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Why advertisers and agencies need to listen up to the podcast boom

Published by Mumbrella

Podcasts do a lot of talking, and now people are talking a lot about them. Podcasting has hit the big time here and globally. As their popularity continues to grow, the ad dollars will follow. This is not exactly new news for consumers, but it does come with its own problems for advertisers and agencies.

In 2020 IAB/PwC estimated that global podcast ad spend was $US800 million and would more than double to $US1.7 billion by 2024, an annual growth rate of nearly 20%.

What’s driving this investment surge? Well, one could certainly attribute the significant increase in content and increased time spent listening, buoyed, of course, by COVID-19. Research by Edison One tells us that 87% of podcast listening is done at home, therefore, uptake in the production of content and listening during 2020 was inevitable.

In 2018, there were around 525,000 podcast shows globally with over 18.5 million episodes. In April this year, there were more than two million and more than 48 million episodes (source: Podcast Insights April 2020).

The 2020 edition of PwC’s local Entertainment & Media Outlook report says the Australian podcast market is growing rapidly, with monthly downloads of 48.7 million in September last year, up from 13.2 million in October 2019. “Australia has some of the highest rates of podcast listening in the world, with podcasts no longer a niche product,” the report says.

Podcast downloads in Australia hit a new record in May, jumping up to 52.2 million, surpassing the previous record set in March of 50 million, and up 4 million from April, as measured by Triton’s Podcast Metrics measurement service.

As a result of this boom, we find ourselves with a Netflix-style conundrum. The plethora of choice presents a new problem for consumers and marketers alike. Where does one start? How does one know what to choose? What is the best podcast?

Of course, there isn’t a “best” podcast. Podcasts, by their very nature, are a one-on-one experience. They’re personal. Apologies for the cliché, but they really are “a lean in, engaged experience”.

Having said that, there are ways to gauge what’s popular and what’s worth listening to. There are charts rankings podcasts that receive the greatest number of downloads by country. Word of mouth is another way to gauge what’s really worth listening to. According to an ABC Podcast Tracking Study in September 2019, word of mouth is the #1 means of discovering new podcasts, followed by recommendations via other podcasts and social media.

What does this mean for advertisers? To my mind, the “best” podcast is one that can provide content alignment with a brand and with enough scale to ensure it achieves reach delivery. It sounds obvious, but it’s a relatively new concept in the world of podcasts.

Great podcasts are ones which can naturally weave brand messaging into their ad breaks without breaking the flow or creating a jarring experience for listeners. Having brand association with a podcast that’s a lean-in experience can, of course, be a good thing for your brand.

Speaking of a lean-in experience, a key reason for advertisers to use podcasts is audience attention. Local research conducted by Nova, Acast and IPSOS for their 2019 Podcast Intelligence Report illustrated that Podcasts drive action:

  • 61% of listeners acted after hearing a podcast commercial message
  • 76% explored looking for more information online either via branded website or search engine
  • 55% shared information about the advertised brand with friends and family in person or online
  • 25% purchased the advertised product and/or used a promotional code

A key question for marketers and agencies is whether podcasts are a must-have on their schedules or something that is still a nice-to-do? The correct answer is the former.

So, I’ll say it again: podcasting has become big business.

But for those of us in agency land, our holistic measurements are barely catching up. Currently, there is no unified measurement of impressions delivery across the podcast sector (oh, for a “total audio” system).

We do have the traditional direct response methods like vanity URLs and coupon codes which are still valid, and brand awareness tracking can be done via recall and lift studies as well as monitoring social channels to see if a podcast campaigns boosts metrics. But that is more laborious than it should be, which can easily turn off clients and agencies.

The good news is that progress is being made in podcast ad attribution. Publishers can add trackable prefixes or connect a real-time impression pixel from a dynamically inserted ad and connect downloads and audio ad impressions to actions on advertisers’ websites. The rise of analytics-rich platforms like Spotify and Acast is also driving better audience intelligence.

The podcast business still has a lot of growth potential and marketers and agencies are catching up, but it looks like we will have to manage without explicit, unified measurement for a little bit longer.

So, the next time you’re with your client, ask them what the best podcast is, or ask them to name what brand is associated with the most recent podcast they heard. Chances are, they will have an answer.

author avatar
Saffron Carter