Podcasts

From the Desk of | Podcasts are the New Black for Consumers and Advertisers

My “From the Desk of” series will feature re-posts of blogs I’ve written for my company blog. Here’s my first installment. Original posting here.


Two months ago my commute increased from 30 minutes to an hour as I embarked on a new career path at InkHouse. The longer drive proved streaming Spotify to be a drain on my data package, while the radio played the same 5 songs on repeat. Coincidentally, I had seen a lot of buzz on social media around this new series called “Serial.” I found out I could download it to my phone through the iOS Podcasts app, so I gave it a listen one Monday morning drive. By Wednesday evening I was sitting in silence on my couch, clinging to the last few minutes of this gripping 12-episode story. This was my first introduction to podcasts, and I was hooked. I immediately went back to the Podcasts app to discover my next audio adventure. I guess I’m not the only one – Americans are listening to more than 21 million hours of recorded shows like “Serial” every day, according to Edison Research.

Podcasts don’t stack up to TV, radio, or web consumption quite yet, but the numbers show it’s quickly on the rise. Serial can be considered the medium’s breakout success – with over 5 million downloads or streams of the series and over 1.5 million listeners per episode. Where Serial differs from the rest is in its continual storytelling throughout the series. Serial carried listeners through the revisited murder of Hae Min Lee, and the conviction of her then boyfriend Adnan Syed. Each episode heightens suspense for the next, unraveling more details about the 1999 case and raising questions about Adnan’s conviction. Despite whom you side with when listening to Serial, one thing is certain: reporter Sarah Koenig has brought new light to Adnan’s questionable sentencing that is no longer being ignored, and her millions of listeners are begging for what’s next.

Serial shows that the once beloved medium for tech-geeks has become more universally accepted with simpler “click-to-download” or “stream here” methods of consumption. People can now listen to the podcasts they love wherever, whenever – Netflix for your ears. But Serial is just one show in the sea of podcasts, with very few advertisers, asking primarily for listener donations to keep the show going. Over 1 million users actively downloading Serial without a huge advertising push exemplifies the opportunity for a new wave of content marketing.

As podcasts rise in popularity, so does the ability for brands to easily exhibit their thought leadership to an audience willing to listen – all you need is the Internet. By adding simplicity to content creation and introducing more personalization, podcasts are quickly becoming an alternative to radio. Steve Litchfield, producer of the Phones Show podcast, explains, “Podcasting is viable because it’s on-demand, which means listeners won’t miss a thing. Also, podcasts contain in-depth and informative content, whereas radio is often transient and overly chatty, with little substance.” Brands can bring their storytelling to life by cutting out much of the clutter involved in traditional content distribution.

If brands are not looking to begin an original series, they still have an opportunity to sponsor an existing, relevant podcast as a new advertising medium. PodcastOne is hoping to bring major brands onboard as investors into the rise of these programs. The company aggregates shows and sells ads in bundles across their combined audience while sharing the revenue with its programmer.

Even more valuable is the opportunity for sponsored content. Very few podcasts have introduced sponsored content into their programming, but the ones that have are doing it well. A new podcast I’ve been enjoying is Reply All, simply defined as “a show about the Internet.” Hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman are always sure to make note of sponsored content, but when it involves a clip of PJ calling his dad to define the word “intranet” as a promotion for Igloo Software, it seamlessly fits right into the rest of the episode. Reply All also sponsors content from Squarespace, a website builder that has been advertising on podcasts for the last 5 years.

Podcasts are personal,” says Ryan Stansky, marketing manager for Squarespace, “We have the opportunity to get hosts genuinely excited about our products and values. When they relay an authentic message to a large audience who trusts them, it benefits everyone involved, because the show is supported, we get new business, and the customer learns about a product that is useful in their personal and/or professional life.”

Podcast Data

As you can see, podcasts are the new black for content consumption. They can go where TV and Internet (hopefully) draw the line: while you drive, while you cook, and even while you shower – guilty. But what about sponsored content – does it even work? Out of the 39 million average monthly listeners, 54% have made a purchase from podcast ads – AKA yes, it’s working.

Now that I’ve convinced you to hop on the podcast bandwagon, where should you begin? Here’s a start, and the comments section is worth reading this time. If you’ve been around the podcast block, we’d love to know what’s on your playlist. Happy listening!