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6 Things We Learned from Podcast Listeners

6 min read

Listening to podcasts

At Known, we’re always interested in learning more about how people publish, consume, and produce media. To expand our knowledge of the podcasting space, this spring we did some research on audio consumption. Yesterday I wrote about some of the results we got from a survey of podcast and audiobook listeners.

Today I want to share a few of the interesting things we learned after interviewing podcast fans. Following our initial survey, in March we interviewed five people who were heavy podcast listeners — people who listened to shows at least four times a week.

We wanted to round out our survey with real conversations. This gave us a chance to ask listeners what they liked, what they didn’t like, how they listened to podcasts, and what their favorite shows were. After our initial interviews in March, we spoke to four more listeners in May. Here are some of our takeaways.

1 — They listen across multiple devices

It’s 2015, and audio stretches from the web and mobile apps, to cars, connected homes, and smart watches. Everyone we spoke with listens to podcasts across multiple devices. It was common to hear people describe listening to a show on their phone with their headphones in while they do work around the house. Then they might kick up the volume on their desktop speakers and enjoy a lean-back experience in their living room or bedroom.

2 — They listen primarily at home

If your picture of a podcast listener is only someone who’s on the train or driving to work, you might be surprised to learn that the people we spoke with primarily listened at home. Podcasts provide the soundtrack to their chores and routine tasks, as well as their audio entertainment while relaxing on weekends and evenings.

While some of the people we talked to also listen to podcasts at the gym, on a run, and driving around doing errands, everyone said that they listened to shows at home. Several of our interviewees also mentioned that they couldn’t listen to content at work; it either wasn’t allowed or wasn’t productive for their jobs.

3 — Good podcast discovery is missing

New show discovery doesn’t necessarily happen through iTunes. In fact, many listeners prefer to avoid Apple’s platform altogether. Some of the people we spoke with mentioned YouTube as a better way to discover new shows based on things that interested them. Both related episode recommendations and YouTube’s search feature made the video network stand out as a better way to find relevant, interesting content.

Other interviewees mentioned topic or keyword search, better categories, and personalized recommendations as areas that were missing for them during podcast discovery.

One woman echoed others when she said she discovers new shows when she hears them mentioned on another podcast or when a friend makes a recommendation — in person or through social media. In her opinion, checking iTunes for interesting content is a last resort.

4 — Sharing episodes is a burden

Many of the listeners we talked to were enthusiastic about sharing content with family, friends, and colleagues when the content seemed relevant. However, the process of sharing isn’t always easy. Word-of-mouth is an easy first choice, but for those who wanted to pass along an actual episode, copying and pasting an episode’s URL into an email was the method of choice.

This process works okay if you’re listening on a computer and the episode has a shareable link. However, if you’re listening in an app, in software like iTunes, or otherwise listening in a player that doesn’t generate an easily shareable episode permalink, things get harder. One interviewee described the process of sharing as a big commitment.

5 — Signals on the content and quality are important

Several interviewees found it challenging to assess the quality and content of new shows. With over 300,000 shows floating around in the ecosystem, many don’t live up to the expectations of listeners expecting professional, produced content.

Audio consumers look for clues around what the show is about and how good it is before committing. One woman said, “For me it’s really important that the title of the podcast is a good description. So, for example there is the Savage Lovecast. I don’t even bother listening to that one because they just number them. They’re like Savage Lovecast #436. I’m not going to listen to that because I don’t know what it’s about.”

Several people said that they’d go so far as to listen to the first bit of a new show, but if it didn’t sound professional or included “fluff” or small talk, they’d move on. “I want it to be concise, and I want it to be informative and important information.”

6 — The technology is a turn-off

The technology around podcasts and feeds might be keeping some people from becoming more invested in them. In a world where music and video can be accessed with the click of a button, concepts like feeds, RSS, and subscriptions can seem daunting.

On the subject of podcast subscriptions, one person said, “A lot of podcasts say ‘subscribe here, subscribe to this feed’ and I rarely do because it’s just a little complicated…Sometimes I see ‘RSS feed’, and I think, ‘What does that mean?’” He said he felt like RSS feeds were a technology that he’d never been taught, and he wished there was an easy one-click subscribe button to press while listening to a show. Until then, he’d rather not subscribe to shows and prefers to download episodes manually.

Another woman voiced frustration around the process of syncing content between devices. While she typically listens to shows on both her computer and phone, shows don’t always stay up-to-date and in sync. Recently, she’s started listening more often on just her phone because she doesn’t like the burden of managing subscriptions on multiple devices.


If you like podcasts as much as we do, you may be interested in our last post on data from podcast and audiobook listeners. Stay tuned for our next article on podcast creators and what we learned from interviewing the people who make the shows.

After hearing podcast listeners talk about how hard it was to find and share episodes that were relevant to their interests, we put some of our favorites together into playlists. Check them out over at Wavelist.

