Once you pod, you can’t stop: the growing popularity of podcasts

The podcast industry continues to skyrocket. According to Ofcom, nearly 6 million adults in the UK are tuning into podcasts every week. From on-demand sports and comedy content, to business and technology discussions, podcasts are a unique and varied medium. Globally, there are more than 700,000 active podcasts currently available, in more than 100 languages.

In this article, we look at the importance of podcasts in digital marketing, offering advice to brands looking to incorporate podcasts into their marketing mix.

Why are podcasts growing in popularity?

First, the fact that they are mobile and free. The ability to listen to them while doing something else is all-important for listeners. Whether that is on the way home from work, in the car, out in the garden or at the gym. The simple listening experience is supported by free of charge, user-friendly applications, like Spotify and Acast which allow users to continue using their phones, or going about their day, while listening to podcasts with minimal hassle.

Second, despite being around for a decade or so, podcasts have grown rapidly more recently due to society’s insatiable appetite for on-demand content. From weekly to daily podcasts, young people in particular have been a driving force behind this trend.

Why podcasts are effective

Ultimately, the thing that distinguishes podcasts from the traditional audio medium of radio is the personalisation element. Listeners can find their niche. A quick glance on Spotify or Apple’s podcast sections shows everything from economics and true crime to basketball and art history; the claim there is a podcast for everyone certainly rings true. This intimacy creates a community of engaged, like-minded listeners, who can then participate in the show through social media and see their views represented in the next podcast – which is one of the reasons why podcasts are effective.

What is the importance of a podcast in digital marketing?

For brands, podcasts represent a relatively new and exciting channel to consider as part of their marketing strategy. Just ask Apple, who announced in July that they plan to fund exclusive, original shows. As a content marketing tool, the benefits are clear. Most importantly, they provide a dedicated community of podcast listeners, which offers brands an alternative opportunity to connect with their customers.

While many businesses have jumped on this trend already, advertising within a podcast must certainly be approached with a degree of caution. The reason podcasts are so popular today, as mentioned, relates to the intimacy formed between listeners and hosts and the strength of the editorial content. Breaking this intimacy with too many ads would reduce one of the main reasons people enjoy them.

podcast studio set up - using podcasts as a marketing tool

How to use podcasts as a marketing tool

Ensuring that advertising does not negatively influence the user experience is of utmost importance. You need to get the right message, in front of the right people, in the right way or risk alienating your audience – the same challenge brands face when planning media across other channels.

Researching the right podcast to sponsor, therefore, should be the first port of call for brands keen to embrace the trend. Get under the skin of the podcast’s content. Check out its community on social media. Can you see a natural fit for your brand in those conversations? Will your advert add value to the audience?

Adverts in podcasts are typically chosen by podcast hosts, and are usually closely aligned to the niche theme of the podcast. From betting companies advertising during football podcasts to economic magazines during politics podcasts, adverts that appeal to the podcast’s audience are most likely to be accepted by the hosts – who often won’t just accept the advertising revenue and run.

While that means pursuing podcast advertising and sponsorship as part of your digital marketing strategy can sometimes feel like you’re chasing the Holy Grail, when you get it right it’s worth it. A highly targeted (often cost effective) advertising placement, an engaged audience and the endorsement of a trusted third party (the host) provides a great opportunity to promote your brand and build brand trust.

The pros and cons of setting up a branded podcast

A step up from advertising through podcasts is to make a branded podcast for your business. This is becoming an increasingly common tactic for brands to be able to use podcasts as a marketing tool.

“With podcasts rising in popularity, it’s no surprise that companies are producing their own. What’s more surprising is that people are actually listening to them”, writes David Yaffe-Bellany of the New York Times. “These are not advertisements, exactly, but subtle brand-building efforts intended to entertain as well as persuade”.

The likes of Facebook, McDonald’s, New Balance and Sephora have all produced their own podcasts in recent years, opening up their brands to customers in a more informal way.

Creating your own podcast allows businesses to control the editorial direction and content of the show, showcasing your brand directly to customers. The main benefit of producing your own podcast is increased control. However, you also then have the challenge of marketing the podcast and growing a listenership, rather than tapping into an existing audience.

Finally, podcasts offer brands the chance to enhance their search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy by publishing content and building links to their websites on hosting applications like Acast, Spotify and iTunes.

Ready to tap into the power of podcasts?

The rise of podcasts provides brands with a unique opportunity. If you think a podcast is right for your brand, get in touch for a chat with our experienced content marketing specialists for advice on everything from developing an engaging editorial agenda, identifying and training hosts through to pre- and post-production.

Maybe you’re already podcasting, if so, how is it working for you? Tweet us @FreshwaterUK to let us know.