Three Things for September 2, 2021

From the Public Impact Group

This week’s Three Things for public media leaders looks at:

  1. Subscriptions, Streaming, and Classical Music

  2. New Research on Everyday Donors of Color

  3. Four Quick Hits on Podcasting

THING ONE: More Americans Are Becoming Digital Audio Subscribers

This week, some new research released from eMarketer projects that paid subscribers to digital audio services will increase 11% in 2021 to 121.9 million people, over 40% of all U.S. Internet users.

Spotify leads the pack of streamers with a share of 36.7%, followed by Apple Music with 30.3%. The data includes subscribers to YouTube Premium, which includes the YouTubeMusic Premium streaming service, with a share of 19.4%1. Pandora Premium subscribers clock in at 5.4%.

eMarketer is projecting that the rate of growth in paid audio subscribers will slow in the coming years, noting that over 130 million people in the US will subscribe to paid audio in 2023.

A noted contrast to the video subscription model where most households have multiple subscriptions is that audio subscribers are more likely to stick with one service only.

However, a test of this theory will come with Apple’s move this week acquiring the classical music streaming service Primephonic. Apple will shut the service down on September 7th and says it will relaunch it next year with a “dedicated classical music app combining Primephonic’s classical user interface that fans have grown to love with more added features.”

For public radio classical music stations, Apple’s acquisition of Primephonic will present a larger platform as an competitive option for listeners to seek out classical music via smartphones. It also reinforces the importance for classical music stations to commit to increasing engagement in their local communities to counter the pure plays that have no local connection whatsoever.

The chart above tracks the average quarter-hour share for a selected group of classical PPM stations across the country. Overall, stations have seen a slight decline over the first seven months of the year, but it’s not nearly as significant compared to the loss in AQH share that many public radio news stations have experienced in the last few months.

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THING TWO: Study - Donors of Color are Changing the Fabric of Philanthropy

The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy last week released new research that, among its findings, is showing that donors of color are helping to drive a shift in the sources of influence that have historically shaped the charitable community’s approach to racial and social justice giving.

The report, Everyday Donors of Color: Diverse Philanthropy During Times of Change, incorporates data from a national survey of 1,535 households conducted in September 2020, insights from focus groups with diverse donors, and an analysis of case studies on the impact of mutual aid.2

The report addressed three big-picture questions:

  • What motivates donors of color in the U.S. to give, and where do they give?

  • What are the specific tools and techniques that donors of color utilize to enhance their giving?

  • Who gives to racial and social justice?

The first key finding from the research is that generosity persists across diverse households in America.

After controlling for important factors that impact giving, such as education and income, there is no statistically significant difference in giving rates across racial and ethnic groups. While there is no difference in the fact that the majority in ethnic and racial groups give, there are some differences in how and where they give. Each group has distinct histories, resources, and challenges that shape their giving in particular ways.

At the heart of giving for many diverse donors, places of worship play an integral role in the lives of those across all racialized groups. Latinx and Black households are more likely to give to religious congregations than other racial and ethnic groups.

The study also reinforces how important the concepts of mutual aid and solidarity networks are to communities of color.

Donors of color are more likely to engage in informal giving, volunteering or giving through crowdfunding sites. Thirty-four percent of donors of color said they give through crowdfunding sites in a typical year. About 90% had heard of crowdfunding, and 52% said crowdfunding makes it easier to directly support causes by giving. Beyond gifts of money, donors of color are engaged in other forms of generosity, with 53% volunteering, 34% donating blood and 70% donating goods in a typical year.

Grassroots leaders within communities of color are increasingly shaping how philanthropy is organized to maximize the impact on social and racial justice.

Another key takeaway from the research is the agenda-setting power of grassroots leaders influencing wealthy donors and major funders to focus on bringing more visibility to philanthropic approaches, tools, and networks within communities of color. This is information that public media needs to strongly consider how it can align itself from both the philanthropic approach and the delivery of services to be more responsive and seek to have a more significant impact in serving the needs of communities of color.

Una O. Osili, Ph.D., Dean’s Fellow of the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy at IUPUI’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, notes:

“As bridge-builders between historically privileged sources of philanthropic giving and communities in need of assistance, donors of color and grassroots organizers play a unique role in maximizing philanthropic impact in their communities,” she said. “These leaders are securing support in unique ways and expanding the influence of organizations and initiatives led by people of color.”

The report further states that nonprofit organizations should emphasize authentic and meaningful ways to collaborate and engage with donors of color as trusted advisors on programmatic impact and strategic steps. Identity-based giving mechanisms, such as giving circles, can provide leadership opportunities for donors of color and democratize the philanthropic process—as well as offer an avenue for donors to be directly involved in decision-making for the organization.