Hear This: New Data about Podcast Listeners

6 min read

Podcast Data

With the breakout popularity of shows like Serial and StartUp at the end of 2014, many Americans have been re-introduced to podcasts as a convenient way to consume audio content. Historically seen as a geeky and tech-laden concept, Edison Research now reports that 17% of Americans have listened to a podcast in the last month and 10% have listened to a podcast in the last week.

In a recent report, Edison characterized the podcast audience as a group of consumers who are affluent and well-educated, skew younger, follow brands closely, and actively use social media. Anticipating that listenership will continue to grow, the space is drawing interest from advertisers keen to explore emerging markets and untapped opportunities.

Always eager to understand how people publish and consume different types of media, at Known we conducted some of our own research on the podcasting market to learn more about the people who regularly listen to podcasts and audio content.

Who listens to podcasts and audiobooks?

While we can’t claim to have the most scientific or representative sample of podcast listeners, we were able to grab some interesting insights through our own survey of audio consumers. During the week of March 23rd, 2015 we solicited responses to a questionnaire about audio consumption. The survey was part of an interview screener we distributed for audio consumers.

Our survey sample

During the week, we gathered responses from 247 individuals. Our sample of respondents ranged in age from 17 to 67, with a mean age of 35. Of those, the mix was almost split between men (44.5%) and women (55.5%). 

Edison cites a higher level of education as a characteristic of podcast listeners, something that makes them an attractive audience to many marketers. In our questionnaire, respondents were asked to select the highest level of education achieved. Their choices included: didn’t complete high school, high school diploma or GED, some college, Associate degree, Bachelor’s degree, and Graduate degree. 

The largest percentage reported having a Bachelor’s degree (38.5%), with just under 25% reporting “some college” as the next most popular option.

Listening to and discovering podcasts

We were very curious to know which devices people used. It’s easy to assume that podcast listeners are primarily Apple owners; the name podcasting is heavily tied to iTunes, and the iPod originally introduced many people to the medium. However, it’s been ten years since Apple added the podcast directory to iTunes, and in that time the world of audio devices has expanded. 

When asked which mobile devices audio consumers currently use, the Android phone was the most common choice (23.7%), followed closely by the Apple iPhone (20.4%). Participants could select more than one device in their response.

Mobile devices used
Mobile devices used

When selecting the mobile device that they regularly use, the majority of respondents listed more than one. Those listing just one mobile device amounted to 40%, while 29% listed two devices, and 22% listed three.

Thirty-four percent of respondents reported that they listen to podcasts one to three times a week. Among the heavier listeners, 21% said they listen 4–6 times a week, and 17% said 7 or more times a week. Following this survey, we interviewed some of these more frequent podcast consumers to better understand their habits and experiences. 

How often do you listen to podcasts?
How often do you listen to podcasts?

Curious about how people learn about shows, we also asked participants how they typically discover podcasts. Results varied, but social channels were dominant, with 155 respondents listing that they discover podcasts through social media, and 134 listing that they find podcasts through a friend’s recommendation. Participants could select more than one choice here.

How do you discover podcasts?
How do you typically discover podcasts?

We also asked where participants had gone to download or stream podcasts. Again, respondents could select more than one source. In a world seemingly dominated by iTunes, listeners most commonly downloaded or streamed podcasts from the show’s own website. iTunes and the iOS Podcasts app were also top sources.

Where have you gone to download or stream podcasts
Where have you gone to download or stream podcasts?

Listening to audiobooks

In addition to podcasts, we wanted to learn more about audiobooks and their listeners. We asked survey participants how many audiobooks they’ve listened to in the last year. Of the participants surveyed, 29.6% reported listening to two or three audiobooks in the last year.

How many audiobooks have you listened to in the past year?
How many audio books have you listened to in the past year?

We also asked participants where they got audiobooks to listen to. Here again, respondents could select more than one answer. Of the choices, 185 selected Amazon/Kindle as their source of audiobook content. iTunes was next with 90 responses, followed by the library/Overdrive and YouTube.

Where do you get audiobooks?
Where do you get audiobooks?

Education level and listening frequency

With the information that we collected on education and listening frequency for podcasts and audiobooks, it’s easy to wonder if there’s a relationship between education and how often people consume audio content. Maybe audiobook aficionados and public radio enthusiasts are educated philomaths. Does how often someone listens to podcasts each week depend on how much education they achieved?

With the data we collected on education level and listening frequency, I wanted to check for a relationship. I dusted off the part of my brain that used to know statistics and ran a chi-square goodness of fit test for the data we had on education level and how often respondents listen to podcasts each week. Based on the data collected, there isn’t a relationship between education level and podcast listening frequency.

(For the math nerds out there, χ²= 13.822, with 16 degrees of freedom. For the education categories, I rolled respondents who selected “high school degree or GED” and “didn’t complete high school” into one category, as only two respondents chose the later answer.)

We could also ask the same thing for audiobooks. Is there a relationship between education level and audiobook listening? Again, I grabbed our education data and info on how often people had listened to an audiobook in the last year. Like the podcast results, there was no relationship in our data between education and audiobook listening. (For this chi-square test, χ²=10.609, again 16 degrees of freedom.)

