Since 1998 MyMerryChristmas.com has commissioned surveys, both online and offline, to gauge opinions, knowledge and attitudes on all manner of Christmas topics. Most of the surveys we conduct never see the light of day in public. We do them to help guide the editorial efforts of our publications, streams and podcasts about Christmas.
Surveys are customarily conducted between Memorial Day and Labor Day each year. Occasionally we conduct surveys “in season”, too. Surveys are conducted in person, by phone and online.
In 2020 we developed a new Christmas resource called ChristmasPodcasts.com. We did that without taking a survey, unfortunately. It was built of a passion for Christmas podcasts and the intent of organizing a directory that would serve the Christmas community at large. That’s just what we do.
But in retrospect, both in developing that resource and in publishing our own podcasts, we should have looked into what people thought of Christmas podcasts.
When we began our own podcast back in 2010 there were just a few Christmas-themed podcasts online. There were very few standards and no guidelines for how it was done. Our own podcast efforts grew out of our online radio streams and even until just a few years ago the number of us podcasting was few.
We now count more than 200 published Christmas podcasts with more becoming available with each new season.
Because of our activity with ChristmasPodcasts.com, and because of the growth of Christmas podcasts in recent years, we added new questions to our annual Christmas survey in 2021.
We were surprised with what they said about Christmas podcasts.
~ What the 2021 Survey Said About Christmas Podcasts ~
As with most things, the results of our survey about Christmas podcasts have generated more questions than answers. This is frequently what happens when a survey shows the unexpected.
These were the main things that really surprised us:
- Only 5 percent of those who describe themselves as Christmas fans regularly listen to Christmas podcasts.
- Only 21 percent of Christmas enthusiasts have ever listened to a Christmas-themed podcast.
- 66 percent of Christmas podcast listeners are women.
- The biggest reason Christmas fans do not listen to Christmas podcasts is because they do not have time to do so. 78 percent said they were challenged to find the time to locate, select and download podcast episodes.
- 73 percent of survey respondents said they had no real idea where to find Christmas podcasts.
~ Why We Can’t Use Our Own Podcasts to Measure Listener Interest ~
We have published our own Christmas podcasts for 11 years. Some of the survey results fall in line with what trends for listeners are on our own podcasts.
However, the Merry Little Podcast of MyMerryChristmas.com should not be held up as a bellwether for Christmas podcasts overall. We have an established year-round audience built over 30 years on a website with good authority in Christmas. Our social media audiences are mature, the search engines have indexed us for decades, and our year-round communities are active.
Most podcasts do not have any of those advantages.
With Christmas podcasts growing as a voice in the online community we wondered what more could be done to improve the response to Christmas podcasts online. To better understand that we compared the trends of Christmas podcasts to overall podcast trends out there.
We learned that Christmas podcasts are, frankly, a very small fish in a very large pond.
In fact, like most things associated with Christmas online, there are huge challenges to overcome. Christmas podcasts are still in their infancy.
~ Podcast Trends 2021 ~
According to Podcast Insights, by April 2021 there are more than 2 million podcasts that have pushed out 48 million episodes.
These numbers indicate a better than 500% growth in podcasting over just a few years.
55 percent of the US population listened to at least one podcast in 2019 – and that figure is increasing.
51 percent of podcast listeners are male. 45 percent have incomes over $75k. And 27 percent are college educated.
Where and how podcasts are listened to is also a thing. 49 percent listen at home – that’s a declining number. Just a few years ago that number was over 60 percent. 22 percent now listen while driving – an number that continues to increase.
What’s the most popular podcast category? Comedy, followed by education and news.
The average podcast listener follows 7 podcasts a week.
Clearly, when it comes to podcasting, Christmas podcasts have some incredible obstacles to overcome:
- How can a seasonal topic find traction in such a huge pool of podcasts out there?
- Where can Christmas podcasters go to just be discovered?
- How can audiences for Christmas podcasts grow?
All of these survey results have caused us to re-think our efforts as it comes to Christmas podcasts. Our primary mission as a publisher (and not just as Christmas podcasters ourselves) is to bring Christmas to the world.
We cannot just build a directory of podcasts and expect it alone to do the job of building awareness, advancing quality and improving engagement with Christmas fans.
We (MyMerryChristmas.com) must do something more.
