In my second to last post, I discussed who listenes to podcasts, thanks to research by Edison. In the same study, the researchers also studies the reasons people listen.

Reasons people listen/watch podcasts:

  • 35% because they can listen/watch whenever (time-shifted)
  • 15% because the content not available elsewhere
  • 13% because they can listen/watch wherever (location-shifted)
  • 13% because they have more control over content
  • 9% because there are fewer commercials
  • 3% because they can access shorter content

The time- and location-shifted answers are not too surprising, especially if one reads the podcasting literature, which extols these virtues (and I am one who does). The three of the remaining four reasons (and even arguably the fourth) all deal with control: control over content, control of (less) commercials, and control over length (shorter). Before reading this I had not thought much of the control issues. But then, my iPod attachment that transmitted to my car radio stopped working and I had to listen to the radio or a CD while driving until I bought a new one.

The the control became very clear. I could not control what I was listening too, beyond changing the channel and then I really just had the choice–the better of a few “evils” or at least “not what I wants”. I also couldn’t do anything about the myriad commercials on the radio, except change channels. Since they all seem to do commercials about the same time, this was often not effective. I also couldn’t rewind if I missed something or get access to info like song tile, artist, time of track and place in it (although some radios now do some of that). But mostly, I just hated listening to another’s playlist. It wasn’t “my music” and much of it was not something I would choose to listen to. So, I missed the control.

The time is also an interesting point. This definitely support shorter podcasts. The average US commute is about 22 minutes and I have heard and read many times and places that people should shoot for this or less in their podcasts. One might loose audience if the podcast required more than one commute to hear. While I’m not sure this is always, or possibly even often, the case, this reason for use does suggest time in general may be a significant determining factor on some level. Good to know.

The main reason I listen to podcasts is really probably the second reason–content not available elsewhere–coupled with time- and location- shifted nature. I can listen to content that has not been approved by some board of editors, that has not gone thought the rigorous and often biased publication process, that is timely (in part because of no process), and related to my interests. Some of the podcasts I listen to are professional, some based on hobbies, and some just for fun. I could find some of the information in other forms: book, blogs, journal articles, magazines, but the podcast works well into my schedule. I use the time driving, folding laundry, working out to access this information which I coudl not access (at least not easily or safely) in other forms.

So, for me it is control, content, and time- and location- shifted nature. What is it for you?

3 Responses to “Why do people listen to podcasts?”

For me it is mostly for time and location shifting. I am an over-the-road truck driver and spend 4 to 6 hours a day listening to various podcasts (including yours) while I drive. It helps pass the time (and miles) and helps me to learn about all kinds of things. If it wasn’t for my job driving a truck, I doubt I would have the time to listen to more than what would fit into my commute time. Podcasts, both non-fiction and fiction have really become a large part of my daily routine. I usually let my laptop download my subscibed podcasts while I am sleeping and then listen to them the next day as I drive.

Thanks for the response. I can see how driving a truck would give you a lot of listening time. I tend to now enjoy driving more because of podcasts. I’m so glad my podcasts and others help pass all those miles. Thanks for listening!

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