Why people attend longer to podcasts than blogs

listening: photo of an ear cupped by a hand

Listening to podcasts: your attention, your time, your place, your way

Here is a fascinating statistic about how different podcasts are from blogs, and not just in the obvious ways. Podcasts are still a minority taste (just), but —

80% of podcast listeners listen to an entire podcast episode or most of the episode.

Why such high engagement?

How we read blogs

You certainly wouldn’t expect to spend 20 or 30 minutes reading a single blog post. You skip around the blogs, follow a red herring here, an interesting comment there… and if you’re anything like me, your attention span is pretty short. Your eye darts over excerpts, and most people probably read very few blog posts from beginning to end.

You’re not flighty or easily distracted, you’re just reading online! It’s the nature of the web to distract you and tell you to hurry up because there’s something more interesting one click away.

Personal blogs are precious in having minimal ads and intrusion. It’s a quiet safe place compared with Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Reddit or Pinterest.

And yet blogs are social, we swap comments, it’s a community. Our hands are busy as we read.

Also, we tend to wander around blogs in search of entertainment rather than solutions. Using WordPress Reader is actually “web surfing” — remember that funny old phrase from a time when the web was young?

I’m guessing you rarely spend more than 5 minutes at a time with one blogger, no matter how much you like them.

Why do we spend so long listening to podcasts?

Now, only 32% of the US population in 2019 say they listen to podcast even once a month. So if you don’t listen to podcasts, that’s kind of the norm.

However, once people subscribe to a podcast they tend to listen to a complete episode rather than pod-hopping. Episodes of my own blog will be 15–20 minutes. Others commonly publish episodes of  30–58 minutes. Imagine spending that long reading a single blog post!

While you listen, your eyes and hands are free to manage another activity, because you’re not using a computer. You can listen while commuting, cooking, running, gardening, walking, or getting ready to sleep. You’re moving, so a phone is the #1 device for listening to podcasts.

Thus for practical reasons the experience changes utterly. Podcast-listeners are inclined to listen to the end.

Are you a podcast rookie? Use your smartphone

First, different means different, not better. Personally, I love podcasts, and I’ll write more about them in future. But be assured that I also love blogs, yours and mine.

If you have never listened to podcasts, first find a popular podcast app on your smart phone. You can’t go wrong with Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Then find a few podcasts that people recommend or just sound interesting. Favourites of mine include Invisibilia, Freakonomics, No Such Thing As A Fish, and The Allusionist.

Start listening to podcasts—but not at your desk computer. Listen alone when you are (yes) commuting, cooking, running, gardening, walking, or getting ready to sleep… Subscribe to the podcasts that appeal. Then they are at your fingertips any time you want another chapter.

Large infographic below: The meteoric rise of podcasting from MusicOomph.com

For a text description of the infographic please see the article on MusicOomph.com

My podcast will soon be available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher and more

I’ll let you know when you can subscribe to “How To Be Old” from your podcast app.

Trailer for How To Be Old, my almost-launched podcast

17 thoughts on “Why people attend longer to podcasts than blogs

  1. auntyuta says:

    I definitely like to spend more than 5 minutes with a blog that deals with an interesting subject in a manner that is easy to understand and that invites people to comment a lot. Often all the comments are as interesting to read as the actual blog, especially when the blogger explains in his replies a bit more about the subject.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Interesting. It’s certainly a social environment and a busy one.

  2. I would definitely spend longer than 5 minutes on a blog post. In fact I love reading blogs and find them fascinating from start to finish including the comments. However if the blogger does not reply to the comments I am less inclined to read the blog posts.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s good to know.

  3. Gallivanta says:

    Hear, hear! Commenting is, or should be, an integral part of blogging.

  4. Gallivanta says:

    I am getting used to podcasts. I prefer shorter ones.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m an addict.

  5. Mike Brown says:

    I’m often listening to podcasts via my iphone when doing dishes, commuting, cutting grass, etc. Since my hands are busy, I tend to just stick it out and listen till the end. Also, Overcast (my podcast player) allows me to listen to some podcasts at a faster playback rate, so I can theoretically get through a podcast faster than I could read a long blog post.

    Reading requires more attention than listening, for me.

    Looking forward to the start of your podcast!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, that’s one of the joys of reading a book. It’s all or nothing.

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Podcasts are born for multitasking and mindfulness takes a break. I’m sure you will speed up my podcast!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I am glad to have finally successfully found a way to stream your podcast. I like shortish ones. I listen to two each morning for my prayer time, one from the British Jesuits which I savor. Mostly I listen to whole books. I also spend more than 5 minutes on some blogs. I don’t like long rambling posts, however.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this Rachel, this is good advice. BTW – I totally recommend RNZ podcasts. So many, and so varied, it’s hard to know where to start.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Very true. And not hard to find 🙂

  8. lynmacgtn says:

    Once upon a time I was terrible at listening and found it almost impossible to take in information that way. Now, I love to listen to podcasts while I’m walking or driving. I feel connected to the podcaster because I can hear their voice. But I would rarely comment on a podcast and only occasionally will I actually find a link they mention. However I love to read blogs and their comments. I like to join in the discussion.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      They are such different experiences, aren’t they?

  9. dkzody says:

    That is an interesting statistic and again, I don’t fit the norm. I do not listen to podcasts, I do not like podcasts. I like to skip around, and I read very fast. Podcasts hold me in one place making me a prisoner of the podcast voice. I have never enjoyed the radio, either.

  10. Rachel McAlpine says:

    I like your concept of being a prisoner of the podcast voice! I now see that my post was not clear on one point, and I have edited it accordingly. You may be surprised to discover that in some ways, you do fit the norm: podcasts are still a minority taste. Skipping around the blogs? That’s also the norm. But feeling you are a prisoner of the voice? that’s a unique insight! Thanks for your comment: it was helpful to me.

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