What marketing Gurus are saying about Podcasting
Podcasting awareness has exploded in recent years. In 2006, only 22% of consumers knew what a podcast was, but by 2019 over 64% of consumers were aware of podcasting. By 2022, it’s estimated that podcast listening will grow to 132 million people in the United States. All the big names are betting on podcasts. Let’s hear what the experts are saying.
Podcasting: A Brief Timeline
Audio content has been around for a while- in fact radio predates TV. And Podcasts are simply audio content. But what is different is that it’s available on the ubiquitous smartphone, on demand. Topics are varied but specific- you can find one that you specifically want to listen to.
It was in February 2004 that journalist Ben Hammersley wrote in The Guardian that the ubiquitous avalability of MP3 players like Apple’s iPod and cheap audio production software would create new boom in amateur radio on the internet. And he suggested the term Podcasting to describe the new medium.
In 2005 Steve Jobs added podcasts to the iTunes store. He said “Podcasting is the next generation of radio, and users can now subscribe to over 3,000 free Podcasts and have each new episode automatically delivered over the Internet to their computer and iPod.” The iPhone came later, in 2007. In 2012 Apple released the Podcasts app. This changed the complexion of podcasting, making it available to many more users. In 2014, Serial, a breakout podcast, with narrative audio journalism had 5 million downloads in the first month.
From then on content and listenership has grown in leaps and bounds.
Why Did Podcasting Take Off?
From a niche community of audio-bloggers podcasting has grown to one-third of Americans now listening in monthly and a quarter listening weekly. Obvious reasons include the rise of smartphones. And now there are smart speakers. You can connect your smartphone to car bluetooth speakers, speakers in the bathroom, kitchen- well anywhere. 53 million Americans or 21% of the population now own bluetooth enabled speakers and smart speakers. Alexa launched in 2015, Google Home and AirPods in 2016.
All these led to an explosion of audio consumption and innovative content. From narrative content, to business policy, to branding and even news- the range of podcasts is huge. The medium is being hailed as the next major content medium, even an “antidote” for the current news environment.
The Future is Here
Podcasts are audio files. But a music piece is not a podcast. Podcasts have their own formats- such as interviews, or solo-casts. They mostly have dedicated topics. they cater to dedicated audiences. And their consumption mode requires more than simply preparing an audio file.
Users can download or stream podcasts to listen to them. Podcasts are distributed through RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, a standardized web feed format that is used to publish content. For podcasts, the RSS feed contains all the metadata, artwork, and content of a show. This makes the podcast widely available on various platforms such as Podcasts (Apple), Spotify and others. Users search for their content on the popular podcast hosting platforms.
It’s important to remember that the audio file is hosted elsewhere- the podcasting platform is merely the gateway to such content. The platform automatically updates information, provides metadata, and plays audio for listeners. Users can thus check for feeds and remain constantly updated about latest episodes.
Podcast creators have to host the RSS feed as well as the show’s content and media on a hosting provider, and submit the shows to various directories, such as Apple’s podcast directory.
In recent years the pace of change in technology and lifestyle has speeded up beyond recognition. AI, ML, the Internet of Things, smart speakers, mobile phones and a hyper-connected world has changed how we live and work. Even five years ago one had to manually tag assets to manage and store them- what we called “digital asset management”. Now OneDrive can create separate albums for your food, pets, travel pics, without any input from you.
The next big wave of consumer products and startups are coming into the ecosystem. And audio will feature in a big way in this eco-system. There is good reason to invest in this ecosystem now.
Statistics: The State of Podcasting and Consumers Today
- 70% of the US population is familiar with the term “podcasting” – up from 64% in 2018 (Infinite Dial 19)
- 50% of all US homes are podcast fans (Nielsen, Aug 2017)
- 76.8% of people listen to podcasts for more than 7 hours each week.
- 61.2% of respondents spend more time listening to podcasts than watching TV.
- 48.8% of respondents said they purchased an item after hearing it advertised on a podcast.
- 57.4% of podcasters list marketing and building an audience among their top challenges.
- 51% (144 million) of the US population has listened to a podcast – up from 44% in 2018 (Infinite Dial 19)
- 32% (90 million) listened to a podcast in the last month – up from 26% in 2018 (Infinite Dial 19)
- 22% (62 million) listen to podcasts weekly – up from 17% in 2018 (Infinite Dial 19)
- 16 million people in the US are “avid podcast fans” (Nielsen Q1 2018)
- 45% of monthly podcast listeners have household income over $75K
- 27% of US podcast listeners have a 4-year college degree
- Podcast listeners subscribe to an average of 6 shows
- Podcast listeners listen to an average of 7 different shows per week, up from 5 in 2017
- 80% listen to all or most of each episode
- Podcast listeners are more likely to follow companies and brands on social media
- Podcast listeners are more likely to own a smart speaker (Amazon Alexa or Google Home)
- Podcasting as a whole has been growing rapidly, and as a media format, it now spans over 100 different languages across the world.
