Why Podcasting’s Lack of Diversity Might Be a Tech Problem

Podcasting platform AudioBoom has just released new research on the demographic breakdown of the podcast market. Minorities remain underrepresented in what the service terms “a major diversity gap between the millions of podcasts available and the minority audiences they’re not yet reaching.”

Podcasting Still Has a Lack of Diversity

The need to either figure out discovery or simply develop more diverse programs is becoming more pressing, thanks to the rising numbers of podcast listeners — monthly podcast listeners hit 24 percent of all Americans in 2016, up from 21 percent in the year previous.

“It’s no secret that podcasts are primarily consumed by white, middle/upper-class audiences,” said Stuart Last, COO of AudioBoom. From the press release on the study:

“AudioBoom’s findings, conducted with third party research firm YouGov, similarly reveals that there’s an untapped podcast market out there, as just 1 percent of African Americans report listening to podcasts on a daily basis.

[…] 34 percent think using technology to boost the ease of discovering diverse podcasts would help solve the issue.”

Cross-Promotion Might Help

People have suggested a variety of solutions. One is to cross-promote in order to highlight podcasts that might otherwise be overlooked by less-diverse gatekeepers of the industry. From Wired in 2015:

“Cross-promotion is a good thing for all involved: it introduces new shows to a broader audience, and gives avid listeners curated recommendations from a trusted authority. ‘It strengthens the whole ecosystem of listening,’ says Seth Lind, director of operations at This American Life.”

AudioBoom’s own survey backs this up: 31 percent of informed minorities polled think that “finding undiscovered podcast talent (i.e. hosts, producers, etc.)” would lead to be diverse listeners.

Podcast-Surfacing Software Could Be At Fault

A slightly larger number of respondents had a different idea:

“Also according to the report, among US minorities who believe that podcasts can be made more mainstream to a diverse audience, 34 percent think using technology to boost the ease of discovering diverse podcasts would help solve the issue.”

They’re not the only ones complaining about the programming constraints that have made discovering the perfect podcast so tough. Audible’s SVP of Original Content Eric Nuzum thinks the same, citing low retention numbers from another podcast report earlier this week:

“The root issue,” Nuzum says, “is either a lack of high-quality podcast content, or a lack of a way for people to discover it. The market gap between potential listeners and actual listeners represents a potential windfall for whoever can figure out how to fill it.”

Just like poor face-detecting camera algorithms or an audio-based UI that can’t understand accents, any software that can’t surface podcasts that all potential listeners will enjoy is leaving money on the table.

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Written by:
Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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