Addressing Latinx audience interests
Edison Research's Gabriel Soto helps us understand and adapt to Latino audiences and their needs
The Latino Podcast Listener Report was conducted by Edison Research in an effort to better understand Hispanic listener habits and needs. Its impact, however, is far greater.
First, the report itself: the study showed that 36 percent of Latinos have listened to a podcast in English and 24 percent of Latinos have listened to a podcast in Spanish. Of Latino monthly podcast listeners, 55 percent are male, 50 percent are 18-34, and 47 percent identify as the first generation in the United States. 47 percent feel it is “somewhat important” or “very important” that the podcasts include stories about and perspectives from their countries of origin.
More about the report here.
What this data gave to public media is courage. It offered public radio and television a sense of who these audiences are. It also provided those concerned about diversity and public media the numbers we needed to make a persuasive case.
Gabriel Soto is manager of research at Edison Research, and led the study for the firm (as well as the habits of Black podcast listeners). He made time to talk about his career, the statistics, and what public media needs to know about Latina/o/e/x listeners. 👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻
How did the Gabriel from high school get to here?
So, in high school, I wasn't even into math, wasn't into statistics. I barely did my homework. One of the few classes that interested me was psychology. Overall, I didn't do well with authority. I was pretty immature. At the time, things were very, I guess you could say, easy going.
But right after high school, first day of college, my dad got into an accident. He was tossed several meters from his bike when a car hit him. He had a brain hemorrhage, internal bleeding, and a broken ankle. For me, this is the big turning point in my life. My father was a hair away from death and remained in a coma for two months. He eventually woke up, but it was those life-disrupting moments, filled with both suffering and hope, before and after he left the hospital, that pushed me towards psychology. I was fascinated by the habits you could practice that would allow you to overcome tough situations like the one I was in, and how malleable the brain could be. Brain research, neurology, or another related field -- I thought it was incredible, to see how my dad made his recovery
He didn't remember much when he woke up from his coma. He didn't remember any of our names. He thought he was still in Mexico. It took three months before he could have conversations with us again. He would never walk like he used to before, but he could walk, which I’m extremely grateful for. And all this led me to choose Psych as a major.
So, high school Gabe, very immature. Post-accident, because my dad was the only one out of my parents who worked – my mom was a stay-at-home mom – I felt like I had to grow up. I started paying more attention in school. I made it through the local community college I was attending and got into Rutgers University in New Jersey, all while working to pay for school.
Luckily, I also had four older brothers I could rely on. One of my brothers had to take my parents and me in, pretty much all through college. So, I didn’t have the home I grew up in, but I had a home. I made it through college living at my brother's place and thank God for him, because I don't think I would've made it through college without him.
Junior year, I ended up taking this psychology research class called quantitative methods. There was a big curve, which meant it was difficult, but somehow I would always end up getting As without one. It also helped that I was crushing on a girl in my class, so I spent a lot of time studying with her. Spoiler alert: that crush never amounted to anything, but the studying did!
One day, the TA reached out to me and said, ‘we need bright students like you – would you be interested in doing research with the professor and me?’ At the time, they were doing social psychology research. And I wasn't extremely into it, so I never took it up, but It was a moment in my life in which I realized ‘hey, I’m actually pretty good at this.’
I eventually started working with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers. I started out doing surveys about politics with people in English and Spanish. At the time it was just for the money. But my boss took a liking to me and would eventually promote me to a supervisor as a student, and then, after graduating in 2016, she promoted me again to Director of the Eagleton Center. By the way, Barack Obama was my commencement speaker, so I knew I was going to end up becoming something. No, I’m just kidding. As cool as that was, I owe it not so much to Mr. Obama, as much as I do to people like my brothers, my parents, and my boss who helped me get this far. So, there’s your answer, tribulations that forced me to grow and the people who helped me along the way – that’s how high school Gabriel got to be sitting in front you.
I ended up getting a job at Edison Research through that same boss from the Eagleton Center. She recommended me for an opening, and it's all history from there.
So now, the world knows that statistics was a little about a girl, but when did you discover this was truly a passion of yours?
