Podcasting apples and lemons

Nielsen Netratings issued a press release yesterday (PDF) with some interesting stats on podcasting in the US. Here’s how it starts:

[…] 6.6 percent of the U.S. adult online population, or 9.2 million Web users, have recently downloaded an audio podcast; 4.0 percent, or 5.6 million Web users, have recently downloaded a video podcast. These figures put the podcasting population on a par with those who publish blogs, 4.8 percent, and online daters, 3.9 percent.

Um, podcast listeners on a par with blog writers? And online daters?

What a strange comparison. Am I missing something here? I’d love to know what their survey methodology was. (Actually, better not go there with such a question.)

One statement in Nielsen’s press release does make good sense, though:

“The portability of podcasts makes them especially appealing to young, on-the-go audiences,” said Michael Lanz, analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings. “We can expect to see podcasting become increasingly popular as portable content media players proliferate,” he continued.

I would agree with that.

(Via Podcasting News)

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Ian Betteridge

    I don’t really get what the problem is with that quote. It’s simply putting a figure that might otherwise be meaningless into some context. All it does is put downloading podcasts into the context of other popular internet-based activities.

    If I wanted to encapsulate how popular downloading podcasts was, I’d want some kind of comparitive figure – whether that’s writing blogs, using social networks, or playing SSX on the PSP (which is what I was doing this morning :) ).

  2. Ian Betteridge

    In fact, thinking about it a little more, it’s quite an illuminating comparison: if you’d have asked me, I’d have said online dating was WAAY more popular than either podcasting or blog writing.

  3. neville

    I find it a peculiar comparison, Ian. I can’t see why you’d want to compare the numbers of podcast listeners with online daters, for instance. Or maybe such were the only comparative numbers that Neilsen had. In which case, it’s hardly sound grounds for a news announcement.

    Jon Watson has the best opinion I’ve read about Nielsen’s announcement.

  4. Ian Betteridge

    It’s simply a comparative number designed to give the scale of podcast downloads against other, commonly-known about internet activities. Why NOT use it? Why do you find it peculiar? It’s just context-setting, and as such it’s valuable.

    Take it out, and what are you left with: the bare bones figure (which no one is disputing) of 6.6% of US online adults recently downloading a podcast. But what does that mean? Without knowing what the figure is for other online activities, I have no way of telling if that figure is good, bad, significant, or otherwise. I would actually have been interested to see how it compares against other online activities, particularly amongst the young, such as online gaming or using social networks like MySpace.

    The fact that Jon’s spinning a simple, comparative number designed to make no more point than “look, it’s quite large” as “a PR fiasco” tells me that he needs to get a sense of perspective – or that the blogosphere can create PR fiascos out of nothing. The only thing that Neilsen did wrong was to mistakenly – and they’ve admitted as much – refer to people who download podcasts as podcasters. That’s dumb, but if you actually read the first paragraph of the release (and I wonder how many of the bloggers commenting have actually read the release) it’s clear what they’re talking about.

    When people react as vociferously as Jon has, it always makes me suspect they either didn’t understand the original point or have some kind of point of their own that is being contradicted. But then, I’m both a curmudgeon and naturally suspicious – a legacy of being a journalist :)

  5. neville

    I wouldn’t say it’s a PR fiasco, Ian, but I do wonder what Nielsen’s announcement is intended to really achieve when the information being presented doesn’t make that much sense other than in a general volume sort of a way.

    For instance, I’d want to know what kinds of audio podcasts people in the US are downloading (and that’s a question in itself – are they downloading them or receiving them on RSS subscription? A big difference). Spoken word? Music? What?

    As it stands, I don’t find the information as presented by Nielsen of too great interest. So the numbers show an increase in listenership. That’s not terribly newsworthy. Not really worth a big press release.

    Perhaps that’s what Jon (and others) mean when they talk about PR fiasco.

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