If you’ve wondered if podcasts have yet reached mainstream status, look no further than the newsrooms of some of the country’s most prominent publishers. Digiday reports that The Atlantic, Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post appointed new audio heads heading into 2022. It’s a signal that publishers aren’t just dabbling with new technology — they’re incorporating podcasting into their media infrastructures.
With big media players making moves, what might be on the horizon for branded podcasts?
Research from podcast analytics firm Backtracks shows the number of English-language podcast series has increased by 39% from January 2020 to October 2021. And according to a recent survey by Nielsen and Acast, a podcast hosting and monetization company, there is plenty of demand. The survey shows the number of adults who listen to podcasts at least once a month increased this year, as did the amount of time they spent listening.
The Nielsen study also showed that consumer appetites for podcasts are outpacing production — while 75% of podcast listeners say they listen to podcasts weekly, just 43% of creators publish weekly. The marketplace certainly seems ripe for growth for those who have the resources to expand.
As major newsrooms grow their media strategies to include podcasting, the opportunity makes a lot of sense. It’s a new place to be relevant and amplify their journalistic voice and values. For example, in an interview with Digiday, Vice VP of Audio Kathleen Osborn said the opportunities are about cross-promotion and creating more shows. She noted that collaborations with like-minded and complementary partners can be ”really additive for audiences.”
According to Backtracks, 57 million Americans listen to podcasts monthly, and that number is on the rise. So clearly, there are opportunities for big media orgs — but what about brands? Should branded podcasts be a component of marketing?
Like everything in marketing, it depends on a lot of things. A modest podcast advertising strategy could go a long way for some brands and budgets. It may be worth the investment to create a podcast of their own for others. It ultimately comes down to who your brand is, who your audience is, and what your goals are.
For brands with the creative power and logistics required for planning, podcast production can be a powerful way to engage with customers — when done right. However, it’s essential to understand that podcasts should not be 30 minutes of sales pitches and promotional material. (Those are called infomercials, and there’s a reason nobody schedules time to enjoy them.) Instead, branded podcasts are a unique and intimate way to connect with audiences in a different format.
Build brand awareness and authority. With a podcast, you gain an opportunity to be an authoritative voice in your space. #LIPSTORIES by Sephora, for example, is a podcast that follows an interview format, featuring a rotating guest lineup who discuss moments of empowerment and beauty in their own lives. Like the brand itself, the podcasts are inspiring and entertaining. The #LIPSTORIES podcast positions Sephora as a leader in beauty products and beauty conversations.
Reach highly relevant audiences. Unlike most other forms of advertising, podcast users actively seek out the material they intend to enjoy. This means you have a captive audience who found you. In this way, the engagement on podcasts is akin to retail shopping. It depends more on the totality of the user experience than it does on the total audience reach.
It’s a long-term owned media channel. Podcasting can be its own media channel and revenue stream when done right. With an emphasis on long-term listenership, your brand’s listeners invest in you as much as you invest in your strategy.
In addition to branded podcasts, the podcast format offers plenty of opportunities for brands that aren’t ready to jump into creative production. Sponsored podcasts are a way for advertisers to tap the medium’s popularity as an advertiser.
You’re in good company. Podcast advertising spend jumped 20% year-over-year in 2021. According to one study by the BBC, the results deliver a good return on investment, with podcast advertising increasing brand awareness by 89%, brand consideration by 57% and favorability by 24%
Podcasts reach a captive audience. According to SEMRush, 20% of people have bought a product from a podcast! The BBC study also showed that purchase intent increases by 14% among listeners. This is good news for sponsors.
Relationships make all the difference. Much like influencer marketing, advertising on podcasts is often a matter of matchmaking. For the best opportunities at engagement, sponsored ads should have some kind of tie-in with the podcast host, content, or premise of the show. As the show’s audience grows, sponsored content becomes integral to the show’s format, creating a distinct association between the brand and the programming.
Building your own podcast strategy? We’ve got some ideas. Let’s talk.
Featured image by Soundtrap on Unsplash.
Zlata is a full-time publicist, part-time writer, and round-the-clock ambassador to wit and humor. As a publicist for over 15 years, she helps launch products with creative ideas and garner press coverage that drives reputation and sales. She also contributes to a variety of lifestyle publications in the areas of food, parenting, health, beauty, marketing, travel, and home. When she’s not crafting kitchen concoctions for her food blog @lifeandthymez, Zlata can be found spending time with her family, having #zlatathoughts, and fantasizing about being a Real Housewife of New Jersey.