It’s probably not news to you that podcasts are on the rise, but it wasn’t too long ago when someone at your dinner table may have asked, “what’s a podcast?”
In many ways, we’re returning to the days of radio shows and audio-only platforms. There are a lot of contributing factors leading to the rise of podcasts, but in case you aren’t convinced that podcasts are truly on the rise, here are some stats that may change your mind:
- 57% of Americans have listened to a podcast
- 41% of America has listened to a podcast in the last month
- 28% of the US population listens to a podcast weekly (a 17% increase from 2020)
- The average listener tunes into 5 different podcast shows and 8 different episodes weekly
- One of the most popular podcasts, NYT’s The Daily, averages 4 million listeners a day
So podcasts are climbing, but why?
There are several reasons why podcasts have gained popularity but many of the key reasons reflect both societal and marketing trends.
Podcasts are easy to access and consume.
Over time it’s become easier for us to consume all types of media.
We transitioned from needing a radio or even a CD player to listen to select music to pocket-sized devices that can access all music at all times. Similarly, you no longer need a trip to the store to rent a movie because you can access so many movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. Unlike radio or television, streamable content is on-demand giving users what they want, when they want it.
Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have created easy access to audio-based content, but why is audio streaming gaining in popularity? There are a few reasons. During the pandemic many became all too familiar with screen fatigue, so an audio-only form of entertainment helps take our eyes off our screens. Additionally, it also allows us to multitask easily. I’m often listening to a podcast when cooking, taking a walk, or driving — all times when audio-based content is the only type of content I would be able to consume.
This bite-sized, conversational content is also a perfect match for our shrinking attention spans. Year-over-year data suggests that the average podcast episode length is getting shorter, sitting right around 36 minutes.
There’s something for everyone.
We made the claim that 2021 would be the year of the micro-audience and about halfway through the year, our projection is proving to be true. So much of our community was forced to live online in 2020 that brands (and podcasts) are now aiming to meet our niche interests with their content. This is done through marketing personalization, but this is also accomplished through online communities that podcasts can naturally create.
No content is too specific to have an audience, and the popular New Kids on the Block nostalgia podcast is a perfect example. When listeners rally around the hosts or content, there is a real sense of community that can lead to engagement outside of the podcast itself. Whether it’s community meet-ups or access to exclusive content through Patreon-style fan clubs, the communities created around podcasts are contributing to the rise of podcasts as a whole.
Who owns the podcast space?
So podcasts are easier to access and consume, but there are many companies competing to be the platform you access and consume podcasts on. While there are certainly players outside of the most popular platforms, the biggest war being waged is undoubtedly between Apple and Spotify. They are already competing to be your music streaming platform of choice, so why not your podcast platform as well?
Apple’s biggest advantage is iPhone users. When you get a new iPhone, their podcast app is already installed on your device, leading to quick adoption for those unfamiliar with podcasts or who don’t pay for Apple’s music streaming service. Spotify also gives users access to podcasts for free, but only Premium users are able to save podcasts for offline listening. I listen to podcasts on my Spotify app and enjoy having all my listening in one app. In comparison, Apple music loyalists would need two apps: one for music and one for podcasts. You could make the argument that two separate apps is a more user-friendly model than one singular app, but it really comes down to what you prefer.
The strategies deployed to own the podcasting space are also getting more sophisticated as podcast popularity rises. Similar to Netflix or Hulu, Spotify and Apple are nabbing big names whose podcast is then exclusive to their particular platform. They are also acquiring major podcast networks for the same reason. The Verge reported that Spotify recently spent around $400 million to acquire two major networks and a podcast-creation software, Anchor.
Spotify and Apple have both brilliantly utilized user listening data as the basis for campaigns like Spotify Wrapped and Apple Replay, giving users a recap of their listening habits that include their podcast preferences. Additionally, both platforms have in-app podcasting charts making it easier for users to discover and listen to top podcasts.
What does the rise of podcasts mean for your marketing?
Podcasts aren’t going anywhere and if you’re in marketing, PR, or really any communications role, this is where you should start paying extra attention. It’s tempting to roll your eyes, feel overwhelmed, and say to yourself “I cannot add another platform or content type to the mix.” I get it, I promise. As much as TikTok is changing the game on social, I secretly wish it didn’t exist because it just feels like one more thing. However, the community and engagement surrounding these new platforms is hard to ignore.
Not everyone needs a TikTok just like not everyone needs a podcast. However, here are a few opportunities podcasts provide that are worth your consideration. Even if you aren’t interested in starting your own podcast, looking for opportunities to be a guest on one or simply advertise on one could be very worthwhile for your organization.
There's very little barrier to entry.
Podcasting is often less expensive than you may think. If you have a pair of wireless headphones and the ability to record a Zoom call, starting a podcast will cost you a whopping zero dollars. Sure a podcast mic can help ensure your audio quality is high, but it’s not essential to get started. The podcast-creation software we mentioned, Anchor, is free to use and incredibly user-friendly. Editing your podcast can be time-consuming, but with easy-to-use tools, planning your content is the most labor-intensive step. With that said, it would have taken me far less time to talk about everything written in this article vs. how long it took to write it. Therefore a podcast could actually end up being less time-consuming than other forms of content you are creating. If you're still feeling intimidated by the editing, we can help.
There are advertising opportunities galore.
Advertising revenue is definitely a contributing factor to podcast growth, with brands being willing to shell out more and more marketing dollars over time in order to reach their audience. Forbes reported that in 2015 only 20% of marketers were likely to advertise in a podcast, but in 2020 that number jumped to 37%. This increase is justified because it was also found that 54% of listeners are either somewhat or much more likely to consider buying from a brand after hearing their ad on a podcast. So whether you’re looking to make money on a podcast or spend it by advertising on one, as podcasts rise so do new advertising opportunities. It’s worth noting that a major component of what makes social advertising so valuable is the ability to target based on key demographics, which is much harder to accomplish with a podcast. At best, we can assume the audience a podcast has based on their content but reliable data is still hard to come by.
Podcasts are essentially earned media.
Earned media continues to become harder and harder to snag. With more PR professionals, fewer journalists, and more pitching than ever before, it’s often tough to get your message across. While it may take a while for your own podcast to have the reach a major or local news outlet could give you, a few people hearing your message is better than no one hearing your message. Starting a podcast or joining one as a guest can help guarantee coverage, even if it’s not in a traditional publishing format.
What are we listening to?
How kind of you to ask. While we’re partial to our own podcast, A Little Off Topic, we’ve been known to listen to several others. Here’s what a few Speaksters are subscribed to and would suggest you check out.
- Ben Bailey, Senior Solutions Architect: The Bike Shed
- Megan Jones, Customer Success Manager: The Intuitive Customer
- Jordan Finney, Cinematographer: Rally Caps and Team Deakins
- Matt Roberts, VP of Marketing and Sales: 99 Percent Invisible
- Allison Brown, SEO Specialist: Marketing Over Coffee, Experts on the Wire, and Leveling Up with Eric Siu
- Sarah Vaughan, Senior Content and Social Media Specialist: Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History
- Corinne Mizzell, Designer: Wireframe with Khoi Vinh, The Deeply Graphic Designcast, and How I Built This
If you or your organization is ready to create a podcast but doesn’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. We’ll help you invite the right guests, craft the content, and handle all elements of production and distribution.
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