After a decade of audience growth, podcasts remain a relatively untapped medium for advertisers. They offer a huge potential for brands to reach diverse audiences – who are often maxed out on visual inputs – in personalized and engaging ways. They have proven to be one of the most effective advertising media.
Already in 2019, a BBC World Service study showed that the engagement rate of podcasts was 47% higher in comparison to radio and 27% higher than TV. Maybe we could even assume the gap only became bigger in 2021 as the pandemic made podcasts even more popular?
During a March 2021 survey (Maru/Matchbox) carried out among podcast listeners from the United States, 53% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that after hearing a product advertised in a podcast, they searched online for more information about that product or service. Furthermore, 29% of respondents purchased the advertised product or service at a store or online.
Also in B2B Podcasts are effective
A 2021 survey performed by Sortlist showed that the effectiveness of podcast advertising is also high in B2B. 36% of responding small and medium businesses managers from Germany said they had already bought something from a brand that was recommended or advertised on a podcast; another 51.8% stated they could imagine themselves doing so. In Spain, the shares stood at 37.7 % and 54.4 %, respectively.
What makes podcast listeners a much more focused and engaged audience?
Unlike some digital media channels, podcasts are intimate and they are trusted. Podcast listeners are often driven by an interest in learning new information. That aside, they are also a form of entertainment along with being a source of news and inspiration for listeners, cultivating an engaged audience.
Podcasts are the ultimate companion
Like all other audio content, it can be easily consumed whilst doing other activities. For example, doing household tasks, commuting, outdoor exercising, running errands, driving, working out at the gym, etc. It makes them much more interesting and pleasant. The BBC Storyworks study from 2019 showed that listening as a secondary activity reduces listener wear-out and results in a higher overall engagement level.
Podcast creators are the new influencers
Podcasts are not only a nice companion but can go much further. The power of this relationship has profound implications for creators, audiences, and for advertisers.
“We don’t just listen to podcasts. We identify with them. A podcast we love is like a badge. When others like the same show we do, they become our people”. (Shankar Vedantam – Hidden Brain)
Or influencers discovered a new channel, podcasting
Many influencers are applying a multi-channel approach to content creation by adding podcasts to their Instagram, YouTube Channel or blogs in order to also show other perspectives of their lives. They are often using this to show a more authentic version of themselves. It is this authenticity which also impacts the engagement of the listener, almost creating a one-on-one interaction.
Hot topic podcasts have increased relevancy when made in near real-time
The speed at which certain content appears is paramount to impact the message’s relevancy. The hotter the topic, the more engagement there can be from the listener. Podcasts have minimal barriers to entry.
“As a former “DIY podcaster”, I can attest that once my podcast was equipped for distribution, if a hot topic emerged, an episode could be turned around with minimal incremental financial and technical barriers. This enables creators to connect with listeners on a near real-time basis, increasing their relevance.” (Dave Sosson – Targetspot Inc.)
How is podcast advertising perceived by the listeners?
Podcasters often have a devout and enthusiastic fan base who start to appreciate advertising.
Advertising is perceived as an enabler of podcast creation
64% of heavy podcast users (defined as at least five hours a week) state that they appreciate podcast advertisers for supporting their favorite podcast (Edison research). A UK 2019 study showed that 41% of podcast listeners say that ads are the best way to keep content free and accessible for all. (Statista)
Content makes the difference, not being ad-free
A study performed by Cumulus Media and Signal Hill Insights states that pitching ad-free podcast subscriptions won’t win over listeners. Content is still the main attraction for weekly podcast listeners. When choosing podcast subscription features, weekly listeners will pick exclusive content over an ad-free experience.
The Signal Hill Insights 2021 study showed that 35% of the podcast listeners are more interested in paying for exclusive content vs having an ad-free experience.
There is still a lot of potential in podcast advertising
Listeners feel podcasts are under-commercialized. Weekly podcast listeners are comfortable hearing ads and the more time they spend with podcasts, the more ads they will accept. (Source: Signal Hill Insights) Arguably, there is no other media channel where consumers embrace the inclusion of advertising into the content they are enjoying, as much as podcasting. (Forbes)
Podcast advertising has higher effectiveness because podcast listeners are more engaged as they are often listening, whilst doing other activities which increases their focus. Podcast listeners can sometimes even identify themselves with podcast creators, making them become influencers. They are also listening because they want to acquire new knowledge or become inspired.
This results often in a positive perception where advertising is becoming the enabler of having access to this exclusive content, information, or entertainment, rather than interrupting the storytelling.
The cherry on the cake is that a lot of podcast listeners do not feel podcasts are over-commercialized, creating more opportunities for advertisers.