The golden age of Podcasting is now

On the last day of Blogworld, one of the panelists in a “state of podcasting” discussion made this amusing comment while lamenting the lack of growth of his own show: “things aren’t like they were in the golden age of podcasting”. I nearly hit my head laughing at the absurdity of that statement. Take a look at this chart by Tom Webster of Edison Research:

The Podcast Consumer 2012

Look at those stats.

  • In 2008, 18% of the US population 12+ had listened to a podcast.
  • In 2012, that number is 29%.

Now consider that the American population ages 12+ is approximately 260 million people. (source)

Let’s put those percentages in absolute numbers.

  • In 2008, 46.8 million Americans had listened to a podcast.
  • In 2012, that number is 75.4 million Americans.

In what world do you have 28.6 million MORE customers and the “golden age” of your industry is past to you? Other than a world that’s bad at math, maybe. That growth rate is also astonishing. If only our stock market portfolios had nearly tripled in 6 years.

Podcasting is bigger than ever. It’s more powerful than ever. People are using it differently, as a source of Internet radio on demand rather than a time shifting mechanism. With 3G, 4G, 4G LTE, iPhones and Androids in every pocket, and ubiquitous Internet access, the audience has never been more ready for podcasters.

Here’s the fundamental problem that most independent podcasters have failed to tackle in 6 years: they’ve been squabbling over the same tiny pie of people actively seeking new podcasts to listen to instead of making the pie bigger. In the years since podcasting’s shiny new object status came and went, we’ve seen the rise of social media, the ubiquity of email marketing, the insane power of SEO on all digital ventures, the tidal wave of mobile, and more. Each of these opportunities gave podcasters the chance to grow their audience, to grow their channel, to gain mindshare and market share.

Take a look at how Marketing Over Coffee’s audience on LinkedIn has grown in 3 years:

Statistics about Marketing Over Coffee | LinkedIn

Here’s the bottom line: if you are podcasting, you are a media outlet. You are a publisher. You are competing with every other media outlet out there, from the New York Times to the blogger sitting in the next cubicle, for the same resource we are all competing for: attention. Without attention, we have no audience, and without an audience, we have no business.

If you’re publishing anything for business purposes (as opposed to hobby) – a podcast, a blog, a Twitter stream, etc. – and you’re not advertising your publication, then you will get the same results as any media outlet business that fails to advertise itself: closed doors. Be advertising constantly, via word of mouth, SEO, social media, anything you can get your hands on and that you can afford in terms of resources and you will see your audience grow.

The golden age of podcasting and of all digital marketing and media is now. The golden age is today. You’ve got more available audience than ever before. To paraphrase Toshitsugu Takamatsu, opportunity is sitting there in front of you. Only you can decide whether or not to seize it.


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  • http://twitter.com/RandyCantrell Randy Cantrell

    Well done, as usual, Mr. Penn!

  • Dave Thackeray

    I can only agree with the gist of this post which is yes, I am a podcaster, and yes, I am awesome. Like you, my star is in the ascendant.

    I’m a big miserable heap for not having attended #BWENY but I’m delighted to be able to help other businesses build amazing digital outposts so I guess I learned all the lessons from there by osmosis.

    You rock, Penn.

  • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

    I hope you’re right since I just started my own podcast!

    I do question the chart you site, however; or at least want clarification on what it means. The data is for “% who have ever listened to an audio podcast.” In that case, yes, the % would have to automatically go up every year since data in 2009 is also included in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 data. That wouldn’t suggest growth since we aren’t comparing % of people who have listened to an audio podcast during that specific year.

    Overall, I question that chart. I do think there is growth, but I don’t think that the data cited would suggest that.

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      That’s a great question for the man behind the plan, Tom Webster. Ask him on Twitter at @webby2001.

  • http://propertyagents.co/real-estate-lead-generation-course Muhammad Ayaz

    Thanks for sharing very interesting article and I never used pod cast ever before but reading this feel like to do it from now onward.

    Thanks for sharing :-)

  • http://www.financialconflictcoach.com/ Dave-Financial Conflict Coach

    Perhaps the podcaster in that panel has a diminishing audience due to complacency and repetition of topic. His situation could be explained as a case of confirmation bias creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • http://www.mytakeradio.com Rich

    I had the pleasure of attending Blog World NYC and saw many podcasters & vidcasters gripe about this stuff. The fact is that you should be promoting your work every where. The author is 100% right that the golden age is now. I have done over 150 shows and every day I am looking for new ways to spruce up my content. Content creators need to reevaluate their strategies and stop waiting around for the “golden” opportunity. Go out there and kick in some doors to make your own opportunities.