We Are Entering A Golden Age of Branded and Sponsored Podcasts

By Ida Morris

Social Media and Content Manager

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is a free, pre-recorded radio show that you can listen to on demand. More and more, podcasts are part of the information stream. They’re the ultimate curated content, that consumers subscribe to and download using their favorite apps, including iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Pandora, and many others. The podcast content is quite literally the voice in their head, with over 525,000 active podcasts, across countless categories, with over 18.5M episodes. And, based on the ease of use, proliferation of smartphones, and virtually limitless high-quality subject matter, those numbers are only predicted to grow.

• Over 40% of Americans aged 12 and older have listened to a podcast,
  with 24% of Americans listening to podcasts regularly.

There are some big names at the top of the most downloaded podcasts list, including Joe Rogan, Mo Rocca,
Fox News, The New York Times, NPR, and Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy. But there’s still room for the little guy: podcasting is relatively easy, as anyone with an internet connection and some inexpensive recording equipment can create a podcast and put it online.


Why are brands paying so much attention to podcasts?

• With incredible reach and precise interest targeting, podcasts are quickly becoming the go-to place for brands to connect their advertising messages to specific consumers in a custom and personalized way. U.S. podcast advertising revenue is expected to grow to $659 million by 2020.

Marketers are always on the hunt for the next way to hyper-target their audiences, and the explosion of high-quality, popular podcasts means it’s easier than ever for brands to reach their niche consumers.

Obviously, people only listen to podcasts if the topic is interesting to them—the same reason they pick up a cooking magazine over a car one. From news, kids’ shows, music, and true crime to politics, finance, sports, and more, no matter where your interests and passions lie, there’s a podcast for that.

Looking to connect with outdoor enthusiasts? Outside/In and Women on the Road are two popular podcasts that will reach exactly the audience you want to target. Want to share the psychological benefits of your new weighted blanket? Placing a spot on either the Anxiety Podcast or Meditation Minis Podcast will reach desired consumers. Podcasts curate content to the passion points and interests of listeners with an efficiency few other mediums can match. They fit into peoples’ lives.

Big brands can advertise on popular national podcasts, and local and regional brands can reach coveted, home-town audiences with local influencers their consumers know and trust.


What is a Branded Podcast?

Realizing the power of podcasts and how they provide a unique platform, more and more brands are starting to produce their own podcasts, a soft sell with minimal references to the company. They’re basically ads people want to hear—the perfect vehicle for branded storytelling. They give brands a literal voice and create more substantial and trusted connections with audiences.

A great example of a company doing a branded podcast is ZipRecruiter. Of course, no one wants to hear a multi-episode commercial about how great ZipRecuiter is at helping people find the jobs and candidates they’re looking for. But ZipRecruiter’s podcast features some relevant, high-profile celebrity guests, including expert marketers Seth Godin and SharkTank’s Daymond John, for a compelling, entertaining, and engaging podcast that’s incredibly appealing to ZipRecruiter’s audience.

Another branded podcast that’s making waves is The Daily from The New York Times. Hosted by Times’ political journalist Michael Barbaro, The Daily’s 20-minute episodes are released at 6:00am five days a week, and they’re based on the Times’ news stories for that day.  At less than two years old, The Daily boasts an impressive five million unique monthly viewers and is expanding.


Podcast Advertising Data: $534M in Ad Spend by 2020

Brands and Marketers are Listening. Podcasts have been around for more than ten years (the ‘pod’ in podcast comes from Apple’s iPod). But only recently has the financial and logistical infrastructure to support podcasting as a business been established. That explains the predictions for a robust increase in podcast ad spending, which is expected to grow from $326M in 2018 to $534M in 2020.

Any story about the popularity of podcasts would be remiss not to mention Serial, Sarah Koenig’s true-crime podcast that launched in 2014. It reshaped the industry and catapulted podcasts into the mainstream. Serial was a real phenomenon—amateur online detectives even launched investigations of their own, sometimes uncovering actionable evidence that Koenig incorporated into the show. This is a great example of the tight-knit communities that often spring up in support their favorite podcasts.

Another reason podcast advertising is on the rise is that the number of people who listen to them has reached critical mass: in 2018, 124M Americans listened to podcasts, with 73M listening monthly. Podcast listeners are loyal, affluent, and educated—80% of them listen to all or most of each podcast episode, and they listen to an average of seven shows per week. This bodes well for advertisers, because people listen to the ads—they don’t like to skip through the ads for fear of missing part of the episode. And actively listening makes the ads more memorable.

Podcast ads work because people feel connected to the host(s) and the topics. It’s an intimate medium, with people listening through headphones, alone in their cars, or in bed. Again, like magazine ads, this connection with content that was specifically chosen by the reader/listener creates a bond that digital advertising can’t match—and it creates a halo effect on the ads. In fact, ads that are read by podcast hosts, including native ad spots, perform better than pre-produced ads from marketers. Listeners respond to authenticity.

By most estimates, podcasting is on its way to being a multi-billion dollar industry. Obviously, this represents real opportunity for brands and marketers to reach their audiences through podcast advertising.


Who’s Listening and Where

Podcast listeners are highly engaged, active, and connected to the content they’re listening to—a sought-after trifecta that’s a win-win-win. The proliferation of smartphones will certainly continue to buoy the industry. And podcast advertising is versatile, offering both brand and response-driven marketing strategies a wide variety of ad options, from native and host-read ads to dynamically inserted, standardized ad units.

An integrated, cross-platform marketing strategy is (almost) always best—make sure yours includes podcasts, the medium that even the most niche audiences are listening to.

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