75,000) own the devices. In households with annual incomes under $50,000, only 16 percent (9 percent $30,000-$50,000; 7 percent under $30,000) have an MP3/iPod player.

iPod/MP3 Player Ownership by Income Level
Household Income Percentage
Who Own
Less than $30,000 7
$30,000-$50,000 9
$50,000 to $75,000 13
More than $75,000 18
Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2005

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