The Latino Podcast Listener Report may seem like a bunch of numbers, but it is more than that. Someone I know based out of Mexico was in the process of presenting his final argument for an accelerator program at Notre Dame that would fund a project he wanted to do, and then the Latino Podcast Listener report came out. This person would end up using the entire report in his argument. The project he wanted to do, it was to start a podcast network. And today, he’s the CEO of that network, the Juan Diego Network. It made his dream come true. And many people have come up to me with similar gratitude. For me, being able to research what I'm curious about and knowing it is doing something good in the world. That's when I realized that this is what I'm passionate about.
It's hard to overstate how important that study was in particular, because there are a lot of people in public media who understand demographics, but having the data in front of them offers an understanding to move our organizations in different directions.
Hopefully it will help public radio with their strategy and their decisions, all while helping Latino stories and Black stories get told.
What for you is the Important finding in this data?
The fact that Latino and Black Americans are already making an impact on the growth of podcasting and other media in the audio space. We understand that Latinos spend an hour more with audio overall, when you compare them to the white population. And then Black Americans spend five hours listening to audio per day, which is nearly 1.5 hours more than white Americans.
One thing that I find intriguing is YouTube and how that it is the number one service both Latino and Black Americans use most often to listen to podcasts. Podcasts grew naturally on YouTube’s platform, and it’s largely because it’s a search engine for Latino and Black audiences for other content. And YouTube is starting to pay attention. They're starting to pay people to make videos of their podcasts to post on YouTube. They are also focusing on integration and the monetization of podcasting on the platform.
What have been the reactions when you tell people, ‘oh, it's YouTube,’ because I'm sure everybody automatically says, ‘Spotify or Apple.’
Well, yeah, there's a lot of podcast purists who say, ‘well, you can't, there's no RSS feed.’ ‘There's no way something on YouTube can be a podcast.’ But we know that the Joe Rogan Experience, the Joe Budden podcast, the Breakfast Club all grew their audience on YouTube and that is where the audience has accessed their shows. The audiences don't care if it has an RSS feed or not. The space is becoming more fragmented. There are lot more places to listen to media. There's a lot of content. A lot of niche content is accessible on places like YouTube. And It's going to become more difficult for people in public radio and podcast creators to cater to these audiences if they’re not on there.
The studies you’ve led have shown Latino audiences gravitate to music content. What do you think public radio can take from something like this?
The fact that the audience is listening to more music than spoken word audio, like news and information, means that public radio should consider if the traditional news and information that public radio specializes in is the right content that’s going to draw in not just Latinos, but Black audiences too. We also see Black listeners index high with music content. So, if you do have the licensing rights to play music on your podcasts, perhaps there is a chance to get creative like the podcast Song Exploder. But I know there are logistical barriers to having music on a podcast, so maybe it’s a focus on the stories these multicultural audiences care about. Maybe it’s news on the local jazz scene or the local Banda scene. Bringing in people who have history in those communities. When respondents tell us they listen to music podcasts, it does not necessarily refer to the playing of actual music; it can also refer to the news or discussion about music.
And while multicultural audiences are drawn to music more than spoken word audio, as we saw in the report, don't count out that type of content just yet. Time spent listening to spoken word audio, like news and talk shows, has increased a lot in the previous years among multicultural audiences. And we're seeing that podcasting has made it more accessible to access niche content that they're interested in.
A little bit on the themes that I covered – multicultural audiences listen to spoken word audio because they want new perspectives outside of their bubble, the ability to multitask, and also a connection, especially during a pandemic.
A conversation with a friend can be surface level. It doesn't always get intimate. But when you go home and turn on that podcast, you can listen to conversations about issues that are going on in the Latino community, the Black community, the LGBTQ community etc. And that connection is a big reason why people are listening to spoken word audio.
What other aspects of listenership have changed since the pandemic?
The pandemic has caused at-home listening among everyone to increase, and we are seeing in 2021 – as things start to open again -- at-home listening is sticking. Meaning, listening outside the home has not reverted to pre-pandemic levels. And since radio listening thrives in the car, the disruptions we're seeing to our everyday commutes means that there's a barrier between reaching that radio dial, turning it on, and listening to it.
Consumption of radio content has decreased since 2014, but the pandemic served as a catalyst and sped up this decrease between 2020 and 2021. It has since slowed, but again – not sure if it will ever revert to pre-pandemic levels. This means public radio is going to have to reach audiences, especially multicultural audiences, on platforms beyond the traditional AM/FM receiver.
