Podcasts have become one of the most popular forms of on-demand entertainment for consumers. They are a form of on-demand radio that listeners can download or stream from a mobile or computer device. Podcasts aren’t constricted by FCC regulations or stream length, and present a large amount of creative freedom to creators. Over the past decade we have seen a steady increase in podcast listeners all over the world; 56% of consumers under the age of 35 listen to podcasts at least once a month. Regular podcast listeners will consume 4 to 5 podcasts a week and more dedicated listeners consuming up to 11. The rise in podcast popularity has led businesses to embrace the new medium by sponsoring popular podcasts or creating their own. But why are podcasts so popular with consumers?
Why are podcasts popular with consumers?
Consumers demand connection. Audio content is one of the most personal forms of communication available to brands and consumers alike. Consumers are able to have one-on-one time with brands and podcast hosts. This personal communication results in the consumer perceiving the brand as authentic and transparent, ultimately making the brand more likeable. In addition, giving a brand a real voice encourages consumers to create a connection with a brand directly, rather than doing so through influencers.
Podcasts are easy to consume. Listeners can either be active consumers of podcasts or passive, and listen whilst doing another task. Podcasts can keep listeners engaged for more than 30 minutes, which is significantly longer than almost every other form of media. Multitask listening in particular means information is often consumed subconsciously, which can actually increase the long-term memorability of a brand.
Podcasts allow consumers to immerse themselves into their passions at a greater depth than other media; there is a podcast available for almost every niche interest out there. This results in communities being created around particular podcasts. Branded podcasts present brands with the opportunity to target members of these niche audiences and position themselves as industry and thought leaders, ultimately giving a competitive advantage.
Recent developments in podcasting
As with any form of media and tech, podcasts experience growth and developments. This month, both Apple Podcasts and Spotify announced paid subscription services to support podcasters. The subscription platforms are designed to give podcasters maximised revenue, wide reach and increased discoverability.
These platforms are hoping they will be able to increase the listener bases and communities surrounding those who sign up. On Spotify, it is initially free for creators, meaning they receive 100% of profits, but from 2023 Spotify will introduce a 5% fee for the tool. This paid-subscription service means certain podcasts will only be available to those who pay for it.
Another popular development in the podcasting world is video podcasting; podcasters have begun video-recording their audio sessions. While these podcasts are typically uploaded to YouTube or Twitch, Spotify offers certain podcasters video capabilities.
These videos add another layer of transparency to podcasting. It allows podcasters to develop more meaningful relationships with their audience members and enrich the audio experience for viewers and creators. By adding a video element to your podcast, you gain access to a massive audience of potential fans. In addition, podcasters are able to post their podcast on a completely new channel, reaching new audiences.
Who’s already Podcasting?
Podcasting has already established itself as a popular pastime for celebrities and influencers. You can find a podcast for Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop where she chats with leading thinkers, culture changers, and industry disruptors about shifting old paradigms and starting new conversations, the Joe Rogan Experience, Michelle Obama diving deep into conversations with loved ones on the relationships in our lives that make us who we are and countless more.
As a result of celebrities and influencers creating their own podcasts, the new media format was thrust into mainstream media. Fans are content to listen to their favourite celebrities and influencers discuss their more personal experiences, chat with friends and form ideas.
How can brands target podcast audiences?
Consumers have become particularly ad-avoidant in recent years and many have installed ad-blockers which results in businesses losing out on revenue. Thanks to the nature of podcasts, it’s not possible to block podcast ads. This means brands are able to easily reach their target audiences through paid ad networks or sponsorships.
Paid ad networks such as Audible and Anchor allow brands to connect with upcoming and popular podcasters to promote their products and services. These networks are match-makers of the podcast marketing world; they pair brands and podcasts based on tone of voice, reach, niche and genre of podcast to ensure all pairings are relevant.
Brands provide podcasters with scripts to follow where they can inform the podcaster about the brand and key points to cover. Podcasters record the ad—the ad can then either be reviewed by the brand or be posted live immediately. Podcasters decide how frequently the ad appears in their podcast episodes, but there are currently 3 available slots.
While paid ads are a more traditional sort of advertising, brands can also use live reads. Live reads are ads delivered natively within the flow of a podcast, communicated conversationally by the hosts. Brands provide hosts with a list of talking points to incorporate into conversations, and the reads typically last for upwards of 60 seconds.
Live reads are an entertaining and authentic advertisement. They are light hearted and unscripted, meaning listeners are more enthralled. The ad is seamlessly embedded into the episode and the missing time constraint means the conversation can go on for as long as the host wants, emphasising transparency. Live reads typically follow a 3-step pattern: an introduction, key talking points and a call to action.
The final way brands can target podcast audiences is to create a branded podcast.
Which brands have their own podcasts?
Over the past few years many brands have grabbed the new media format with both hands and started their own podcasts. We’ve seen brands from all types of industries creating audio content for consumers to engage with. From automotive, tech, dating, beauty and fashion, we’ve listed our top branded podcasts.
