A Crucial Metric of Podcasting’s Health

Tom Webster
4 min readApr 6, 2021

Every year, Edison Research and Triton Digital produce the Infinite Dial, which for nearly 25 years has been (among other things) the most reliable bellweather of the current state of audio consumption in the U.S. For podcasters, the numbers have taken on an even greater import as the medium’s annual “health check,” so I wanted to provide a little insight into how to read some of the health indicators that might otherwise get glossed over.

First of all, podcasting is still growing, there is no doubt about that. The sharpest growth for 2021 was in weekly listening, which is up 17% year-over-year.

You can eyeball “growth” from a chart like this, and to paraphrase Gordon Gecko, Growth, for lack of a better word, is Good. Some years, the slope of this growth is greater than others — but when it appears to slow, that doesn’t necessarily mean the medium is not healthy. One of the things that brand researchers like to look at is a comparison called ATU. No, that’s not how Americans measure natural gas post-Revolution; rather, it stands for Awareness-Trial-Usage, or an analysis of the conversion from simple awareness of a medium to making it a habit.

Here’s a little back-of-the-envelope way to gauge podcasting against the larger backdrop of online audio. If we compare the percentage of podcast listeners who say they have listened to a podcast in the last month to those that have listened in the past week, we get something that looks like this:

You don’t need to be a statistician to see that all of these numbers (including the year — FATHER TIME IS UNDEFEATED) are increasing. Now lets add a little color to this graph:

What this graph tells us is that not only are the percentage of weekly and monthly listeners continuing to grow, but the conversion rate of monthly to weekly listeners is also growing. My friend Pierre Bouvard calls this percentage “habituation,” but you can think of it simply as the percentage of people who listen to podcasts that have made them a regular part of their media diet. Back in 2013, 58% of monthly listeners were also weekly listeners. Today, 68% of monthly listeners are…

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Tom Webster

Partner, Sounds Profitable. Leading voice in podcasting, digital audio, and greyhounds