- ‘Society & Culture’ tends to be the most popular podcasting genre, followed closely by Business, Comedy, News & Politics, and Health.
- Podcasting is way more popular among young people, with 67% of the total podcasting audience being between 18 to 44 years old.
- It also attracts the educated and relatively wealthier sections of the society more. In fact, it’s 45% more likely for a podcast listener to have a college degree, and 68% more likely to have a post-graduate degree. They are also much more likely to be HNIs (high net-worth individuals), with them having a 45% more likelihood of having a net household income of over $250,000, which is a quarter million dollars, annually!
- Smartphones are the #1 platform for podcast consumption. Given how popular iTunes’ podcasts (now known as Apple Podcasts) are, and given the fact that there’s a consistent decline in PC and tablet usage due to the rise of smartphones, it’s hardly a surprise that smartphones are occupying the number one spot here.
- Out of all podcast listeners who listen to podcasts on their smartphones, 54% are on Apple’s iOS ecosystem (i.e. they are iPhone users), and 43% are Android users.
Disclaimer: These shows are Owned by the respective brands and produced by media companies as available in the links. Click on each show to reach their respective websites. Cited here for illustration purpose only.
The most popular brands too are using podcasting as a medium of engagement and communication with their target audience. Audio is the new channell that is making waves (no pun intended). With the rise of mobile phones and smart speakers, all marketing gurus are extolling the virtues of podcasting as a marketing medium. Gary Vaynerchuk says that now, more than ever before, organizations need to have their own audio signature.
Brand come to life with podcasts that listeners love, connect with, and share. Podcasts are a popular, compelling way for brands and organizations to engage with listeners, groups, and other businesses. Organizations can leverage podcasting to gain the benefits of audio content marketing. With the advantage of high yield in customer captivation, podcasting is an excellent way for companies to share brand messages with customers.
Here are a sampling of shows,
The future and the many ways that we shape it has been a focus of Microsoft for many years. ".future" explores how the future may unfold based on the choices we are making today as individuals and as a society. Technology, health, data, and even gaming will influence the future we’re moving toward.
This podcast looks at how society regards money and sets out to explore and expose the ‘rules’ we all take for granted, and then at how they are being broken. It looks at how we’re breaking through to new opportunities for millions of people in the process. It also features common sense money management tips from Mastercard.
Walmart’s “Outside the Box” explores business issues such as the concept of time as money. Based on conversations with experts and senior staffers, it seeks to educate and engage listeners. Topics chosen are aligned with its brand values such as sustainability. The purpose is to demonstrate what it stands for and provide credible thought leadership.
Gatorade’s podcast takes an insider look at situations when top athletes fail. Through intimate conversations with atheletes the podcast aims to inspire. The world’s most competitive athletes talk about how they use defeat as motivation to build strength from the inside out, and ultimately come out on top.
Harrods, a brand that’s well-known for its luxury status produces True Tales of Luxury, which explores luxury as a general theme, through interviews with people within the creative industry, providing insight into what luxury means to them. This helps Harrods bring people closer to the brand – and to dispel myths or stereotypes, as well as foster the loyalty of fans of the brand.
Marks & Spencer is another retail brand that has used podcasts to give customers more of a behind-the-scenes look at M&S and the retail industry as a whole. Partly about history of the high street, it also delves into the brand’s Plan A programme, its sustainability plan for 2025. This allows M&S to show a different side – one that cares about issues important to the British public, something the retailer does not typically convey in its more product-focused marketing and advertising.
Spotify is one of the world leaders in the audio delivery business, and hosts many podcasts. Now they have launched their own podcast Ebb & Flow, a ‘branded original’ podcast focusing on hip-hop and R&B. It is co-produced by alcohol brand New Amsterdam Vodka. Hosted by DJ Jasmine Solano, it promises to focus on “the hustlers, dreamers and doers in the hip-hop and RnB world, and how their music and careers were made”.
The Distance’s mission is to unlock the secret of longevity in business. Basecamp’s podcast is about companies that have survived and grown for 25 years or more. It brings to light what others have learned over many years of business experience. It goes well with Basecamp’s focus on project management. The idea is- no business can survive if it is not well organized. It's a humanistic series, and features a diverse set of businesses from the world’s largest laundromat to tiki bars to florists. It’s what every startup and entrepreneur needs to know.