April 3, 2005

Podcasting catches on

More than 6 million American adults have listened to podcasts; 29% of those who own MP3 players enjoy Web broadcasts at their leisure.

More than 22 million American adults own iPods or MP3 players and 29% of them have downloaded podcasts from the Web so that they could listen to audio files at a time of their choosing. That amounts to more than 6 million adults who have tried this new feature that allows internet “broadcasts” to be downloaded onto their portable listening device.

The term “podcasting” emerged in 2004, as people combined the words “iPod” and “broadcasting.” Podcast listeners typically download audio files from the Web onto a computer, transfer the files to a digital audio player (like an iPod), and listen at their leisure. Often, the audio files are posted online in a way that allows software on a person’s computer to detect and download new podcasts automatically (generally via RSS) for transfer to a portable player.

The new findings come from a national phone survey of adults by the Pew Internet & American Life Project conducted between February 21 and March 21, 2005. In all, 2,201 people were interviewed, including 208 owners of iPods or MP3 players. The margin of error on the full sample is plus or minus two points and on the MP3 player sample is plus or minus 7.5 points. Those under age 18 were not part of this survey.


Further Analysis

iPod and MP3 Player ownership

Some 11% of American adults say they own an iPod or other type of MP3 player. That amounts to over 22 million people.

  • Men are more likely to have iPods/MP3 players than women. Some 13% of men have the players, compared to 9% of women.
  • Minorities are more likely to own iPods/MP3 players than whites. Some 16% of African-Americans and English-speaking Latinos own iPods/MP3 players, compared to 9% of non-Latino whites.
  • Almost one in five (19%) of those ages 18-28 have iPods/MP3 players. Fully 14% of those ages 29-40 have them; and 11% of younger Baby Boomers (ages 41-50) have them. That compares to 6% of older Baby Boomers (ages 51-59), 6% of those 60-69 and 1% of those 70 and older.
  • iPods/MP3 players are gadgets for the upscale. Fully 18% of those who live in households earning more than $75,000 have them; 13% of those living in households earning $50,000 to $75,000 have them; 9% of those living in households earning $30,000-$50,000 own them and 7% of those living in households earning less than $30,000 have them. (20% of respondents did not tell us their household income.)
  • Those who use the internet are four times as likely as non-internet users to have iPods/MP3 players, probably because internet users can get much of the music they enjoy online. Fully 14% of internet users have iPods/MP3 players, compared to 3% of non-internet users. And the more advanced the internet user, the more likely it is that he has an iPod/MP3 player. Those with six years or more of internet experience are twice as likely to have them as those who are relative internet newbies (those with less than three years experience).
  • Broadband access is strongly associated with ownership of iPods/MP3 players. Some 21% of those with broadband at home have iPods/MP3 players, compared to 10% of those who have dialup connections. And those who have broadband access at home and at work, are the most likely of all to have iPods/MP3 players. A quarter of those with broadband all around them (25%) have iPods/MP3 players.
  • 15% of parents living with children under age 18 in their home have iPods/MP3 players, compared to 8% of those who don’t have children living at home.

Podcast listeners

Some 29% of the 22 million who own iPods/MP3 players have downloaded podcasts. That represents more than 6 million people.

  • There are no differences between men and women owners of iPods/MP3 players when it comes to podcasting. They are equally likely to have downloaded podcasts.
  • Nearly half of those who own iPods/MP3 players between the ages of 18-28 have downloaded podcasts, compared to about 20% of the owners iPods/MP3 players over age 29 who have done so.
  • Somewhat surprisingly, there is no notable gap between those who have broadband access and dial-up users when it comes to podcasting. Some 33% of the owners of iPods/MP3 players who have broadband at home have downloaded podcasts and 28% of those who have dial-up at home have done so. This is not a statistically significant difference.

Further details about podcasting

This survey did not attempt to sort out what kinds of podcasts people consume. There are innumerable kinds of podcasts, ranging from audio journals that are very quirky and personal to professional newscasts. One indicator of the variety of topics and styles of podcasts can be found on the “categories” page of podcast aggregator site iPodder:

http://www.ipodder.org/directory/4/podcasts/categories

The Wikipedia entry on podcasting distinguishes this medium from traditional internet radio because it allows consumers increased flexibility in listening to audio content and because delivery of podcasts can be automated.  Before podcasting, internet radio listeners had to tune in to scheduled programs or retroactively search for individual broadcasts to download. Podcasts offer the unique feature of being delivered automatically to subscribers.1 Once a copy is stored on the listener’s computer or portable music player, podcasts can be “time-shifted,” or played at any time.

The rising popularity of podcasting also stems from the relative ease with which individual podcasters can create and distribute files. The process requires little more than a computer with an internet connection, a microphone, and software to record, edit and compress the audio. However, podcasters who wish to include copyrighted content in their shows may be required to pay licensing fees.


About the Pew Internet & American Life Project

The Project is a non-partisan initiative of the Pew Research Center that researches the social impact of the internet. The Project has no policy agenda and takes no positions on internet-related issues.