Finally, what trends or what issues do you think public media organizations should be thinking about?
Trying to engage these communities and their music listening. As I stated, Latino and Black audiences have strong audio consumption. They spend more time with audio than white Americans, and that's driven solely by music. If you look at the spoken word audio content that they're consuming, it is actually just about as much as white Americans.
Find ways creatively to incorporate different music that Black Americans and Latino Americans engage in. Talk about information and news related to music. And then focus on podcasting. Podcasting is going to serve as a gateway to these multicultural audiences, if you do it right.
If you're able to be where they are -- on YouTube, hint, hint – and other places, you’ll be able to cater to them. We're seeing that Black podcast listeners want to hear Black hosts, and to hear stories of Black history, Black business, and Black excellence – stories that are culturally relevant. The majority of Black listeners say they would listen to more podcasts if there were more Black hosts. Pipelining that sort of content, getting it in front of these listeners, and amplifying it matters.
Public radio has to do a better job of keeping and engaging the listener. Working together with others, collaborating with talented people in these spaces, doing so it can build on representation and bring stories of what these audiences want to life. 🟢
La próxima ⌛
The next OIGO is in your inbox on May 13. The forthcoming OIGO, we’re joined by Daniela Allee of New Hampshire Public Radio. She leads NHPR's Spanish language news initiative, ¿Qué Hay de Nuevo, New Hampshire? And she has some incredible thoughts for you. 🌟
Cafecito: stories to discuss ☕
A collaboration between Brazil’s AzMina, Data Crítica of Mexico, El Clip and Argentina’s La Nación maps misogynistic attacks initiated by political figures on Twitter, using AI to identify hate speech against women. 💻 The team presented its work at the JournalismAI Festival.
Texas journalism shapes others’ approaches to Latina/o/e/x stories, and so the Texas Tribune seeking to expand its coverage will be worth watching. 🤠
While we’re on Texas, as a lifelong Houstonian interviewed in the American Journalism Project process, I found these hot takes on a $20 million local nonprofit news startup to be bizarre. For starters, many of those quoted run outlets that have done such an abjectly terrible disservice to the majority-Hispanic city. 💩 See Poynter’s notes on AJP’s research, which indicate the harm communities of color feel legacy media has done.
Also on mistrust, Vermont pubmedia’s study into underserved audiences is illuminating. Some don’t see themselves in coverage. Others know public media, but aren’t following it as much due to disruption of their habits. Perception of racial bias is also a factor.
More on the midterms conversation, Matthew Yglesias argues more must be done by Democrats to win back the voters Obama was popular with, especially Latinas. 🗳️ In particular, tropes of misinformation must be challenged. “It’s on us to win their votes, as Obama did, not to charge them with being insufficiently informed,” he writes.
El radar: try this 📡
Explore health and older Hispanics. A new study on the Miami-based Happy Older Latinos are Active (HOLA) focuses on the health benefits of wellness and exercise for Latina/o/e/x seniors. 👟 What is happening locally around Hispanic health for older adults?
Help your community learn who to call. Samantha Guzman and the Decibel team just put out a resource guide for the town of Del Valle. You may remember she talked about some of this effort in a past OIGO. Check out this killer tool and consider trying it locally. 🔍
Explore Hispanic engagement in charter schools. WSHU just covered a Latina/o/e/x group in Connecticut pressing lawmakers on charter schools. 🎒 The stereotype of charter schools of years past is worth reexamining. The equity position is new, and it would be interesting to see how your local Hispanic groups are advocating for this type of education.
Reveal the stories of English-only schools in your state. The El Paso Times shared the reflections of those who attended a Texas school where mock funerals for “Mr. Spanish” and corporal punishment for using Spanish were the norm. 🏫 Now, there is a movement to remember the pre-Civil Rights experiences of Latinas/os/es/xs who endured these institutions.
Get inspired to reach Gen Z. We know the Latina/o/e/x community is young, but how can your organization connect with them? 12 stations were recently chosen to develop projects that engage youth. BIPOC producers are central.
Get excited about next OIGO — it’ll be a good one.