With podcasts becoming arguably one of the biggest resurrections of modern media, are they really worth the hype and should brands be weighing in on this platform?

Podcasts were first introduced back in the 1980’s, then known as ‘audioblogging’ and have seen an incredibly slow rise to popular culture over the past 4 decades, eventually gaining some traction in 2004 due the to the rise in the internet and those old-school portable audio players. But in 2017, podcasts are well and truly an established form of media with a community growing significantly year on year.


Why I’m obsessed

I was first introduced to podcasts through a friend and slowly became obsessed with the ability to put on my headphones and use my imagination to follow the narrative of a story anywhere and at any given time. While on my placement year I had to travel up to 2 hours every day to get to and from work and this travelling made for prime podcast listening time. I would get so wrapped up in a murder mystery dating back to the 1950’s or how to solve the pressing global issue of nuclear security, with my mind a million miles away that I would question if I had actually driven to work at all.

What’s the big deal?

Podcasts have triumphed due to their offer of an exclusive membership into a relatively small club based on very specific hobbies, interests or passions.

With more than 10 billion podcasts streamed on Apple devices alone in 2016, there is no argument in the fact that podcasts are becoming more mainstream. Our growing demand for entertainment to be instant and accessible everywhere is driving the rise of the podcast as they are totally free and totally mobile. Unlike Netflix which is restricted by a paywall and an internet connection or Spotify which only offers offline listening to paying customers, podcasts have no pay or ad restrictions which make them a very attractive source of media. With our daily average commute times increasing to on average 2 hours a day, it is easy to predict that the podcast can only serve more of a purpose.

Recent revolution of the podcast

2014 saw a big year for podcasts due to one podcast in particular called Serial. This podcast was a week by week investigation of a murder case of what seemed like an unfair sentencing. The podcast producer Sarah Koening is an investigator and each week she would dig a little deeper to unravel this case. This show became the fastest podcast ever to reach 5 million downloads on iTunes and attracted so much media attention from all across the world that it actually resulted in the convicted boyfriend of the murdered girl being granted a new trial. This really highlights the potential of this platform.

Is there a place for brands in podcasting?

With podcast advertising hitting over $220 million in 2017 and an 85% increase from 2016, according to AdWeek, it seems that as a practitioner, this is one of the few media industries that have seen significant growth as of recent.

Brands such as Netflix and eBay have invested heavily in this platform and seem to be leading the way in finding new and more meaningful ways to connect with their customers on a more intimate and engaging level.

Podcast listeners are seen to have a larger annual house incomes and are also more likely to have an advanced degree according to the Edison Research and Triton Digital report suggesting that this could be a lucrative audience to target. Furthermore, the podcast listener is a captive listener. When listening to the podcasts you can easily become fully immersed as there is little effort required to consume this form of media. We mustn’t forget also that the podcast library is made up of hundreds of thousands of niche podcasts that have a very specific audience base which is perfect to connect to a consumer through, providing the right message at the right time to the most suitable individual.

For smaller brands with smaller marketing and public relations budgets, podcasts are very effective and efficient as they have low production costs. There is no need to employ a digital design company or a video production team as low production values suggest authenticity.

I even believe that internally podcasts can get you and your company noticed. It’s highly likely that most public relations and marketing agencies update a company blog but by switching it up to a podcast you can gain subscribers and build your own community.

The downside of being the popular kid

However, with this recently acquired interest from some big name brands, will the podcast community succumb to the overkill of ads that we have experienced on the radio? To avoid an onslaught of irrelevant and broad sweeping adverts, I believe that the marketer must really aim to take advantage of the already segmented audiences that this form the media provides and tailor their messages specifically to these audiences.

My recommendations:

If I have won you over or just raised a little interest, here are some of my favourite podcasts to help you dip your toes into the world of podcasting:

  1. Serial.
  1. The Digital Marketing Podcast.
  1. Ted Talks.
  1. Inside PR if you fancy some industry news.
  1. And if your new year’s resolution is to take up a new language: Coffee Break Spanish. 

Enjoy and happy listening!

(Facts sourced from The Podcast Consumer 2017 Report.)

Megan Rea is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/megan-rea-a52437111/