Are you listening? Why podcasting should be in your digital strategy

Are you listening? Why podcasting should be in your digital strategy

Written by Emily Neilsen

Podcasting is growing, but are you listening?

At the end of 2019 we gazed into our crystal ball and gave our predictions for what the new year, and decade, would have in-store in the world of PR, social media, content marketing and digital.

Our account manager Pete Finnegan (PF) and social media manager Emily Neilsen (EN) have taken the deep dive to look at why they believe podcasting is going to continue its meteoric growth and why it is something everyone should be paying closer attention to.

People turning off the radio

EN: With the introduction of new ways of listening including smart speakers and digital streaming services such as Spotify, digital formats are coming to the forefront, allowing you to choose the music you want, when you want it.

In a study by the British Council’s Music Tank, it found nine in ten people in the UK listen to radio at least once a week, and this has not changed in five years. Impressive, yet while this figure appears seemingly optimistic, only 50 per cent of 15-24-year olds listen to the radio each week, opposed to 63 per cent of 25-34 year olds and a massive 88 per cent of 55+.

And this doesn’t change across the board, with young people being the lowest live radio consumers, continuously decreasing year-on-year.

A move towards a wider choice

When traditional radio introduced digital, it allowed for a wider range of shows to be broadcast, with stations adding to their repertoire to be able to appeal to various target markets.

It’s arguably the introduction of podcasting that really changed the game in recent times, allowing virtually anyone the ability to produce and broadcast their own pre-recorded shows on any subject matter, without being tied to regulated licences. Did you know there’s even a podcast called ‘The Pretzel Podcast’ literally all about, you guessed it, pretzels?

This form of broadcasting isn’t so different to its traditional ancestors, however the ability for a podcast to speak to a niche range of people – therefore allowing you, the business, to advertise on their show and speak to their unique audience – is what makes it even more valuable for advertisers.

Just how popular is podcasting?

PF: Before we go any further, I’ll admit, I’m a BIG podcast fan. I think they’re great. I like the variety in styles, topic, length and format. I enjoy the fact that the subject matter can be as broad or as niche as you like.

To give you an example, I support Liverpool FC and follow the NFL closely and I’ve got podcasts that I tune into for both and eagerly await the next episode for each topic. Emily has a whole host of cool interests and a suitably lengthy list of podcasts that she listens to. They probably don’t overlap but that’s part of what makes it great – the variety.

From a numbers standpoint, some of the statistics are staggering and one of the many reasons that those that work in communications are really paying attention to podcasting. Currently there are 700,000 active podcasts with a combined 25 million episodes in 100 different languages.

According to research from Ofcom, 7.1 million people in the UK listen to a podcast. That works out to one in eight of us, and an increase of 24 per cent compared to the previous year! Whatever way you look at it, and based on forecasts, its only set to grow.

How podcasts are digested

EN: From sound to the screen, users can now engage with their favourite shows through Facebook and Instagram. Not only does this mean shows can reach and engage with more people, their content allows listeners to develop an even more meaningful connection with their favourite shows and hosts.

Thinking about the way it’s digested in the literal sense, no matter where they are in the world, someone can tune in when and where it suits them. With no screen required to listen, the humble podcast is a multi-tasker’s dream, allowing them to listen at gym, in the shower, lying in bed, cooking, you name it.

Taking it even further, some popular podcasts now even hold live ticketed events. British podcast ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’, where they read out the host’s dad’s hilarious attempt at a novel, is currently on a world tour, having just headed to Australia and about to head off to the U.S.

Finally, the power of podcasting lies withing the fact in the increasing culture of binge-consumption, it’s perfect for back-to-back listening, giving that on-demand satisfaction.

So why podcast?

PF – So why, we hear you ask, should brands be creating their own podcasts? There are a number of reasons why. One key point that stands above more than any other is one we’ve touched on earlier in this article – podcasting has the advantage of being as niche as you’d like it to be.

A number of brands have created podcasts to great success, and just like the format, there is no one-size-fits-all formula as to just why they work.

Some brands have used it to subtly promote a product. A prime example is the #LIPSTORIES show by Sephora. It’s part of a multi-channel campaign to support a new line of lipstick from the make-up giant. The short 20-minute episodes showcase the everyday lives of “influential female founders, creators and thought leaders.” A very clever tie-in that appeals to its exact target demographic – something that even the most targeted social media campaign may not be able to do.

Others have used the format as a way of building a clear authority in the market they operate in. If you’ve listened to a podcast in the last year, particularly one that originates from the USA then the chances are you will have heard an advert from ZipRecruiter.

The organisation does its own podcast and to great effect. As with Sephora, it’s a conversation but rightly for a recruitment company, they are focused on being a success in business. Guests are varied but all highly motivated with real drive – exactly what you’re looking for when recruiting your next candidate to a new business.

If you’ve got a specific point of view and a way of creating content on at least a semi-regular basis then podcasting is worth investigating.

Advertising and marketing – how does it work with podcasting?

PF: Podcast advertising is big business. Seriously big business. Ad revenue has grown from $69m in 2015 to a predicted $1.6b by 2022.

One of the reasons that brands are spending so much to advertise on podcasts is the rates on which people engage. According to research from Acast, 76 per cent of UK podcast listeners said they acted on a podcast advert or sponsorship message. Compare that to the average conversion rates for Facebook adverts – between 9 and 10 per cent – and the results are remarkable.

A key advantage podcast advertising has over other forms of advertising in particular is how it is delivered. Unlike radio or TV, there is a range of different ways that advertising can be integrated into the format. There isn’t a set format to a podcast advert, and like the subject, topic and length, it can vary from podcast to podcast. Some may have an advert at the beginning the way you would a TV programme, others may be sponsored by a particular brand, or in some cases, the advert is read out by the podcast host/hosts, giving a natural feel and an air of endorsement.

Unlike other advertising formats, you can be really niche with your advertising. Regardless of your brand and whatever your audience, there is a chance that you’ll have a podcast or theme of podcast that is ideal for you to advertise with. And with actionable rates of more than 75 per cent, why wouldn’t you at least explore it?

As brands are spending more and more cash to stand out in a crowded marketplace – think the Red Bull space jump, the sub two-hour marathon by Ineos, or the music festival in Las Vegas created by Amazon. But for some the answer may be far more affordable and cost effective, the humble podcast.