Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. Joel 1:3
I must admit up front that I have not been a frequent listener to podcasts. Maybe I’m old fashioned (at my age, I suppose that’s obvious). I have been encouraged to make podcasts out of these posts by both my son (a Gen X) and a Jessica Choy (a millennial). They both see the possibility of using podcasts as a means of reaching the next generation.
For me, it is a step into the unknown, so I thought I would do a little research to see what impact podcasts have in today’s culture, and also how they are being used by the next generations. The results surprised me. Podcasts are a growing segment of a source of information for the millennials.
Research actually shows that podcasts in the 18-35 age group exceeds their listening to AM-FM radio. While a large part of the podcasts is listened to at home, most are listened to in the car or elsewhere.
Edison Research puts out an annual “Share of Ear” report which quantifies the scope of how Americans consume audio of all kinds. It includes statistics on the reach and amount of time spent listening. Of all audio listening, podcasts are growing rapidly in audience share, going from 21% of audio to 24% year over year in the latest research.
According to Lauren Vetrano on Share of Ear, research shows that heavy podcast listeners are media junkies who are early adopters of the latest technology and listen to at least 10 podcasts a week. I recently asked a couple of millennials if they listened to them, and all but one said yes.
The primary podcast audience is in the 18-54 age group, but it is very concentrated in the next generation. It’s estimated that 118 million listened to podcasts in 2017. With stats of an audience like that, I might have to reconsider doing a podcast.
Another relatively new trend is occurring, mostly with millennials. A “podfaster” is a dedicated listener of podcasts at a higher than normal speed. These are people who listen up to 50 podcasts a week.
How do they do that? Well, they increase the speed so that it is 2x, 3x or even faster. Some do it because they have such a backlog of podcasts that they don’t have the time, patience or attention span to listen to all of them at normal speeds.
In fairness, one neuroscientist, Stephen Porges, said that increasing the speed of a podcast actually aids listening because the slightly higher pitch is easier to hear and therefore understand.
I was fascinated about the people who are podfasters, and their stories are interesting. On average, people who are devoted listeners of podcasts consume an average of 5 podcasts a week. Some 20% consume more than 6, and podfasters listen to a great many more.
The podfaster currently represents only about 1% of those listening to podcasts, but their numbers are growing due to technological changes and apps that make listening to podcasts at higher speeds easier. An app called Rightspeed allows you to listen at up to 10x normal, not that you would want to.
When I first read about this, I was really curious and intrigued. What are they listening to? Well, that’s not an easy answer because they listen to podcasts about everything you can think of: politics, music, literature, history, philosophy. They listen to TV shows or dramas. Pretty much everything.
Doree Shafir authored an article entitled “Meet the People Who Listen to Podcasts at Super Fast Speeds.” In the article, Shafir notes: “You could read these tendencies as a symptom of our sped-up culture, of a listening population too impatient or distracted to listen to anything for longer than, say, half an hour.”
That conclusion meshes with the research that shows the attention span of the millennial is 8 seconds which is less than a gold-fish whose attention span weighs in at 9 seconds. This is a generation who thinks that a movie scene that goes longer than 2 minutes is too long and they lose interest.
Several takeaways on this topic:
- It is a technology that is gaining acceptance by all ages, and particularly millennials
- While a podcast doesn’t replace reading, it is a way to reach an audience with real content
- Podfasters tend to be people who will listen to an entire series of podcasts, even if that number is 100 or more
- Church’s need to adapt to this trend to be relevant to the next generation
Our challenge here is to reach the next generation where they are. If they aren’t sitting in pews on Sunday, they are listening to podcasts. They are also seeking something spiritual that they can connect to. That’s the opportunity, and leaders need to be thinking of how to use podcasts to reach the next generation.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: As mentors, you need to realize that new technology like podcasts may play an important role in your mentee’s life. Take time to learn about how and where to use them so you can be prepared to offer suggestions.
FURTHER STUDY: Research on Podcast use: http://westwoodone.com/BLOG/ArtMID/8027/ArticleID/158/The-Podcast-Download-Fall-2017-Report-Video
The annual report by Edison Research on Podcasts: http://www.edisonresearch.com/the-podcast-consumer-2017/
WORSHIP: Listen to Tommy Walker sing “Taste and See”:
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