Commentary

The Value Of Podcasts

According to Brendan Regan, VP of Content & Partnerships at podcasting platform audioBoomm, for NewsWeek, when you pass someone with earbuds in you have to wonder, is it music they’re playing or is it the latest episode of their favorite podcast? More than a third of Americans have listened to podcasts (112 million) vs. fifteen percent of Americans listen to a podcast weekly, loyally following the tales of their favorite voices.

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Advertisers are catching on to the value podcasts offer, taking advantage of the fact that two-thirds of podcast listeners responded to podcast ads by buying something. More than listener numbers, podcasts turned a corner in 2017, capturing the attention of more traditional platforms, like television, publishing and radio, who see podcasting as a way to grow audiences and to mine for stories.

Several significant announcements about podcasts were made in 2017, ranging from more advanced metrics from Apple Podcasts, to new original content from audio creators.

Podcasting has always been a way for people to creatively tell stories as there’s a minimal barrier to entry and it offers a good way to find niche audiences. Last year, says the report, we saw podcasts move beyond listeners’ ears and into television and books, with writers, producers and publishers using the stories from podcasts as a way of gauging the popularity of a subject, as well as providing a jump-off point for their own content.

Oxygen sourced Missing Maura Murray , the true crime podcast, for a six-episode television series, which featured the podcast’s hosts. In Britain, No Such Thing As A Fish, a fun talk-show podcast, was made into a BBC Television show. Lore, the podcast that explores frightening history folklore, became an Amazon original series, and Gimlet media’s Homecoming is also being developed into an Amazon TV show for Amazon.

This trend isn’t just exclusive to television, says the report. Blink Publishing in the UK turned Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder podcast into a book. Los Angeles talent management agencies are getting involved in podcasting, and are helping podcasters break into TV and publishing, says the report.

The press also saw the value of using podcasts to expand their reach. The New York Times developed their podcast, The Daily , and The LA Times , in partnership with Wondery, developed the Dirty John podcast. Spike TV took a different approach and used podcasting to promote a controversial documentary series, Time: The Kalief Browder Story.

Samantha Henig, The New York Times editorial director of audio, said of The Daily, "Audio is an inherently intimate medium, and 'The Daily' allows listeners to form a much deeper connection with our journalists than they tend to get from print."

Russell Lindley, owner and co-founder of Ad Results Media, has seen an increased number of brands turning to podcasts. As he explained, “2017 was the first year that Ad Results Media’s clients spent more in podcasting than radio, says the report. To put this into context: as podcasts audiences continue to grow, Ad Results Media has seen rates for podcast ads go up as much as 4,000 percent proportionally.”

The wider industry’s ad revenue reflects this growth: between 2016 and 2017, ad revenue grew 85 percent and is expected to reach more than $220 million by the end of 2017. Podcast advertising is likely to expand in 2018, thanks to the proven effectiveness of the medium. For instance, 64 percent of audioBoom’s listeners have bought a product or service they heard about through an audio show.

To paraphrase Lindley, podcast advertising has always been a place for experimentation and we should be careful that the use of metrics doesn’t put an end to that creativity.

True Crime Still Rules

True crime podcasts have consistently topped the podcasting charts since the debut of Serial in 2014, and they still dominate. New entrants like Dirty John and S-Town did particularly well, while My Favorite Murder attained cult status.

According to the research, analyzing Twitter for emotional sentiments of podcast genres, crime podcasts are the most-tweeted-about genre.

Political Podcasts Exploded

Given 2017’s tumultuous political events in both the US and UK, it’s no surprise that political podcasts erupted this year. Crooked Media’s Pod Save America found their footing in Americans’ disappointment in the result of the 2016 election. In Britain, Remainiacs , the unashamedly anti-Brexit show also displayed a disenchantment with election results.

Audio Fiction Continued to Grow

2017 saw a rise in audio fiction podcasts, from Deliberations , which took listeners inside a fictional jury room, to Mission to Zyxx, a sci-fi improv-comedy. Alden Ford, one of the creators of Mission, said podcasts give “a lot of freedom to tell interesting stories. Listeners connect with podcasts similar to a live performance.”

2017 saw more investments in podcasts from traditional media, more investments from advertisers, more moves towards standardization, more distribution platforms and more original, groundbreaking audio content. 2018 seems likely to continue that successful trend, concludes the report.

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