How is Car Dashboard Technology Affecting Podcast Consumption?


Welcome to The Yard, a blog by Backyard Media that explains the podcast industry and podcast advertising.

A few weeks ago, we saw new data from Edison Research in the form of their annual report on digital media consumption, called The Infinite Dial. This report is the Holy Grail for podcasters and podcast advertisers: it tells us who's listening to podcasts, how much, and how they're doing it. You can read more about that report in our blog post here. Today, we're going to tackle one interesting point that came up in that report: is the preponderance of new technology in car dashboards impacting people's podcast listening? Let's take a look.

In-car listening has gone up in the past year.

Our question comes from this particularly striking slide from the 2018 Infinite Dial, in the podcasting section where researchers asked respondents about the locations they listen to podcasts the most often:

ID2018 Pg57 Most Listened Car Truck.PNG

Of people who have listened to a podcast, the number who say in-car listening has become their most common location jumped from 18% to 22%, after years of steady but small growth .

And remember that listening to podcasts while driving remains the second most common listening location, behind listening at home:


This makes sense. People like listening to podcasts while doing rote activities like commuting. But, if we compare this data with the other year-over-year increases we saw in this year's Infinite Dial - the number of people who are familiar with podcasts (64% or 180 million), who listen to podcasts monthly (26% or 73 million), and the average number of podcasts listened per week (seven, up from five in 2017) - we can see that this jump in in-car listening is notably high. But what's causing this rise?


Most cars these days have in-dash technology

Thankfully, we can posit an answer to this question, because Edison Research polled respondents with a related question:

ID2018 Pg42 In Dash Infotainment.PNG

We see a near-identical rise in respondents who have an in-dash system in their car - three percent or 8.4 million people in real terms. This is why podcast listening while driving, already the second most popular option for podcast consumption, has become even more widespread.

In the past, as podcasts and internet radio apps like Pandora and Spotify gained popularity in the US, the primary method for people to listen in the car was by USB connection. But since the 2000s, we'e see more drivers use the Bluetooth capabilities of their in-car dashboard systems to connect with their smartphone. This gives listeners a way to seamlessly transition from listening to their phone to listening through the car's speakers wirelessly.

Recall that for many podcast listeners, podcasts offer a fundamentally different media experience. They often feel that they're getting content on podcasts that they can't get elsewhere (which is often true), that they can listen to podcasts when and where they want, and they like podcasts' tendency toward longer, more in-depth content. These preferences combined with better in-dash technology is changing the proportion of audio listened to in the car. We can even see AM/FM radio, long the dominant form of audio listening in the car, starting to slip in the past two years:


ID2018 Pg4 Car Audio Sources.PNG

We expect that the continued spread of this technology will lead to more podcast listening in the car, much like how the rise in smart speaker technology has lead to more podcast listening in other ways. But what does this mean for podcast sponsors? Fundamentally, the ways that sponsors should craft podcast ads and podcast ad campaigns remain the same. Many podcasts adhere to a commute-long show (30 or 60 minutes), so podcast content is already structured for car listening. One possible consideration for sponsors is that as a larger percentage of listeners consume podcasts while driving, direct response ads (which require follow up on a sponsor's website) might be harder for listeners to follow through on. Their responses will be delayed until the end of their trip, so sponsors will need to think more about creating better promotional codes and special URLs, and work to create even more memorable ad scripts that listeners can recall later.

You can read the rest of our breakdown of the 2018 Infinite Dial survey here, and download the report on Edison Research's website.


In 2018 we've seen that podcast audiences are bigger and more valuable than ever. Start advertising on podcasts as part of your marketing campaigns today. Contact us to learn how easy it is to get started advertising with Backyard Media's podcast partners.

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