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Web users take up podcasting

More than 6% of U.S adults, or about 9 million web users, have downloaded podcasts in the past 30 days, according to The Economics of Podcasting, a report released today by Nielsen Analytics, part of VNU’s Media Measurement & Information Group.
In a first quarter 2006 study, conducted by Nielsen Analytics at Nielsen Entertainment Television testing facilities in Las Vegas, more than 1700 participants were surveyed on their podcasting usage. About 6% of respondents described themselves as regular podcast downloaders—more than 75% of whom were male. The findings show that a significant percentage, approximately 38%, of active podcast downloaders say they are listening to radio less often.

“The incredible popularity of podcasting is the latest demonstration of consumers’ willingness to take control of their media experiences,” said Larry Gerbrandt, general manager and senior vice president of Nielsen Analytics. “While essentially still in nascent form, podcasts offer free audio and video content that is inexpensive to create, easy to access and on a portable platform that has already reached mass distribution. This exciting new medium has only just begun to stretch its legs.”

The Economics of Podcasting is the latest in a series of reports from Nielsen Analytics on the “uber-media consumers” who lead the media industry in terms of trends and technology.

  Among the key findings:

  * The most successful podcasts are garnering as many as two million
    downloads a month, enabling them to attract mainstream advertising.  An
    example—Dixie Paper Company now sponsors the Mommycast Podcast Series
    starring Gretchen Vogelzang and Paige Heninger.


  * Overall, 60% of respondents surveyed said they “always” fast forward
    past commercials in their podcasts.  Women were more likely to fast
    forward than men, with 67% saying they “always fast forward.”

  * Given the ability to skip commercials, advertisers are already devising
    more effective means to reach consumers, such as embedding their
    messages within the program content or having podcast hosts endorse
    their products and services.

  * The survey found that the average length of the podcasts being listened
    to was 44 minutes.  This may change with the growing popularity of video
    podcasts, which generally tend to be shorter, said Gerbrandt.

  * Some 72% of respondents who regularly download podcasts say they
    download an average of one to three podcasts per week.  About 10% of all
    podcast downloaders could be characterized as “heavy users”, downloading
    8 or more podcasts a week.

  The Business of Podcasting
Among key findings of The Economics of Podcasting are that podcasts differ from other forms of online media delivery, such as conventional streaming and downloading. Like their largely text-based counterparts—blogs—podcasts are being adapted by a broad range of businesses and organizations.

  Among the various users:

  * Cable and broadcast networks are converting episodes of some of their
    linear programs into cost-effective, short audio and video podcasts to
    serve as previews and promotions.

  * Movie studios are exploring the potential of podcasting to market films
    and DVDs, such as a recent podcast promoting Paramount’s Nacho Libre
    that features its star, Jack Black.

  * Financial service firms, such as McDonald Investments and The Motley
    Fool, offer free podcasts on a variety of finance-related subjects.

  * The online travel agency, Orbitz, offers audio descriptions of travel
    destinations as a marketing tool.

  * With laptops and portable media players as ubiquitous on college
    campuses as textbooks, professors are making their lectures and class
    notes available as podcasts.

  Measuring Podcast Usage
The findings of this study also point to the importance of measuring podcast usage, so advertisers and the media industry will have a comprehensive picture of who is using this innovative digital multimedia content.

“For podcasting to reach its full potential, we will have to find the best ways to keep track of its audiences,” added Gerbrandt. “That means developing accurate and comprehensive metrics that will allow podcast producers, distributors and advertisers to answer questions like: ‘Who are we reaching?’ ‘With what kinds of content?’ ‘When and how often?’”

To that end, Nielsen Media Research, as part of its recently announced Anywhere Anytime Media Measurement (A2M2) initiative, is launching several projects that will explore how best to collect and measure podcasting data.

The first project, to be launched this fall, will measure a panel of 400 iPod (R) users by utilizing a software application that can be downloaded onto a PC and interface with iTunes software. Each time an iPod is connected to a computer to sync with iTunes, Nielsen will record all content accessed, and will provide detailed usage information.

Starting in the second half of 2007, Nielsen also will begin testing its “Solo Meters” for portable media devices. The new meters will track audio and video usage on mobile platforms, whether users connect via BlueTooth(R) technology or a wired headset.

“The Economics of Podcasting” report is available for purchase on-line at the Nielsen Online Store. Click here for more information and to place your order