Since its launch in late 2018, Toyota’s podcast “Toyota Untold” has amassed more than 30,000 downloads. Episodes are typically more than 40 minutes long and “goes beyond the cars and into the journeys, featuring exclusive stories of drivers, engineers, fans, and experts from the Toyota/Lexus family.”
Toyota Untold not only targets automotive and Toyota fans but other communities by discussing various topics around its cars. The podcast covers how to buy a car, popular movies Toyota/Lexus cars are featured in, and collaborations with adventure influencers.
It is hosted by Kelsey Soule, executive communications senior analyst at Toyota, and Tyler Litchenberger, social media manager at Toyota. Toyota has used its presenters to personify itself with employees who know and love Toyota.
Who What Wear with Hillary Kerr
Fashion media brand Who What Wear has launched its own podcast in partnership with Walmart. Hosted by Hillary Kerr, the podcast will explore the worlds of fashion and beauty with designers, stylists and experts within the industries as guests.
Hillary Kerr is the co-founder and chief content officer of Who What Wear and has said she wants the podcast to be “an audio extension of the Who What Wear site.” Walmart will sponsor the podcast and run ads alongside it promoting its new label brand Free Assembly.
Shopify Masters is a podcast show owned by ecommerce platform Shopify that shares inspirational stories of its innovators and entrepreneurs. While a podcast might seem odd for an ecommerce site, by sharing inspirational stories from those that have thrived on the app, Shopify is able to entice and encourage budding entrepreneurs to join its app.
Shopify Masters invites a founder to dig deeper into their business, share the lessons they’ve learned, and offer helpful resources. By sharing the stories of successful entrepreneurs, Shopify has associated itself with success, increasing its appeal to budding entrepreneurs.
Unsubscribe with Jada + Louise
Unsubscribe with Jada + Louise was dating app Bumble’s podcast, hosted by mental health and body positive activist Jada and International VP Marketing & Communications for Bumble Louise. The podcast aimed to empower people to unsubscribe from negativity and resubscribe to “patterns of behaviour that will help them be the best version of themselves.”
Unsubscribe was a limited series created by Bumble. Season One featured 9 episodes and covered feminism, breast cancer, being a woman in business, fashion and being a female activist. The podcast was a fitting theme for Bumble as the app was created to empower and protect women in the online dating world.
#LIPSTORIES was a podcast series hosted by Girlboss Radio Network in partnership with Sephora Collection. The focus of the podcast was to discuss the notions of beauty and how they change over time. The podcast was inspired by Sephora Collection’s campaign for its Lipstories lipsticks.
The podcast show aired for two seasons and was hosted by Girlboss Radio’s Kristina Zias. The host was joined by different guests including models, writers, business-leaders, creators and thought-leaders to offer advice and tips to listeners to be more confident. The podcast ran alongside the Sephora Collection campaign as a supporting asset throughout 2018 and 2019.
J&J Innovation Podcast
The J&J Innovation Podcast is a podcast from Johnson and Johnson that explored the latest trends in healthcare and the thinkers, organisations and ideas behind them. The podcast launched in 2017 and has 44 episodes to date – the last from January 2020. It is unknown why the podcast halted, however it is likely due to COVID restrictions and changes.
The podcast is hosted by Caroline Baratz, Consumer-Centered Strategy & Innovation Program Manager at Johnson and Johnson, and features guests from J&J including VP of Law at J&J Innovation, and thought-leaders external to J&J. Topics covered include healthcare trends, learning apps for kids, artificial intelligence and digital tech that will disrupt medical innovation. Johnson and Johnson used this podcast to confirm its position as a healthcare leader.
.future was a limited podcast series created by Microsoft and Gimlet Creative in 2017. Hosted by science and technology reporter Cristina Quinn, .future was a 6-part series that discussed the future of technology and the key industries that will define the next decade. Each 45 minute episode featured multiple guests who shared their professional experiences across the tech and creative industries.
The podcast discussed how technology developments could change our working weeks, how we communicate, Minecraft and the gaming industry, and how technology can solve health problems on a global scale. The podcast covered many industries and professionals, widening the potential reach. Discussing future trends also helped position Microsoft and Gimlet Creative as thought-leaders.
While podcasts are still popular with consumers, the percentage of active podcasts has decreased by over 20% since 2020 alone. Branded podcasts were widely popular from 2017 to 2019 and many have been inactive since then. This could be because the brand decided to have a limited-series of podcasts to temporarily boost engagement and awareness of their brand or a specific campaign.
However, it could also mean podcasts are not a sustainable source of content marketing for brands. While trends are constantly changing and evolving, there is still a finite number of topics a show can cover within a period of time. The production and resource costs of podcasts can build up relatively quickly (considering research and guest speakers), so if a brand isn’t able to gain enough loyal listeners, it will not have a good ROI. This risk could make a limited-series podcast more appealing to brands.
While branded podcasts may have decreased, the opportunity for ads and sponsorships are rife in the form of live reads. Live reads are an authentic and personal form of advertising that is significantly less interruptive than a traditional ad. Live reads present brands with the opportunity to naturally reach their target audience without the heavy lifting of setting up their own podcast. Thanks to platforms such as Anchor, brands and podcasters can be paired up authentically, so partnerships and sponsorships are relatable and realistic.