"I was surprised to see that there was a triple-digit growth in podcast listening over the past five years, which was a sharper hockey stick, as we like to say, than expected," says Grace Kao, vp B2B marketing at Pandora, who spoke to Billboard about the study's implications for her company, which was acquired by SiriusXM back in February. The full study was not available for publication but according to some of the data obtained by Billboard, among the 25-54 age group, the number of minutes spent listening to podcasts (out of total time spent listening to audio) grew by 180 percent between 2014 and 2019, which amounts to a 17 percent growth year over year. By comparison, AM/FM radio listening in that same age group decreased by 22 percent, and streaming increased by 30 percent.
"We are super excited, because obviously we are in the digital audio business, and it's just wonderful to see research that re-confirms where the marketplace is going," says Kao. "We do see that where the share of ear shift is happening is away from AM/FM radio, as there are more connected devices -- the connected car and connected home. This is the way we're seeing this growth in streaming audio."
Last month, Edison Research released with Triton Digital a study titled The Infinite Dial 2019, which demonstrated that Pandora is a market leader in the rapidly expanding streaming listenership, potentially driven by voice and podcasting. The percentage of Americans who listen to online audio has doubled since 2012, from one-third of the overall population to two-thirds, and 30 percent of the population chooses Pandora over Spotify (25 percent) and Apple Music (11 percent). Its brand awareness is also much stronger than the latter two, at 89 percent of the population compared to 71 percent and 73 percent, respectively. (Interestingly, a 2017 Share of Ear study in Canada found that Canadians listen to way more radio than their neighbors to the south.)
Kao hopes the study's findings will persuade marketers to spend more advertising dollars in digital rather than radio, which is still seen by many brands as a more reliable way to reach listeners. (Proctor & Gamble and JPMorgan Chase are just a few companies taking this strategy, having been burned by inappropriate videos that their ads have been paired with on YouTube.)
"We still see advertisers spending money in broadcast formats, where we see everything going towards digital," she says. "A lot of what we'd like to see marketers take to heart is where consumers are consumers are actually going."
Pandora has been making headway into the podcast space since late last year when it launched the Podcast Genome Project, a personalized curation algorithm that helps guide listeners to podcasts they might enjoy, based on the streaming service's innovative Music Genome Project. And after its acquisition by SiriusXM, the online radio service created its first-ever content team, directed by SiriusXM CCO Scott Greenstein, to produce podcasts, curate playlists, build full-time channels and shows, and more.