Podcasts and Diversity

Charley Locke, writing for Wired:

As the medium of podcasts is on the rise (from 1.9 billion listens in 2013 to 2.6 billion in 2014, according to Nielsen data), listeners still largely fit the profile of “early adopters.” As Jesse Holcomb, associate director of research at the Pew Center, explains, “They’re more likely to be male, young, have higher incomes, be college graduates, live in an urban area.” Significantly, as many women as men listen now, according to an Edison study from 2015, but the number of people who know about podcasts still increases incrementally compared to its target demographic: 49% of Americans are aware of podcasts in 2015, compared with 45% in 2010. This profile is confirmed by Midroll. As Midroll promotes to advertisers (who in turn market to this demographic), 58% of its listeners have a bachelor’s degree or higher, 67% are ages 18-34, and 62% have incomes over $50,000.

Unsurprisingly, the growing popularity of podcasts among young, well-educated, affluent listeners prompts more shows catering to them. The hosts mirror the audience—or perhaps it’s a vicious circle. While they represent a variety of interests, the producers and personalities on these shows are still monolithically white and male: Of the top ten podcasts on the iTunes Store, all but two are hosted by a white man.

I have a hard time commenting on this subject, because while it's something for which I have a great deal of passion, my background leaves me unconvinced that I can bring a perspective that provides any sort of value. I can't help but feel torn.

I am an avid podcast listener, as well as a host. I also fall smack dab in the majority that Locke lists above. My Limitless Adventure co-host, Charles, does as well. We actually brought up the topic of diversity in tech in our first episode and discussed it about as effectively as two relatively well-informed white dudes could. It's something that I think about a great deal, though very often feel helpless to affect any meaningful change due to my inherent privileges. It's sad to see podcast statistics mirror that of the tech industry, but it sure doesn't surprise me. The echo chamber the Wired piece describes is a vast, homogenous cavern.

As the popularity of podcasts grows, I hope we'll hear more diversity in these shows. The opportunity is enormous, especially with the barrier for entry to creating and consuming continues to shrink. The more variety of voices can only propel the medium as a whole in a positive direction.