During the process of integrating the traditions and values of diverse donors, the defnition of giving to an organization should be broadened to include volunteering and in-kind contributions, as well as the concept of mutual aid. The fundraising cycle—from cultivation to stewardship practices—should be inclusive of all these forms of generosity.

The 44-page report provides a number of specific recommendations and examples to sustain and strengthen the philanthropy of donors of color by:

  • Providing support to philanthropic efforts led by donors of color

  • Provide leadership opportunities for donors of color

  • Provide support for building wealth in communities of color

  • Provide support for research on donors of color

As public media seeks to better reflect the diversity of our nation, this research is timely and applicable for organizations seeking to better serve and build support from audiences of color. However, I’ve only touched on some of the valuable information in the report and highly recommend a full review of the research.

Learn more about the Public Impact Group

THING THREE: A Quick Quartet of Research on Podcasting

Seldom does a week pass that we’re not seeing new research about podcasting that can help us better understand who is listening, what they are listening to, and various business aspects related to on-demand audio.

This past week I’ve stumbled across four different bits of information that offer some valuable insights into the business.

The Westwood One 2021 Audioscape was shared on the Cumulus Media blog on Monday, detailing the general demographics of the podcast audience.

Spoiler Alert: They are young, employed, educated, and upscale.

NPR’s research reflects a similar age differentiation between the radio audience and podcast listeners. A further chart from the post further details how attractive the podcast audience is for many advertisers.

A second bit of research, this from eMarketer, looked at podcast production and penetration from across the globe. Again, it’s no surprise that the highest penetration rates for podcast listening are in English-speaking markets, with the U.S. leading in terms of production and penetration worldwide.

What I found interesting, though, is that listening growth is rising the fastest in China.

EMarketer is projecting that there will be more monthly podcast listeners in China than in the U.S. by 2025. Of course, it’s worth noting that the 158.6 million podcast listeners in China make up only 10.4% of the population, compared to the projected 42% of the U.S. population expected to be monthly podcast listeners by 2025.

This increase in listeners in China has not gone unnoticed by Big Tech.

The South China Morning Post reports that while Apple is yet to announce the availability of its subscription service in mainland China, some local podcast creators believe it will have a big influence.

“Podcasting in the US is booming now,” said Yang Yi, chief operating officer at podcast start-up JustPod. “I think if we share the same subscription model or the same business model through Apple podcasts, it will push the development of the Chinese podcasting market.”

Tech companies in China, including some of the most established digital giants, are joining the emerging audio category, carving out separate “podcast” sections. The music platform Tencent Music and Entertainment, for example, just started pushing “long-form content.” Other major players include Ximalaya, Xiaoyuzhou FM (also known as UFO Podcast), and Lanren Changting.3

Sweden, Norway, Australia, and Canada round out the top five countries in podcast listening adoption after the U.S.

The monetization of podcasting is one of the ongoing challenges facing most publishers. So the third bit of research, also from eMarketer, looked at what program genre brings the largest share of U.S. podcast ad revenues.

Spoiler Alert: News podcasts are the clear leader.

For public radio, this data is welcome news. While the news space for podcasting is becoming increasingly crowded, it’s vital for producers not to be complacent about their efforts and focus on creating that "High awareness + high-value content” that I wrote about a few weeks ago with the Podcast Grid of Pain.

One final note on podcasting4, this from earlier this year and also courtesy of eMarketer, although it’s actually from Jacobs Media Techsurvey 2021.

Close to 34% of US adult monthly podcast listeners almost always skip ads in the shows they regularly tune in to, and about 17% do so most of the time.

The data is a reminder that podcasting is still young in terms of metrics, and the advertising industry, just as it’s currently questioning Nielsen’s methodology in television, will be pushing for more accurate data on whether ads embedded in podcasts are actually being heard. If more listening shifts to streaming platforms (i.e., Spotify), that may alleviate some issues. Still, we’re far from standardizing the data to get an accurate picture of listening versus downloads.

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Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave a comment if something you’ve read strikes a chord.


Subscribers to YouTube Premium also receive a range of video services as well. Somewhat similar to the menu of benefits one receives from Amazon Prime.


This report shares findings from four components. First, the school conducted an extensive systematic literature review of donors of color (for the full review, see Chen, 2021a). The literature review research identifies over 40 search terms across all disciplines. Second, this report uses data from an extensive nationally representative survey of U.S. households conducted in September 2020. Third, the school conducted a series of seven focus groups, including Black, Hispanic, Asian American, and American Indian donors, along with philanthropic and nonprofit staff who work with these donors, and a mostly Protestant (but not exclusively) group of clergy and religiously affiliated or adjacent nonprofit leaders. Lastly, two case studies on mutual aid are shared in the report to highlight the role of mutual aid in helping diverse communities during the pandemic.


From the eMarketer study, In China, Podcasting is Emerging from its Niche, published on August 9, 2021, by Man-Chung Cheung.


My apologies as Three Things somehow became Six Things this week.