The Growing World of Podcasts

September 29, 2016

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by Broadcast Supervisor Teresa Conant

Only a year ago I would’ve asked: “What are podcasts?”  Flash forward to present day and I was jumping at the chance to head to NYC to spend the day with a multitude of podcast distributors, hosts, celebrities and research gurus. In a time of being able to target and track down to the household and freckle, how do you instill confidence in these podcasts when there is no real standard currency and no true tracking mechanisms? Unfortunately, there is no true solution yet, but there are so many more advantages here than measurement.

Podcasts harken back to the early days of audio entertainment where families would gather around their radios and listen to stories and programs that would captivate.  Audio sparks imagination. Audio is powerful, and audio on-demand even more so because people are leaning in and choosing which program to listen to at which time.  “Podcasts are the Netflix of audio for a whole new generation,” said Jason Hoch, chief content officer of HowStuffWorks, which owns podcasts like Stuff You Should Know and Stuff You Missed in History Class. Hernan Lopes, the CEO of Wondery calls podcasts a “…factory of wonder.” During his presentation he had everyone in the auditorium listen with their eyes closed, rather than get distracted by visual cues.  This made it feel like his presentation was directed right at me; like this was a personal conversation, much like listening to a podcast.

It is a one on one connection with the host and ultimately the brands the host incorporates into their story.  The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released the “IAB-Edison Research Podcast Advertising Study,” a survey of nearly 1000 podcast listeners conducted in partnership with Edison Research. It shows that listeners prefer sponsorship messages as well as host mentions of products and services compared to pre-recorded ads during podcasts. This further emphasizes the opportunity created by that personal relationship between podcast hosts and their audience.  The difference is that the hosts want to connect to the audience and really care about the content they produce.  They aren’t looking to just make money or attract advertisers; that is a bonus rather than the main driver. More and more celebrities are diving into the world of podcasts as hosts.  With people like Katie Couric, Shaquille O’Neal, Malcom Gladwell, Abby Wambach, Padma Lakshmi and a handful of Real Housewives, advertisers are able to link their message to top household names with an implied endorsement that they could never afford with more traditional mediums.

The same study also finds that nearly two-thirds of fans are more willing to consider purchasing products and services they learn about during a podcast. Sixty percent also state that, given equal price and quality, they prefer to buy products from companies that advertise on their favorite podcasts. Podcast listeners often take action in direct response to hearing a sponsorship message or advertisement during a favorite podcast. Forty-five percent are visit a sponsor’s website, 42% consider a new product or service, and 37% gather more information about a product or company.

Ok, I know, that was just a lot of information, but I hope you can feel the passion I have for this “new” medium. With all of the choices out there, it can be intimidating knowing where to go or what to listen to.  However, all of that content out there means there is a perfect podcast for both you and your client.

A Few Tips for Advertising in Podcasts

  • Allow for collaboration with hosts and client messaging. When hosts use their voice and tone, it makes the spot feel more authentic.
  • It will not be an overnight success. Allow for enough time to gain audience traction.  Some large scale podcast advertisers didn’t see positive ROI until after 12 months.
  • Utilize podcasts companies that have a multi-platform promotional capabilities. The more people they promote their podcasts to, the more listeners that will hear your message.

Want to know what podcasts to listen to next? I got to get a sneak peak of new shows to be released later in Q4 or the first part of 2017. Here are some of my favorites:

  • MidRoll is a network of over 300 podcasts, of which 20% appear in the top 100 on the iTunes chart. They, in conjunction with Earwolf will launch a compelling crime-genre podcast delving into the infamous Boston Strangler killings, appropriately titled, Stranglers.  Twelve of the thirteen murders remain open cases and the show will dissect the many uncertainties of the murders, including the number of potential killers involved.
  • Also from MidRoll, What to Watch, which launches today will cover what’s new and worthy on TV and streaming. This will include commentary and interviews with stars and show runners. As a television buyer, this is a must listen!
  • From the Wondery collection, Secrets, Crimes and Audiotape. Every week listeners will be told stories of crime, love, mysteries and conspiracies. Recognized actors will bring stories based on both new and established characters.  Find a sampling of episodes on
  • Household name, ESPN will extend their hugely popular 30 for 30 franchise into the world of podcasts. This will allow for them to tell certain stories where they do not have video available and dive deeper into other stories.  With one in five podcast listeners already listening to an ESPN property, I would expect their 48MM downloads per month to increase dramtically.
  • PodcastOne, who touts being the largest advertiser supported podcast netowork with over 200 podcasts from which to choose, is in development of a 360 virtual reality experience. They are hoping to integrate the listeners into the studio or live audience so it feels like they are part of the creation.

A few oldies but goodies (great-ies)

  • From NYC Studios
    • RadioLab, hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich is a show about curiosity where the lines between science, philosophy and human experience are blurred.  One week you can hear about the new genetic manipulation CRISPR and the next about how far lawyers should go to provide the best defense for the worst criminals.
    • Death Sex & Money, hosted by Anna Sale. Discusses the tough topics that aren’t brought up in polite conversation.
    • Two Dope Queens, hosted by comediennes Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams, along with their favorite comedians, talk about romance, race, living in NYC and a myriad of other topics. I would love to hang out with them for just one day!
  • WBEZ Studios
    • This American Life hosted by legend, Ira Glass (also known as guy I would most want to sit next to at a dinner party). Each week, a different theme is covered and three different stories are told encompassing that theme. Themes range from vocal fry to refugee stories. Listen to one episode and I guarantee you’ll be hooked.
  • WBUR Studios
    • Dear Sugar, hosted by Steve Almond and acclaimed novelist, Cheryl Strayed was an advice column turned podcast where Steve and Cheryl read letters and help listeners get to the bottom of their problems.