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Q&A with Corey Layton: Why ARN is now at the top of the podcast ranker

The Australian Podcast Ranker has gone international, with Australian Radio Network / iHeartRadio's Stuff You Should Know now taking the top position. Mumbrella's Vivienne Kelly talks to ARN's commercial product and audio partnerships director Corey Layton about why the Ranker needed the shake-up, if we've reached the podcast saturation point, and what rabbit hole he'd like to go down next.

INTERVIEW:
Corey Layton, commercial product and audio partnerships director, ARN (CL)
Vivienne Kelly, editor, Mumbrella (VK)

VK: Talk to me about why you’ve gone soo deeply into podcasts.

CL: I think podcasts are a huge opportunity. We know Australians are listening to their audio in lots of different ways, and stacking their audio, and most Australians in research we see are listening to live and local content primarily in the morning, being radio, and then they stream across the day to match their mood, and then listen to podcasts when they knock off and into the evening.

So I think it makes sense to make sure that you’re diversifying your offering and being able to help brands be with the listener no matter where they are in the audio sphere.

VK: We have heard some push back from the smaller publishers because they don’t think the podcast ranker is fair. They feel like it priorities bigger groups like yourselves. What’s your response to that? How do you feel about the Podcast Ranker bringing in big international titles as well?

CL: By having it international podcasts in the Ranker, it’s representative of a lot of what our listening is. If you think about what are your favourite songs, or what are your favourite movies, chances are while there will absolutely be Australian content in your answer, there will also be international content, and that’s what happens with podcasts. It’s not all Australian only, and so like the top box office chart, or the top music chart, it makes sense for it to be representative of what Australians’ tastes are…

The most recent Australian Podcast Ranker (Click to enlarge)

[There’s ] a stat that comes from Pocket Casts which is an app that comes out of little old Adelaide… and their stats show that 78% of what Australians consumed in 2019 was international content, which is quite an interesting stat.

VK: And so with the iHeartPodcast Network, what do you think both locally and internationally your strongest podcasts are? Which ones should be close to the top of the ranking?

CL: Stuff You Should know is an incredibly big podcast. Its scale is tremendous. And for Australian brands to be able to integrate into that show and just hit Australian only ears is now the reality of what’s possible. And that’s really exciting.

Stuff You Should Know is now number one

VK: There are lots of streaming giants and other podcast providers, but ARN and HT&E and iHeart often say that you are the best set up to cater to this market. Why do you think that is?

CL: I think a few things that we have at play. One is because of our ties to iHeartRadio in the US, the scale of podcasts that we’re able to tap into for our listeners and our clients is second-to-none. The other part is, one of the things that really excites me about this role is lots of Australians are aware of this thing called podcasts, and they’re definitely starting to tune in, but being the number one network, our ability to help listeners overcome that podcast discovery, which is not too dissimilar to the Netflix issue – you hop on, and you can be overwhelmed with the content and you’re just not too sure what to listen to. Our ability to talk to Australians to help guide them on what is the best content, not just globally, but also from a number of local podcasts partnerships we have in place to be able to help some of the best local content producers stand out, that’s really important to us.

VK: That’s a huge discoverability thing, which is why so many consumers default to Spotify. So how can you educate consumers about the iHeart network and help them best use your discoverability features?

CL: It doesn’t matter where people listen to their podcasts, whether it’s on iHeartRadio or Apple or Spotify or any of the large number of apps that are around. They’re still able to hear our content, and it’s important that they can hear it wherever they listen to their podcasts. And our platforms, our ARN platforms, are all designed to be able to help people understand what is that great content, and to listen to it via iHeartRadio or wherever they listen to their podcasts.

VK: And just as a point of interest, what’s your favourite podcast?
CL: I’m going through a bit of a fiction phase. There’s two podcasts that I love. One’s called Hunted, which is created by Dick Wolf who writes Law & Order, and it’s a fictional crime podcast. And the other one is called Carrier, which is a mystery around a female who winds up being a truck driver with questionable cargo.

Hunted, one of Layton’s favourite podcasts

VK: Do you think there is such a thing as podcast saturation where there will be too many podcasts, or is there never enough podcasts?

CL: Good question. I think some data came out last week that there’s over 900,000 podcasts in the world, which does make discoverability very difficult, but there is a podcast to answer any rabbit hole that anyone wants to go down. I do think that’s a good thing, but it’s the same with any type of content on any format, there will always be the big hits that cut through that get people talking.

VK: For a while, there was definitely a narrative that podcasts were great and resonated with consumers and people couldn’t get enough, but the flipside to that was you couldn’t monetise them. It certainly feels like now a lot of companies are finding ways to monetise podcasts and a lot of brands are getting on board with putting money behind them. So why do you think that has evolved?

CL: I think measurement is key. Measurement is a big part of what we’re leading – we’re step changing the wild west of podcast analytics for brands. We’ve put in place some robust third-party measurement and campaign attribution which helps to take the gut instinct out of ‘Yes, podcasts work’ and actually use the data to prove it.

VK: Do you think more brands should be getting involved with podcasting and advertising on them?

CL: Is that a rhetorical question? [Laughs]

VK: I know your answer is yes, but I’m trying to give you a chance to speak to marketers and agencies here to spruik the value of what you’re doing.

CL: Absolutely. To be able to capture a listeners in a Solus environment and have the talent they love and trust be able to talk to them about a product or service is rare in today’s age. [It’s rare] to find an audience when they are so focused on the content and to be able to integrate so deeply. And the opportunities for brands to take hold of that are significant.

ARN recently announced the launch of the local iHeartPodcast Network

VK: So what’s next for iHeart Podcasts? What does success look like in 12 months time?

CL: We’re just getting started. As far as the offering for our clients, we have launched with scale like no other and we plan on continuing to grow that and offer clients even greater opportunities to get into podcasts.

It’s so exciting for me. I’ve been in the podcast world for a number of years and to be at the forefront of building something up, I’m genuinely proud of, at a company like ARN, it’s exciting for everyone .

VK: If you were to create a podcast yourself about anything you wanted, what rabbit hole would you be taking people down?

CL: Watch this space, I would say.

Layton: Watch this space

VK: You are going to launch one, are you?

CL: All I’ll say is watch this space.

Podcasts will be a key feature of Mumbrella’s Audioland program on 5 May in Sydney. The program already includes a session titled ‘The power of personality: Building an audio brand listeners love’, and another about whether branded podcasts really work. Earlybird tickets are still available

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