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2018 was a huge year for podcasting. According to Edison Research, 37% of podcast consumers listened to their first podcast in the previous year. Today, 26% of consumers listen to podcasts monthly.

Given their flexibility to produce mobile-centric content on a diverse range of topics, podcasts are able to serve the interests of virtually every audience segment. Over 600,000 programs are listed on the Apple Podcast Store alone. (While this number sounds high, by comparison, there are over 600 million blogs on the web, indicating that there is still plenty of room for growth in the podcasting space.)

The iOS Podcasts App currently reaches the most podcast listeners, but there is an opportunity for other platforms to conquer audience share. As the first platform to market, Apple once had the opportunity to monopolize the podcast ecosystem, but industry experts believe they missed their opportunity for complete domination. Pandora added podcasts to their library this year, and Spotify has continued their venture into the space with originally produced audio content through lucrative partnerships with entertainers like Amy Schumer and Joe Budden. 

The Google Podcasts team has set a lofty mission to double the amount of podcast consumption in the world over the next few years. To achieve this goal, they have activated a podcast search strategy and launched a standalone Podcast app.  For years, Google has prioritized text, images and video in search results. Next, they will also provide audio content within search results. This aligns with Google’s core mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” 

As a marketing channel, podcasts continue to increase their share of advertiser spend. Total podcast ad revenue in the U.S. surpassed $700 million for the first time in 2018. Marketers continue to observe a unique loyalty displayed by podcast listeners who support the brands advertised to them. According to Midroll, a leading podcast marketing network, 60% of their podcast listeners have bought something advertised from one of their podcasts’ ads.

1. ADVERTISING (EXAMPLE: THE BILL SIMMONS PODCAST)

Many podcast hosts (like sportswriter Bill Simmons) have built a passionately dedicated following over the years. Brands that form strong podcast partnerships can tailor their message to the unique attributes and social sentiment of this niche. Seatgeek, Roman, and Crown Royal are a few of the brands that took the opportunity to reach millions of sports and pop culture enthusiasts through Simmon’s reach. These brands have integrated their messaging into the show in the form of paid ad reads, commercial inserts, and creative sponsored segments.  

Takeaway: Through podcast association, brands can take advantage of built-in trust and enjoy immediate insights into the audience.

2. BRAND PARTNERSHIPS (EXAMPLE: GAME OF DRONES + CASPER)

Mattress company Casper learned that some consumers fall sleeping while listening to podcasts, and used this insight to partner with the Game of Drones podcast to create a unique storytelling podcast designed as a companion for those trying to fall asleep. Casper also incorporated subtle midroll advertisements, an experiment in “marketing to the subsconscious.”  

Takeaway: Because podcasts are relatively inexpensive to produce, brands can capitalize on creative experimentation to engage with audiences in indirect ways.

But advertising is just the beginning. Innovative brands across industries are finding new ways to engage the medium. Below are some highlighted ways brands are moving into the podcasting space.

3. BRANDED PODCASTS (EXAMPLE: MCKINSEY’S INSIDE THE STRATEGY ROOM)

International consulting firm McKinsey utilized a branded podcast to interview both employees and clients as thought leaders. The podcast works as a marketing tool to showcase McKinsey’s expertise and case studies, while also providing value and insights to the overall industry conversation.

Takeaway: Brands can launch their own podcasts to convey their point-of-view and highlight their expertise to potential customers and future employees. 

Brands are always seeking new ways to engage with their audience. Podcasts have an innate ability to reach a captive audience with personalized messages. When a podcast pushes a brand, it can be perceived as less of an advertisement and more as a trusted customer review.

 

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