Podcasts have garnered a lot of column inches in the past few months. They’ve been around for long enough and have always maintained a degree of quiet popularity, but now podcasts are leaping further into the mainstream. As with most things, if people are engaging in something, advertisers won’t be far away.
So who’s listening to podcasts? Gone are the days where finding and listening to podcasts was somewhat tricky to do. There are now services and apps like Stitcher and Pocket Casts that deliver your podcasts to you, most can be streamed online in web browsers, and search functions on databases like iTunes are better than ever.
This means that there’s highly likely to be a podcast with the exact listenership that an advertiser is looking to target. The myth of “the podcast listener” being a valid segment to target is firmly in the past. Each and every podcast now has its own unique audience based on its area of focus, whether this be movies, golf, cakes, architecture, reggae music, and everything in between.
However, the most important factor may be this: podcasts are a ‘lean in’ medium with a captive audience. Unlike conventional radio, listeners choose who, what and when they listen to podcasts and therefore pay more attention to the final product. Listeners wait for new episodes, trust the voices heard in their podcasts, and even appreciate advertisers who help to fund their favourite shows.
At the moment it’s predominately technology firms that are advertising on podcasts. One advertiser that seems to understand the potential returns associated with podcast advertising is Squarespace. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Squarespace has paid for advertising space on at least 25%-40% of the world’s most popular podcasts. Mailchimp is also a podcast regular, and its most recent creative on Serial has led to widespread approval and imitation on all corners of the internet. This results in both direct response and scale for a relatively small cost when compared with other media channels.
It’s not just technology firms that advertise though; it’s whoever fits well with the listeners of the chosen podcast. Take Sky Sports’ popular Inside the Huddle podcast as an example. Sportlobster has recently chosen to sponsor the show, knowing that it wants to appeal to fans of American football. It’s not all good news though. Some big podcasts are obviously not open to advertising. This includes BBC’s podcast network and similar direct-from-radio recordings, such as James O’Brien’s popular Mystery Hour show from LBC.
Podcast Networks and The Future
Podcasts are also adapting to be more appealing to advertisers. Take the Radiotopia network as an example – a group of independent podcasts that have grouped together under one banner in order to increase listener levels and allow for collaboration and funding drives. This kind of entrepreneurial action means advertisers who choose to buy space on the network will enjoy higher numbers and reach the ears of more engaged listeners.
Native advertising is also starting to make waves. NPR’s How to Do Everything podcast does this well, choosing to dedicate a small portion of the show to an advertiser by using their name in a humorous story or calling a listener to tell them about a sponsor that shares their name. Whatever they choose to do, it’s a big advantage for both the podcast and the advertiser when an advert can be expertly integrated into the flow of the show.
Presenter testimonials and endorsements are also highly sought after. If 99% Invisible’s Roman Mars says that he uses the domain name service Hover then listeners will undoubtedly trust the service, and he currently exudes this spiel to great effect. Unique offer codes are an extra incentive for listeners too.
To finish off, here are some great podcasts you should check out if you haven’t done so already:
99% Invisible: a great show about the design and architecture in the world that we often take for granted. Hosted by Roman Mars, the brainchild of the Radiotopia network.
Strangers: a Radiotopia show that tells stories sharing the common theme of strangers. Often compelling and excellently told narratives.
Serial: the most hyped podcast of all time. Investigates a real life high school murder from 1999 and attempts to uncover hidden facts over the course of a 12 episode season.
James O’Brien’s Mystery Hour: a repackagin of the popular LBC radio show in which listeners call in to get answers to random questions. Listeners who know the answer then call in with the facts.
How to Do Everything: a light-hearted podcast that looks at the different ways to do anything and everything under the sun.
Radiolab: a long-form show that weaves stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries.