Podcasting Hits Twitter Numbers: 39 Million Americans

In all the recent discussion about podcasting having arrived — with a lot of reliance on Edison Research's most recent in a multi-year series of interviews about radio and audio-program listening — nobody seems to have connected two numbers.

The Pew Research Internet Project's Social Networking Fact Sheet pegs regular Twitter use at 19% of online adult Americans. That's people 18 or older who use the Internet regularly, which Pew says elsewhere is about 87% of adults.

Edison Research's lengthy research deck notes that of its panel, which includes Americans aged 12 and older, so a larger pool, 15% had listened to one or more podcasts in the previous month when the survey was conducted. (Edison redefined how it counts this in 2013, which means the 9% figure in 2008 might be overstated by current terms, but helps show a slow, steady rise over the last six years.)

Edison helpfully notes that the 15% figure represents 39 million Americans. There are 309 million people in America as of the 2010 census, and the Census Bureau says 23.3% of them are not yet 18 years of age. Thus 76.7% of 309 million gets you 236 million; take 87% of that for online adult Americans, and it's 205 million; 19% who use Twitter regularly would thus mean…39 million.

A podcast and Twitter aren't comparable in nature. Someone might listen to one 30-minute episode of a radio show or their local church's sermon once a month, while they participate on Twitter every day; the opposite is also possible.

Yet given the attention paid to Twitter, it's reasonable to think that podcasting quietly arrived at a viable mass market when no one was looking. It took Serial for people outside of radio and podcasting to pay close attention.

Twitter's growth has slowed, especially for active users. Podcasting has by no means reached its top, and it's likely to be driven higher by a critical mass of adoption and shows like Serial. The number of podcast listeners could start to approach Edison's figures for online radio listeners: about 47% of the 12+ population in America, or about 124 million people.

For people who love listening to and making podcasts, 39 million is a very nice potential audience, but striving towards 124 million sounds even better.

A Million Podcasts

Apparently, appearing on Jeopardy makes you podcast-popular. I appeared on seemingly endless podcasts from October to December.Here are a few highlights:

  • The Incomparable: All about my Jeopardy run, along with discussions of the game-show genre, especially Andy Ihnatko's favorite, The Amazing Race.
  • The Talk Show with John Gruber: we talked Jeopardy, my job at The Magazine, Microsoft's Surface, Apple job shuffles, and more.
  • Horace Dediu, the smartest mobile industry analyst, runs Asymco, but has a podcast called Critical Path. He launched a second one with interviews called High Density starting with yours truly. I explained some of the economic issues with Jeopardy, told him what I know about how The Economist works, and discussed modern journalism.
  • Marketplace Tech Report had me on to talk about algebraic data packet oversampling (seriously), but they also quizzed me about my game show experience.
  • David Sparks and Katie Floyd invited me on to Mac Power Users, where we got into workflow and my favorite apps for getting things done — as well as Jeopardy.

Unrelated to all these, I launched a new podcast series, The New Disruptors, about how creators and producers use new technological means to connect with audiences. It's an eclectic show bound together by talking to people about making things and ideas for themselves. I've put out five episodes so far in the weekly series.

(If you'd like to hear me quote Lauren Graham in this NSFW outtakes portion of The Incomparable in her role in Bad Santa, listen.)

Professional Gibberish

My friends at Marketplace Tech Report asked if I'd write up some technology gobblety-gook for a promotional spot they were making to advertise the show. I agreed, and can now state proudly that I am a professional gibberish writer, not just an amateur one.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVc-pg34JYk&w=425&h=349]

New Geek Book/Comic/Movie/TV Club Podcast

The Incomparable! A regular media critique podcast by geeks, for geeks, about geeky stuff. Jason Snell, Macworld magazine's editorial director, is the evil genius behind it. A rotating cast of Igors, van Heslings, Doctor's companions, and red shirts killed late in the episode will fill out the cast.Our first discussion: sci-fi novels. Yeah, I say sigh-fie. I don't care who says skiffy. From the show notes for episode 1: The Incomparable Participants: Glenn Fleishman, Scott McNulty, Dan Moren, and Jason Snell. The Incomparable Theme Song composed by Christopher Breen. Prominently mentioned in this Incomparable episode:

  • "The City & The City" by China Miéville
  • "The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • "For the Win" by Cory Doctorow

Oh, we're going to talk about the Doctor in a future episode. Don't you worry. Ah ha ha ha ha mwah ha ha.

The Modern Driveway Moment

Public radio has this thing they call a driveway moment. (Oh, Mary, mother of God, it's not just something they call a driveway moment, it's something they have obtained a service mark for--so it's a Driveway Moment[sm].)Anyway, the idea is that you are listening to a story so compelling that when you arrive at your destination, like your home driveway, instead of turning off the radio (how quaint, listening to a live broadcast but that's the demographic), you sit in your car and listen to the rest of the piece. There are a lot of implications in that which have to do with the driveway. You drive a car. You have a driveway. You have the time (or will make the time) to sit in the car instead of going instead. You got it: 40-60 year old Caucasians living in suburbs. Anyway, again, the modern driveway moment is different for me. I plug my iPhone into an integrated car stereo which charges and plays back content directly. I listen to a podcast; this morning, it was one of my favorite NPR productions, Planet Money, which exists only as a podcast with some pieces also being aired. I arrived at my destination, and the piece is so interesting, I don't stay in the car. I unhook the iPod, plug in my headphones, and listen to the rest of the podcast as I walk to work. When I arrive at work, I dock the iPod and continue to play it, now through speakers in the office. What's that? The Intermodal Playback Moments? I don't know what to call it.

KUOW Links for Oct. 3, 2007

Vpr0005470 P3Howdy, loyal listeners! (If you don't know what I'm talking about, visit KUOW's Web page for Sound Focus--a show on which I appear weekly--listen to streaming media or subscribe to the podcast, and donate! It's fundraisin' season.)

This week, we talked about the Starbucks/Apple deal for iTunes access and what's playing in the stores; Amazon.com's protection-free MP3 beta store; and coffee mugs that have Pantone colors printed on them, coffee colors printed inside, or, in one I didn't mention, typefaces on the mug combined with coffee colors.