Nielsen//NetRatings is taking a step in the right direction by starting to look at trends in podcasting, and they just published some fairly interesting statistics on podcast usage. However, the first paragraph in the report comes from the not quite getting it category:
Nielsen//NetRatings, a global leader in Internet media and market research, announced today that 6.6 percent of the U.S. adult online population, or 9.2 million Web users, have recently downloaded an audio podcast; 4.0 percent, or 5.6 million Web users, have recently downloaded a video podcast (see Table 1). These figures put the podcasting population on a par with those who publish blogs, 4.8 percent, and online daters, 3.9 percent. However, podcasting is not yet nearly as popular as viewing and paying bills online, 51.6 percent, or online job hunting, 24.6 percent. (Nielsen//NetRatings)
Yes, they just compared those people downloading and listening to podcasts with those who publish blogs. This is sort of like comparing people who read magazines to the number of journalists who write newspapers to conclude that magazines are more popular than newspapers. This a classic case of comparing apples with watermelons. A better choice would have been to compare those publishing podcasts with those publishing blogs or comparing podcast listeners to blog readers.
Some podcasters are not happy with the strange comparison and want to see statistics on podcasts that they can really use. There were a few interesting tidbits from the report, but none are surprising. For example, podcast listeners tend to be younger and more tech-savvy based on the high usage of non-IE browsers and tech sites visited, and quite a few listeners also come from the Apple community. No surprises here. I agree with Scoble; we need more useful data on podcasting.