Getting personal with podcast listeners

This survey was small, but it gave us some interesting details around devices, discovery, and listening frequency. We are especially curious to learn more about those people who report listening to podcasts more often, at least four times a week. To get deeper insights from these heavy listeners, we followed up our survey with a series of personal interviews.

Our next post will focus on some of the common trends articulated by the podcast listeners that we spoke with. To round off this series of posts, our third article will touch on details gathered from people who create podcasts.

If you like podcasts and audio content as much as we do, check out some of our favorite episodes — compiled in playlists — over at Wavelist.

On the Benefits of Teaching Students to Blog

3 min read

Blogging Student

If you don’t listen to EdChat Radio, it’s a regular podcast discussing recent discussions on Twitter. The June 9th covered the question, "As an educator what do blogs or blogging have to offer me or my students?"

A recent episode of EdChat Radio picked up the blogging topic and shared some thoughts on teaching students to blog.

From co-host Tom Whitby:

“To be honest with you, adults really no longer have the ability to give permission to kids to blog. Kids can blog anytime they want on their own computers. The computer today has become the publisher, and kids can publish at will. So I think that being the case, we kind of have a moral obligation to teach them how to blog responsibly and in the best possible manner.”

He continued, “In my experience, starting kids actually even in kindergarten -- with class blogs -- guiding them through how, not only to write a blog, but how to read and respond to a blog, are skills that are needed…With the older kids, it’s a little bit easier. It actually gives them an audience for their work. It’s not like doing a composition and it goes to the teacher, and the teacher is the only one who sees the composition. As they blog, they blog for an audience, and they realize they have an audience, and they have a responsibility to that audience. So the way they write, and their approach to writing, completely changes.”

Guest Barbara Gruener picked up the topic of reflection, reading, and commenting on blogs. She said:

“We can teach kids to be bucket-fillers all day long, but it takes it another step when they actually have a chance to use that gift of encouragement and affirmation in reflecting on something somebody has read. And even if it’s being a critical friend, and saying, “Oh gosh, you know, I might see this a little bit differently.” We don’t grow unless somebody stretches us and helps us move into another direction, so I love when a critical reader throws something my way and stretches me some.”

The group, along with co-host Nancy Blair, commented on how teaching blogging in the classroom helps students learn to comment constructively and responsibly. They also shared thoughts on the multifaceted uses of blogs: as communication tools, as resources, as catalogs, as archives, for reflections, and for building connections to people globally.

You can listen to the episode, “5 Valuable Skills Students (and Teachers) Learn from Blogging on BAM!Radio here.

Spending the morning with our friends at @KQED!

Using Known for collaborative publishing with groups

1 min read

Using Known for collaborative publishing

Are you looking for a great tool for collaborative publishing? Lots of people use Known as a personal website or a space to share ideas, but Known can also easily be used as a powerful platform for groups to blog and share ideas.

In this video, Ben takes you through some of the neat features that make Known a great tool for groups. To create your own group site, go to withknown.com and click "Create your site" to get started. You'll be able to add new collaborators in no time.

Getting Started with Known - Creating a Personal Site

1 min read

Getting started with Known

Known is a simple and easy-to-use social publishing platform with an emphasis on short messages and updates. Known is free, lightweight, and a fun platform to create a web presence on. Many people use their Known site as a personal lifestream or a simple blog for their ideas and links.

In this video, we'll cover how to set up your first Known site and start publishing. To follow along with the video, go to withknown.com and click the "Create your site" button to get started!

Love hearing the stories from our Bay Area friends about youth and connected learning. #dml2015 #dmlrealtalk

Watching stories from KQED, Cal Academy, and BAVC.

Thanks for the lovely postcard @kirilind! Good luck with OuiFest.

Self-hosted Known 0.7.8.5 has left the building

1 min read

We just released Known 0.7.8.5, which you can download from our website. Here are some of the fixes and changes:

  • Better tag support, including for short tags
  • Fixed an issue with hashtags containing numbers
  • Native MongoDB notifications
  • Improved brid.gy integration
  • Fixed issue with login forwarding on walled garden sites

You can download the Known 0.7.8 package from our open source page.

If you prefer, you can get a free Known site on our fully-managed service.

Self-hosted Known 0.7.8 has left the building

1 min read

We just released Known 0.7.8, which you can download from our website. Here are some of the fixes and changes:

  • Hashtags now handle unicode character sets
  • Bookmarks syndicate to Twitter
  • PubSubHubbub is now handled better across feeds
  • Linked tweets now auto-embed in status updates
  • Site URL in public comments is now optional
  • Installation now detects rewrite rule support more reliably
  • Sessions do not persist between http and https
  • Better mobile Twitter URL support
  • Internal web client is more configurable
  • Object annotations are included in JSON
  • Includes Vagrant and Ansible configuration files for easier installation

You can download the Known 0.7.8 package from our open source page.

If you prefer, you can get a free Known site on our fully-managed service.