Podcasting Surge Benefits Somewhat Mixed

So it appears that podcasts have turned into public radio’s competitive advantage. According to a recent study, nearly 4 in 10 public radio listeners also listen to a podcast weekly with those that listen to the talk-radio format more likely to listen than those that listen to public radio adult alternative or classical music formats.  Younger listeners are more likely to consume podcasts than older listeners.

“… 72% of Millennial public radio listeners also consume podcasts compared to 57% of Gen X and 35% of Baby Boomers.”

This said, podcast listenership has been cooling in recent years and while podcasts are a entree to listening to terrestrial broadcasts for many, in some cases it is drawing listeners from brick and mortar stations.

While nearly two-thirds (63%) say it has no impact on the “real time” they spend with AM/FM, the survey also points to a third of weekly podcast users spending fewer hours with the broadcast station. That is even more true among listeners of news-talk stations, where 39% said they are spending less time with AM/FM in favor of podcasts.

What I found most interesting was that the cooling attitudes toward podcasts seemed to be rooted in advertising. I assumed then that the survey included podcasts created through both commercial and public radio channels because public radio usually just has a brief underwriting message rather than a longer ad that people can potentially skip. The credibility of the ads is seen as super low. I would be interested to see a deeper dive into which company’s ads were seen as more credible than others.

The Public Radio Techsurvey data shows 61% of public radio’s weekly podcast listeners are getting tired of hearing the same ads in the podcasts they listen to, including a quarter (26%) who strongly agree. Just four percent disagreed, while 29% were neutral.


It also shows that host-read ads are preferred to produced spots, particularly among younger listeners. The survey shows 43% would rather hear a host-read ad. But among Millennials that number jumps to 59%.

“The data on advertising in podcasts is an eye-opener. While podcasters like to think their ads are more engaging, our respondents suggest otherwise,” Jacobs says. “While live reads from hosts are perceived as preferable to produced spots, podcast ads overall are no more credible than commercials heard on the radio.” Their data shows just 14% of public radio listeners think the ads they hear on podcasts are more credible than what they hear from their radio.

This last bit got me wondering about the relative credibility of sponsors and advertisers listed in program books, posters, digital signage around arts and cultural entities. I am thinking about this both from the point of view of wanting to provide a bit of a valuable benefit for sponsors and from the perspective of “charity washing” conversations where it appears corporations are trying to burnish their image through charitable giving. If sponsorship placement doesn’t lend credibility to generally sincere companies, it is something of a pity. But on the other hand, if people aren’t fooled by charity washing efforts, that is a relatively positive outcome.

Welcoming and Belonging For All

Last week I received an email from Arts Midwest noting that September 9-18 is Welcoming Week, an international effort to provide a welcoming experience at all levels. This includes government and social policy and action to make communities more welcoming to organizational efforts to provide a sense of belonging in workplaces and other social interactions.

The concept of creating more metaphorical doors through which people can engage with arts and cultural organizations is a frequent topic here so I wanted to call attention to the effort and some of the resources that are available. In addition to the Welcoming America website, Arts Midwest created a page of resources focuses on how arts organizations can create that sense of belonging for employees and community members with whom they interact.

Arts Midwest is also hosting a webinar on Wednesday, September 14 4 pm EDT/3 pm CDT/1 pm PDT on the topic with a focus on “how arts can transform, deepen, and enrich immigrant inclusion work. ”   Sign up if you would like to learn more.


The Audience Seemed To Enjoy It

Occasionally there has been discussion about how the standing ovation has become the default response at the end of a performance.

Not long ago, Seth Godin made a short post about expectation and delight.   He notes that when expectations are too low, there is no opportunity to even connect successfully whereas when they are too high, the sense of delight at an experience disappears.  He posits that the more successful you are, the more difficult it is to reach that point of delight because expectations are so high.

It almost sounds like advocacy for calculated mediocrity. But his next observation suggests that feedback like standing ovations make it difficult to determine if you are actually delighting audiences or not.

Often, this is replaced by the cognitive dissonance of sunk costs and luxury goods. People assert delight because they think they’re supposed to, because they don’t want to feel stupid–not because you’ve produced anything genuine.

This is a problematic element of group dynamics. You don’t want to be the only one sitting down when everyone else is up clapping, so you get up too even if you aren’t sure you enjoyed the experience. Others that are also feeling a little neutral about the experience are left to wonder what they missed that everyone else got and rise to their feet slightly bewildered. And so on and so on.

The artists are left thinking they did better they thought or at least the audience didn’t catch on to the flaws.

The folks who felt their experience was a little “meh” are likely inclined not to return and the venue administration don’t quite know why this is because these folks don’t feel anything strongly enough to fill out surveys. And after all, there was a standing ovation.

99 Economic Concerns, But Admission Price Ain’t One

In a recent post Colleen Dilenschneider reported that recent research reflects the title of this post.  While inflation is a big concern for people right now, ticket/admission pricing does not seem to be a barrier to participating in a cultural experience.

However, the cost of everything else surrounding that experience is a concern – food, gas, parking, babysitting, gift shop purchases.

While those may impede the decision to attend, Dilenschneider says the research shows that often people are opting to downgrade on these ancillary aspects in order to still have the central experience.

This research suggests that people expect to spend less overall in support of their cultural experiences. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they are abandoning or deferring cultural experiences; instead, they are contemplating economic tradeoffs to align their actual spending to expectations. Think carpooling instead of driving separately. Parking in the garage instead of using the valet. Eating at a fast casual restaurant instead of the Michelin-starred culinary temple.

Dilenschneider cautions arts and cultural organizations against discounting admission as a way to entice purchases because most of the concerns people have are far outside the scope of the organization’s control and are multiple time as concerning as admission prices.  Among those with a high propensity to attend, factors like inflation, the general economy, and financial markets were much greater concerns with much more weight than admission cost.

Taking $3 off your admission prices won’t offset an airplane fare costing $400 more than it did last year. Nor will it reduce the amount of fuel required to visit or improve the ROI for someone’s 401k. More to the point, there is scant evidence that a significant number of high-propensity visitors are even asking organizations to lower their admission costs.


Tampering with your ticket prices in reaction to broad economic perceptions risks doing more harm than good. While admission pricing may be one of the few cost-related factors within our control, the research indicates that it is not a notable barrier for those with interest in attending.

Instead, the solutions are strategic: Keep engaging digitally to motivate attendance. Underscore your credibility with fantastic content. Continue to strive to be relevant. Keep being your inspiring, amazing institutional self, such that the quality of your experience cannot be ignored.