~ The Best of Christmas Podcasts ~
The first step in serving our audience better when it comes to podcasts is somehow identifying “the best” of Christmas podcasts. Lots of publications do this. Most list four or five podcasts they find, give a few opinions, and call it good. Some publications now do it every holiday season, just as a tradition.
We feel we should do better than that.
We cannot alone endorse podcasts we feel do a good job according to an undefined subjective standard that we alone know. It can’t be just our opinion.
We need the feedback of fans, podcasters and experts. We needed, frankly, more surveys:
~ Groups We Surveyed ~
Over the months of September and October 2021 we gathered information on Christmas podcasts from the following groups:
- Podcast listeners
- Podcast creators
- Podcast experts
- Christmas Webmasters
- Christmas Radio Station Operators
- Christmas Community Managers
- Female Podcast Listeners
- Parent Podcast Listeners
- Children Podcast Listeners
- Movie Critics
- Music Critics
- Christmas Historians/Experts
Our goal in identifying “the best” included developing standards in specific categories.
For example, in the technical category, there are some industry standards promoted by the likes of major platforms such as Apple Podcasts. Since they are biggest podcast aggregator out there most other platforms follow their lead in establishing norms for things like audio bitrates and podcast logo shapes, sizes and dimensions.
Those were easy to learn and fairly simple to evaluate. Podcasts either met those standards or they did not.
In content categories setting standards is not so straight-forward.
Is a podcast judged on it’s historical accuracy, the quality of banter between hosts, or the hilarity of their jokes?
What is more important when it comes to Christmas podcasts? News? Education? Humor? Entertainment?
And what about the listeners?
What did they feel about their experience? Could we learn that and apply some sort of a grade to the “user experience”? In asking that question we surveyed Christmas podcast listeners for their thoughts.
They had plenty to share.
~ Technical Matters Matter ~
Christmas online has always been offered by professional publications, hobbyists, fans and amateurs. When it comes to podcasts the results are similar to what is found in Christmas websites: there is a lot of good and bad out there on the technical level.
Podcasting requires a fairly high level of tech-savvy expertise. It requires a lot of time, some decent equipment, knowledge of audio production and lots of web-savvy management. And, oh yeah, it’s not free either.
We developed something we call the User Experience, a rating that combined scores measuring accessibility, presentation and ease of use on different types of platforms and devices.
These things matter because there are simply so many preferred ways people listen to podcasts.
Some like to download and listen to podcasts while engaged in other activities. Others prefer to stream podcasts while on a desktop or laptop. Even more exclusively listen via mobile phones and devices.
To get down to what really matters on a technical level we talked about this to many listeners we surveyed. We wanted their input first and we found a few things consistent:
- They prefer to download episodes
- A website is important. It gives a podcast credibility and makes it easier to contact podcasters. Most podcasts with websites were viewed as “more professional”.
- A podcast needs to be concise, manageable in file size, and identifiable with a logo.
- It’s got to look and sound good on a phone, with and without headphones or ear buds.
We found about 60 platforms, such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify, who had a lot to say about the technical aspect of good podcasts. We consulted with them and developed a list of technical “musts” a podcast should have.
We especially acknowledge the work of Dave Visaya at PodcastEngineers.com who took the time to review our list of technical specs and helped us to refine it. Dave was best able to explain what the technical specifications were and why they were important for both listeners and podcasters.
In all we were able to compare the Christmas podcasts we reviewed against current industry standards in things like bitrates, file tagging, image standards, feed protocols, etc.
In addition, our technical standards were embedded with Christmas connections in website metrics, standards and Google compliance, social media inclusion, link quality, spam standards, etc.
Because compliance to these industry standards are all over the place generally with Christmas podcasts we found some level of dissatisfaction expressed out there, even when we didn’t ask about issues. So we did modify our surveys to ask some hard questions about what listeners did NOT like about Christmas podcasts.
The vast majority of responses were tied directly to the technical standards we compiled.
Simply put, Christmas podcasters need to continually examine and adjust to improving standards of audio quality, accessibility, presentation and rating/reviews. (Exactly like websites have to do).
~ Categories of Recognition ~
While looking at technical specs allowed us to view all Christmas podcasts similarly we recognize that not all podcasts are alike in heart and spirit. It is tough to measure such subjective things so we attempted to categorize the recognition we were looking for. (We also recognize that this is our first attempt at doing this and that we might want and need to refine this as we go along).
