Podcasting has been in a constant state of becoming as both a medium and especially as a marketing and ad vehicle for more than 15 years. And I admit that I have been an enthusiast and a proselytizer all this time. But even I am not convinced the medium is there yet, especially on the ad side. The two most promising formats for exploiting the medium on behalf of marketing, the native ad host read and the branded podcast, have already become inauthentic self-parodies in many cases. The addition of programmatic audio ad insertion has just degraded the experience even more. The worst of YouTube random ad breaks and Web site pop-ups seems to have invaded the otherwise engaging radio-on-demand medium.
But when brands truly embrace audio as a persistent content market strategy, there is an opportunity for making a mark. At this week’s MediaPost Pharma and Health Insider Summit, Providence St. Joseph Health’s Mary Renouf outlined the company’s ambitious project for providing a full-blown health information audio station on Internet radio and podcasting. An initial “Future of Health” program blossomed into a full-blown network of shows featuring expertise not only from one of the nation’s largest hospital networks, but with that company’s own business partners. Yes, this is a case where a branded content program in turn started a business creating branded content for its own marketing partners. It is a remarkable case study not only in the brand building potential of audio, but in turning marketing into a profit center itself.