Podcasting in the US gaining momentum

MUMBAI: More than six per cent of American adultsor about nine million web users, have downloaded podcasts in the past month, according to The Economics of Podcasting, a report released by Nielsen Analytics.

In a first quarter 2006 study, conducted by Nielsen Analytics at Nielsen Entertainment Television testing facilities in Las Vegas, more than 1700 participants were surveyed on their podcasting usage. About six per cent of

respondents described themselves as regular podcast downloaders -- more than 75 per cent of whom were male. The findings show that a significant percentage, approximately 38%, of active podcast downloaders say they are

listening to radio less often.

Nielsen Analytics GM, senior VP Larry Gerbrandt says, "The incredible popularity of podcasting is the latest demonstration of consumers' willingness to take control of their media experiences. While essentially still in nascent form, podcasts offer free audio and video content that is inexpensive to create, easy to access and on a portable platform that has already reached mass distribution. This

exciting new medium has only just begun to stretch its legs."

The Economics of Podcasting is the latest in a series of reports from Nielsen Analytics on the "uber-media consumers" who lead the media industry in terms of trends and technology.

Key findings include

* The most successful podcasts are garnering as many as two million downloads a month, enabling them to attract mainstream advertising. An example -- Dixie Paper Company now sponsors the Mommycast Podcast Series starring Gretchen Vogelzang and Paige Heninger.

* Overall, 60 per cent of respondents surveyed said they 'always' fast forward past commercials in their podcasts. Women were more likely to fast forward than men, with 67% saying they always fast forward.

* Given the ability to skip commercials, advertisers are already devising more effective means to reach consumers, such as embedding their messages within the program content or having podcast hosts endorse their products and services.

* The survey found that the average length of the podcasts being listened to was 44 minutes. This may change with the growing popularity of video podcasts, which generally tend to be shorter.

* 72 per cent of respondents who regularly download podcasts say that they download an average of one to three podcasts per week. About 10 per cent of all podcast downloaders could be characterized as "heavy users", downloading eight or more podcasts a week.

The Business of Podcasting

Among key findings of The Economics of Podcasting are that podcasts differ from other forms of online media delivery, such as conventional streaming and downloading. Like their largely text-based counterparts --

blogs -- podcasts are being adapted by a broad range of businesses and organizations.

Among the various users:

* Cable and broadcast networks are converting episodes of some of their linear programs into cost-effective, short audio and video podcasts to serve as previews and promotions.

* Movie studios are exploring the potential of podcasting to market films and DVDs, such as a recent podcast promoting Paramount's Nacho Libre that features its star, Jack Black.

* Financial service firms, such as McDonald Investments and The Motley Fool, offer free podcasts on a variety of finance-related subjects.

* The online travel agency, Orbitz, offers audio descriptions of travel destinations as a marketing tool.

* With laptops and portable media players as ubiquitous on college campuses as textbooks, professors are making their lectures and class

notes available as podcasts.

Measuring Podcast Usage

The findings of this study also point to the importance of measuring podcast usage, so advertisers and the media industry will have a

comprehensive picture of who is using this innovative digital multimedia content.

Gerbrandt adds, "For podcasting to reach its full potential, we will have to find the best ways to keep track of its audiences. That means

developing accurate and comprehensive metrics that will allow podcast producers, distributors and advertisers to answer questions like: 'Who are we reaching?' 'With what kinds of content?' 'When and how often?'"

To that end, Nielsen Media Research, as part of its recently announced Anywhere Anytime Media Measurement (A2M2) initiative, is launching several projects that will explore how best to collect and measure podcasting data.

The first project, to be launched this fall, will measure a panel of 400 iPod users by utilizing a software application that can be downloaded onto a PC and interface with iTunes software.

Each time an iPod is connected to a computer to sync with iTunes, Nielsen will record all

content accessed, and will provide detailed usage information. Starting in the second half of 2007, Nielsen also will begin testing

its "Solo Meters" for portable media devices. The new meters will track audio and video usage on mobile platforms, whether users connect via BlueTooth(R) technology or a wired headset.

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