Exploring Podcasts for Market Research


At the 10th Annual MSMR Insights Conference in Arlington, Texas, Casey Bernard of Nimble MR presented on using the power of podcasts for research.

Half of US homes are podcast fans. Approximately 30 companies in the S&P 500 are using podcast for internal communications. “In a sense, I’m painting something but I’m not holding the paintbrush. You are. So it’s this deep act of co-authorship, and in that is some potential for empathy.” This resonated with Casey as a qualitative researcher. She came up with ways to use podcasts to explore, collect, and deliver insights.

Explore – The sheer volume of podcasts provides interesting opportunities to learn. “Friends with Deficits” is a podcast for people with unique conditions; for instance, a recent interview was with a person with a rare form of blindness. Podcasts exist on law, telecom reselling, general contractors, Lyme disease, stroke survivors, opticians, and more. Look for a podcast before you write your discussion guide or questionnaire. “You can get a lot of story before you start your research.”

Collect – “Podcasts are qualitative research.” You can look to podcasts for ideas for projective techniques. Many are stories without narrators. Story Corps has people interview each other about an event in their life (“take the moderator out of the research”). In “Take It From Me”, each week’s interviewer is the prior week’s interviewee. In “Everything is Alive”, people interview inanimate objects, where another person takes on the role of the object (e.g., a grain of sand, a soda can). Data collection with only audio is private, emotional, engaging, and removes the layer of visual bias: you can feel comments in a different way than with video. Audio is more resilient and useful than respondent-submitted videos, which “sometimes look like the Blair Witch Podcast.”

Deliver – Casey is not talking about delivering a podcast as a public deliverable. Casey recently created podcasts for each of four personas. You can do a podcast as a weekly update or executive summary. She shared a 4-minute NPR podcast that provided an excellent summary of a scientific study. How do you integrate visual materials? The podcast series “Serial” created a website with exhibits and evidence from the murder case being investigated. Casey created an intraweb website to showcase four personas; her clients presented from it like a PowerPoint, while users could do deeper dives on their own time.

For qualitative research, consider during design, plan for recording, and you’ll find it works great for one-on-one interviews. For mobile studies, think of including an audio prompt. For quantitative studies, use a journalistic style, interview researchers to explain findings, and read aloud open-ended responses, with different people in the office reading different verbatim comments. “Be the change you want to see in the world!”

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