Marketers are overlooking the personal audio experience of podcasting

Scott McCarthy, senior performance specialist at Alpha Digital highlights that podcasting, which has a similar cost per thousand regularly on par with TV, demands its own strategy.

Podcasting is booming. Over 50 million were downloaded last month, just under two per person in this country, and Spotify has just made podcast ads available in Australia as a result. Phenomenal numbers.

But it’s not like other digital audio. Three in four media agencies place podcast advertising, and yet only 17% are consistently tailoring their creative for each audio platform. We need to reframe how we think of podcast advertising because it’s a different, and more personal experience.

Passionate pastimes

Podcasters are usually fans of the topics they dive into and you can feel it. They’re having fun. And those listening feel connected closely with the hosts as they reveal more of themselves every episode.

It’s cliche, but people really do buy people. Connection and ultimately trust are what brands are getting when they come on board as a sponsor for a podcast. The affinity that the listener has placed in the host/s, is being made available for brands.

The right alignment of content, for the right brand, can trump pure scale in media effectiveness. Buyer beware though, listeners have built an unspoken (or spoken?) relationship with a podcast/er; if the brand doesn’t feel authentic, it will appear disruptive to the listening experience, and damage your brand equity rather than help.

There are sectors which might struggle to convey their offering with strictly spoken words. Those which rely on visual product differentiation, like fashion, have more work to do to find the right content angle. Unless the brand looks more at matching values, then a sustainable brand could align nicely with an ethically focused podcast. Other brands in service industries like education, finance, health could align more easily with informative podcasts designed for people with niche interests.

Add value not noise

Studies have shown that when sponsors provide additional value, either with information or entertainment, younger audiences, especially Gen Y, will be more open to branded messages. But it needs to feel genuine. A crafted message that plays into the host’s personality, will act as a personal endorsement and build on your brand affinity.

I have heard reports of brands that think the higher CPMs were unwarranted. Yet I’d argue that the premium cost is justified for brands that want to build meaningful equity and brand affinity. It’s an incredible channel diversification strategy when you are starting to reach your point of diminishing returns on other channels; and looking for other ways to engage your audience.

Continued growth

There were calls for justifying the $600 million Spotify laid out on podcasting network Gimlet and The Ringer last year, but it seems that it’s a well placed bet on audio’s continued rise. Especially when 19%of all podcasts are listened to on the platform. Facebook hasn’t been too far behind, very recently announcing podcasts will be available in the Facebook app alongside the upcoming release of Live Audio Rooms to rival the popular Clubhouse app.

Just as we’ve witnessed Netflix investing billions of dollars into producing completely new and original content every year, expect the same to happen within the podcasting space. There is some work to do around measurement, as right now in many instances it can be limited to ad impressions or downloads.

In line with its role as a channel, some podcast networks are integrating consideration- and intent-based surveys as part of media spend, or as added value. This is now mainstream on other digital platforms (e.g. YouTube), so I don’t expect podcasting surveys to be too far away. The interesting development opportunity is whether we’ll see a voice alternative, which would suit the way people listen. With clearer real-world business measurement hopefully available soon, my hope is that it doesn’t price out smaller advertisers or campaigns by packaging it up under mammoth investments.

There is a market and appetite for all kinds of niche topics and themes in which podcasting provides a fresh content stream. The opportunities in this space for talent from all sides of the industry to collaborate on engaging content has never been more open, at all sizes of budget and business.

Contrary to radio, a passive experience where someone is potentially tuning in and out, a podcast listener has actively chosen to download or subscribe to the content. The intent is higher. Which raises the stakes for advertisers. Get it right and the benefits are waiting. Get it wrong and fans will make sure they’re heard.

Scott McCarthy is a senior performance specialist at Alpha Digital.


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