Charlene Li from Forresters whose blog I read regularly reports that –
Our survey showed that only 1% of online households in North America regularly download and listen to podcasts. And when you include all of the people who are just interested or have used podcasts, they strongly favor listening to existing content like Internet radio or broadcast radio, not necessarily new content. (And for newspapers thinking about podcasting, putting print stories into audio format just ranked ahead of original content from bloggers) I think this has something to do with 1) original content just isn’t as well known; and 2) existing content benefits from users that simply want to time shift it.
Which leads me to my skepticism about the adoption and breadth of podcasting – measurement is still really hard to do (there’s some light at the end of the tunnel from firms like Podtrac and Podbridge, the latter of which has a way to track listens as well as downloads). Forrester projects that just 700,000 households in the US in 2006 will use podcasting, and that it will grow to 12.3 million households in the US by 2010. (See Forrester’s “The Future Of Digital Audio” report). Just to give you some context, we expect MP3 adoption to be almost 11 million households in the US this year, and grow to 34.5 million households by 2010. So that means in four years, about a third of those MP3 owners will be listening to podcasts on those devices. Podcasting will get easier and the content will get better, but it will all take time.
We know from experience that if the content is rich, useful and portable (in that order) such as the Sydney Observatory night sky podcasts then they will be downloaded. By portable I mean that in terms of museum spaces, podcasts need to be able to have a use value or life outside of the phsyical museum visit – otherwise you are unnecessarily limiting your audience for your podcast to the very small subset of users who happen to be a) internet and podcast savvy, b) own and can operate a mp3 player, and c) actually want to visit your museum – all at once.
Now I know that probably as much as 60% of traffic to the Museum’s website is not directly visit-related (in as much as the user is not immediately planning to visit the museum) and we know from overseas experience that this is as much as 75% in the case of the larger American museums, it seems a little foolish to tie museum-based podcasts to an explicit visit experience, however attractive that may be to museums whose primary measure of success is still predominantly phsyical visitation.
I’d be very interested to know the figures that Ontario Science Center’s RedShift get for their popular science podcasts.