By Katrina Olson

Recently, I attended a full-day podcasting workshop in Chicago. I'm considering starting a marketing podcast for distributors and manufacturers, so I wanted to learn more. I love the entertaining and educational "Stuff You Should Know" podcast, which is downloaded more than one million times per week and consistently makes iTunes' Top 10 podcast rankings. I suspected that interest in podcasts for business was growing as well.

Just what is a podcast? A podcast is an audio file that can be shared on the internet and played on a desktop, laptop, or mobile device. It's an on-demand, spoken word program that's educational or entertaining, which may include audio only, or audio and video. Usually a podcast is part of an ongoing series and is distributed via RSS feed, via a publishing platform or app, or on a company's website.

Podcasting is growing in popularity. According to a 2016 study by Edison Research, more than one third (36 percent) of Americans age 12+ have "ever listened to a podcast"—nearly 100 million people.

Twenty-one percent (21 percent) of Americans age 12+ listened to a podcast in the last month. That's up from 17 percent in 2015 or an estimated 57 million people, representing a 24 percent increase over 2015.

More and more, we're accessing our audio content on demand—and increasingly on smartphones. Social media is driving listening as people can click on a link and direct stream audio content. Last year, 55 percent of people listed to podcasts on a mobile device; this year (2016) it was 64 percentnearly two-thirds.

More females are accessing podcasts. Historically, podcast listeners have been predominantly male (two-thirds), but today, the ratio has narrowed, with female listeners (who have listened to a podcast in the last month) having doubled since 2013.

The number of weekly listeners is growing. The percentage of people who listen weekly has increased 30 percent—from 10 percent in 2015 to 13 percent in 2016, with the average weekly consumption of five per week.

Last year, the weekly consumption was six per week, but Edison Research indicates this is because the podcast audience is growing, with new "casual" listeners entering the market and listening to fewer than five podcasts per week.

This growth can also be attributed to more mass-appeal content being offered, like the popular podcast series, Serial. Yet another reason is that technology is making it easier, especially for listeners who live stream audio content, or download it to their phones and connect with their car's using an auxiliary cable or Bluetooth.

To watch a video of the full report, go to www.edisonresearch.com/the-infinite-dial-2016/

Podcasting may not be the right medium for your company right now, but it should be on your radar, especially if you want to connect with people who are heavy users of digital devices and spend a lot of time in their cars.

In future "Marketing Momentum" articles, we'll look at the strategy behind podcasting for business, including why and how to use podcasting, internally or externally, to communicate with your employees, customers, or prospects.

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Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine's print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine's Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at Katrina@katrinaolson.comor via her website at katrinaolson.com.