The surveys and groups that were developed for this project allowed us to recognize TEN broad categories:
Popular Choice – This category represents the podcast most often recognized across each of our surveys. While this recognizes the highest vote-getter it should be noted this choice could be interpreted as the podcast with the longest reach.
Podcasters Choice – We surveyed as many Christmas podcasters as we could find and get a response from in recognizing who they thought had the best Christmas podcast.
Family Choice – This specialty category represents a growing type of podcast geared towards younger listeners. Parents and children were both polled for their favorites.
Ladies Choice – Women listeners dominate the demographics of Christmas podcasts (so far, at least). This reflects their choice of a Christmas podcast favorite.
Editors Choice – Christmas webmasters, Christmas radio producers, Christmas community managers and Social Media leaders were surveyed of their choice for the best Christmas podcast.
Critics Choice – Movies and Music are a key part of Christmas celebration and there are many podcasts that specialize in Christmas movie and music content. We reached out to movie and music critics to review Christmas podcasts for the quality of their content.
Christmas Community Choice – Fans of websites, communities, radio stations and social media groups and pages outside of MyMerryChristmas.com and ChristmasPodcasts.com were polled for their favorites.
Christmas Cheer & Frivolity – Comedy and entertainment routinely show on surveys to be of great importance to podcast listeners. This category recognizes those who excel in this specialty.
Best New Christmas Podcast – Christmas podcasts are growing. This category represents the newest Christmas podcasts making an impact on listeners.
~ Metrics Used and Ignored ~
One would assume that podcasts could be tracked the same as album sales or television show ratings. Alas, while nearly every platform offers reviews, rankings and ratings they are not entirely dependable.
In fact, sometimes those reviews are fake or purchased. We did find some Christmas podcasts guilty of this practice. It is an issue in nearly every online project where reviews are a standard. Just ask Amazon or Google how problematic review integrity can be.
We therefore chose to ignore reviews, rankings and ratings through podcast platforms or websites. The listener reviews we are sharing are comments directly given to us – so they are completely unique and entirely authentic.
Most podcasters use downloads or “listens” provided by major platforms as an indicator of their popularity. This too provides a false measure of a podcast’s success because downloads can be affected by listeners who choose to stream episodes and by how a podcast is marketed online. Besides, just because an episode is downloaded does not mean that it is heard. Also the number of downloads or “listens” are not always publicly available or accurate. We chose not to include those metrics.
This is partly what led to our decision to survey publicly and privately, online and offline, and among targeted groups whose opinion we valued. We believe it leads to a better report. We leave it up to the Christmas community of podcast listeners to judge rankings, ratings, reviews and download data for themselves. For our purposes here, they do not mean much.
That being said, we strongly encourage the honest submission of timely reviews with podcasters directly. They appreciate them. In fact, Christmas podcasters live for that kind of contact with listeners. We feel strongly enough about it ourselves that we invite feedback specific to any episode of any Christmas podcast online via our website at MyMerryChristmas.com and also at ChristmasPodcasts.com.
~ The Future ~
The future of Christmas podcasts and the Best of Christmas Podcasts as review here on MyMerryChristmas.com resides in an ongoing open dialogue about them.
We will simply keep the survey door open year-round from now on. Look for our 2022 survey to be online shortly AFTER Christmas 2021. Also, we will be publishing a spec sheet, based on the criteria established in 2021, that we will make available to Christmas podcasters. That is coming soon.
We will collect information critical to our review here and work to refine it each season. We welcome your feedback, suggestions and ideas. We want to improve this report on a yearly basis. We want it to become a valued resource to the Christmas community.
While this is a good first effort we recognize that in the time we had that it is imperfect and can be improved. Categories may be expanded or consolidated based upon how our readers value the information. Technical specifications will change from year to year. The realities of publishing a podcast can present new challenges for podcasters. So this project will need to adapt if we really want to present a “best of” for the Christmas community.
Our commitment is to generate a fresh, new report of the Best of Christmas Podcasts by October 25th of every year. We appreciate the enthusiasm for Christmas podcasts from our site visitors, from the Christmas community online, and from Christmas podcasters everywhere.