As we head into the Podcast Upfront, listening is up considerably and brand marketers are beginning to follow direct-response advertisers to the medium. This wave, while just starting to swell, could open important sales conversations for radio companies at a time when direct contact with advertisers is more important than ever.
Podcasting limped along for 15 years until "Serial" and "This American Life" grabbed Americans’ attention. Now listening is growing steadily (albeit off a small base) according to Edison Research, which reports that 24% of those 12+ have listened in the past month, while 31% of 25-to 54s are tuning in — 82% more than they did three years ago.
Advertising rose 73% last year, and the IAB projects another 85% rise this year to $220 million.
Direct-response advertisers have led the way in podcasting for three reasons. It produces leads and sales. Listeners must download software and content — answering the longstanding criterion of audience commitment. And syndicated data that brand advertisers rely on has been lacking.
Now, brand advertisers want in. Usage of podcasts as an ad platform doubled between September 2015 and May 2017, growing from 15% to 29% of audio advertisers. Interest is even greater, with more than two-thirds of advertisers (68%) reporting having discussed podcast advertising in May of this year, up from 41% in September 2015.
It’s not just that more people overall are listening; it’s that Millennials are tuning in. The average age of podcast listeners is 29. Podcasting succeeds for the same reason that traditional media often struggles with Millennials. They immerse themselves in content on handheld devices.
Ipsos research pins next-day ad recall at 65%, suggesting they don’t skip ads.
Moreover, a new report from Cumulus finds that although podcasting is ideal for mobile, most listening happens at home. Listeners dedicate chunks of attention where the podcast is the focus, rather than the accompaniment. Next to podcasts, they listen most to AM/FM radio, followed by streaming and music videos.
“Podcast listeners are totally engaged and spend more time listening to all forms of audio,” says Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus | Westwood One. “They’re listening at home throughout the day, with the highest concentration in what would be considered prime-time hours: 7 p.m. to midnight. It adds an important dimension to advertisers’ appreciation of audio as a core medium for brand building.”
Podcasts add value to any digital media portfolio, but they stand to benefit radio most of all.
Radio needed a shiny new toy, and a way to respond to a marketer’s specific brand issues with flexible content. Radio sellers can’t get into a marketer’s office to talk about programming genres and markets, but they can spark a conversation with podcast sponsorships that fit brand images.
That’s something distinctive a CMO can expand into a cross-channel program, merchandise to distributors, and use to polish her own brand.
To get a real boost from podcasting, radio companies need to take it mainstream within their sales organizations. At present, it’s the cherry on top sold by a select seller or two. When it’s packaged more clearly with AM/FM, connected to events and other platforms, and supported by syndicated audience data, salespeople can leverage a larger opportunity.