Roughly six million Americans have downloaded podcasts according to a Pew Internet survey that provides additional evidence that audio publishing is another natural niche within new media. Pew has previously published research suggesting that 22 million Americans have iPods or MP3 devices. The latest finding goes further to ascertain how many of those handheld owners have downloaded a podcast. The margin of error on the habits of this subset is 7.5 percent because it is based on a sample taken from the whole. Therefore the number of Americans who have downloaded podcasts could range from a low of 4.7 million to a high of 8 million, according to the Pew data. That seems like a healthy range given that the phenomenon is just a year or so old. Men and women were equally represented among those who said they had downloaded podcasts. But the sample skewed young. “Nearly half of those who own iPods/MP3 players between the ages of 18-28 have downloaded podcasts,” whereas the comparable figure for those 20 and above was 20 percent. Pew made no effort to categorize what sort of content was downloaded. Nor did I see any mention of frequency. The respondents could have done it once as an experiment. Perhaps Pew will publish further details later. I think audio publishing is a powerful trend that will enable publishers to shift written content to an audible form that is easier for busy people to consume. As I said yesterday when I wrote about comics, I think the best bets in Web publishing are techniques that add simple multimedia elements that provide a novel or necessary experience. I think comics offer new and extreme graphic visions. Podcasts are a convenient way to ingest need-to-know information, and a pleasurable way to consume material that is discretionary and/or represents a personality or point of view. Along these lines I’m tempted to spend the time and money to attend a podcast convention in Southern California in November. I don’t know whether this is “the” conference or perhaps the only conference in this realm. At least it fits in my budget and is reasonably convenient. And I’m sure I would learn a lot if only because I still know so little.

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media