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Key Findings from The Infinite Dial 2020 Report & What They Mean for Content Creators

Key Findings from The Infinite Dial 2020 Report & What They Mean for Content Creators

How do you know if you’re creating content in the right way, in the right places, at the right times?

Analytics and research give us a window into the behavior and interests of our audience, so I always think it’s great to analyze the big annual reports that come out to get an understanding outside of our own audiences, and into the wider societal trends and interests.

One of my favorites is Edison Research and Triton Digital’s The Infinite Dial 2020 report, which was recently published.

It has a bounty of information and statistics that paint a clear picture of the current digital media landscape – from podcasts and social media, to smart speakers and mobile usage.

I’ve gone through the report with a fine-tooth comb to pull out the most useful insights, brought them all together to give a clear picture of the trends content creators should be aware of for the year ahead, and I’m sharing them with you right here, right now.

Here's a short video about this week's episode: 


I covered last year’s report in episode 85 of The Content 10x podcast, so it’s becoming a bit of a tradition. I’m still just as excited about it - research like this is content creator catnip!

It gives us a level of insight that we simply cannot gain from our own analytics. We get to dive into wider cultural habits and trends so we can adapt our content strategies, working out the who, what, where, and how of the content we create for the year ahead.

The Infinite Dial has been published for 22 years in a row, providing the most up-to-date research in digital media consumption in the U.S. by collating data from randomized telephone interviews with over 1,500 citizens aged 12 or older.

Of course, times have changed since this survey was conducted and COVID–19 is having a big impact on our habits, but there are still some evergreen insights that I want to share with you.

So, what can we learn from The Infinite Dial 2020 report?

How are people consuming media in 2020? 

Smartphones are pretty ubiquitous now, with ownership rising from 84% to 85% of the US population in the last year. It’s not the rapid growth of the 2000s, but that’s to be expected.

Tablets are in a similar plateau – going  down from 56% to 53% this year. As smartphones are being released with even greater power and larger, higher-definition screens, it’s no surprise that the growth in tablet ownership has stopped in its tracks.

Smartwatches have also levelled off at 17% of the population.

What can we learn from this?

Small screens are a massive part of the way we consume media and are staying that way. For many, mobile is their primary device.

Creators need to create, or at least repurpose, mobile-friendly content. Everything from the dimensions of videos to the optimal length of content changes for mobile.

I’m going to be explaining more about creating beautiful mobile-friendly content in a few weeks, but for now I suggest you dive into your own content and see what it’s like to consume it on mobile. You might not like what you see!

Before we move on from the ways we consume our content, we need to take a second to talk about one of the newest kids on the digital media block!

Voice search is growing fast. 62% of Americans use a voice assistant of some kind and 27% have a smart speaker in their home.

There’s no stopping voice, so we need to know how to adapt our content for it.

Voice SEO is a growing concern for creators and one that requires an entire blog post of its own.

TOP TIP: Voice searches are more conversational than text search, focused on long-tail keywords. Think about the way someone would ask a question in person, rather than through a keyboard.

How are we using social media in 2020? 

Similar to smartphones and tablets, social media use has mostly levelled off. For the last four years, The Infinite Dial 2020 report has shown social media use stable at 80% (give or take a couple of points either side).

Facebook has stabilized after a drop three years ago, and is steady at 63% of the U.S .adult population, but its userbase is changing. Many 12-34 year olds are leaving Facebook behind, with a 15% drop in three years whereas 5% more 35-54s are using it.

Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter all show similar performance – relatively stable, with growth in the low single digits at best.

The winners in the study are Instagram and newcomer, TikTok.

Instagram has gone from 36% to 41% usage in two years, with a 6% increase in 12-34s and 5% in 35-54s.

The star of the show, though, is TikTok. Firstly, being a brand-new addition to the report is, in itself, cause for applause. It takes a lot to be considered worth including in Infinite Dial – and to go straight in with 11% usage across the U.S. population is remarkable.

25% of 12-34s and 3% of 35-54s are using TikTok. We know it’s more popular with younger people, often hailed the social media platform ‘for kids’.

This should come as no surprise if you saw my 8 Content Marketing Predictions for 2020, in which I listed TikTok as the platform to watch!

If you want to know more about how you can use TikTok (directly or indirectly) in your content strategy, check out next week’s blog post and podcast episode – it’s about how to use TikTok for business!

How are people consuming audio content in 2020? 

68% of the adult U.S. population listen to online audio (digital audio, podcasts, internet radio, and audiobooks) for an average of 15 hours and 12 minutes a week.

Key Findings from The Infinite Dial 2020 Report & What They Mean for Content Creators

Without question, online audio has become a mainstream medium for people to consume content. So how does it break down?

One of the most interesting findings in The Infinite Dial 2020 report, for me, was audio brand awareness vs brand usage.

In the U.S., by far the best-known brand for audio content is Pandora, with 85% of the population aware of the platform. In a cluster some way behind Pandora is iHeartRadio (73%), Spotify (72%), Apple Music (71%), and Amazon Music (68%).

But when it comes to the platforms people are actually using each month…

Pandora and Spotify are both tied at 25%, with Amazon Music down at 14%, Apple Music at 12%, and iHeartRadio at 11%.

Since 2018, Amazon Music is up 6%, Spotify is up 5%, and Pandora is down 6%... Looks like the competition is hotting up!

Podcasters – listen up!

This should show you that Apple Music isn’t the default. If you are still calling it iTunes, that ship sailed a while ago!

Upload your podcast to all the platforms you can and, when you are sharing it, point people to their app of choice rather than dictating one specifically.

How are people consuming podcasts in 2020? 

75% of U.S. citizens are aware of podcasts and a huge 37% listen to podcasts every month – that’s more than Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Snapchat!

Podcasts are most popular with 12-34s (48% listen monthly), but the numbers are respectable all the way through the age ranges, with 40% of 35-54s and 22% of over 55s listening monthly.

If someone told you there’s a platform that’s bigger than Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Snapchat, you’d have made an account faster than I can say “repurposing!”

There’s a reason everyone and their Grandma is starting a podcast – and it’s not just because of lockdown boredom!

But podcasters – we cannot rest on our laurels.

There are still two thirds of the population who aren’t listening to our handiwork every month. Now is not the time to rest.

We need to work out how to reach that 63%, and I think I know how…

Content repurposing is the key to winning online in 2020

Remember how 80% of the population are using social media and 85% use smartphones?

Taking your podcast and repurposing it into mobile-friendly social content is a key strategy that you should take to grow your audience (along with focusing on search as well)!

A proper content repurposing strategy will help you:

  • meet non-listeners in the place where they hang out
  • meet podcast listeners who don’t know about you yet

Podcast listeners listen to 6 podcasts a week on average – our goal should be to be one of those 6!

Have a look around the posts in the podcast category of my blog for dozens of articles full of advice on how to repurpose your podcast for maximum reach and impact.

If you aren’t sure where to start, then take a look at how to repurpose your podcast for social media platforms.

Once you’re ready to go all out on your repurposing revolution, grab yourself a copy of my book and our all action Toolkit – perfect for getting you from zero to repurposing hero in a matter of days!

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