As an Advertising Medium, Podcasting is Now a Force to be Reckoned With

podcast microphone with computer playing podcast
Research from Edison Research and Triton Media found that about 57 million people listen to at least one podcast per month. Photo Credit: Sergey Galyokin

The internet has continuously introduced new forms of advertising for marketers to familiarize themselves with. Well, the attention of marketers everywhere is now being captured by yet another digital form: the podcast.

It’s not exactly a new form; podcasts have been around since the the internet began, and the popularity of the form began rising out of obscurity, thanks to the rise of iTunes, over a decade ago. However, podcasting has recently begun to really take off as a form of media, so much so that it’s now becoming a viable option for advertisers. 2016 polling research conducted by Edison Research and Triton estimates that around one in five Americans over twelve years of age listen to at least one podcast per month, compared with around one in ten back in 2008. That 2016 estimate means about 57 million people listen to at least one podcast per month. That may not be a number that rivals some of the largest mediums, but it is still growing rapidly.

The true rise of the podcast seems to be an effect of the rise of the smartphone and mobile internet usage. A study by Statcounter estimated 42% of internet usage in America in 2016 to be from a mobile or tablet device, rather than from a desktop. That rate was just barely above 0% in 2009, which is just two years after the release of the original iPhone. The 2016 rate is also more than double its 2013 rate of 20%. The takeaway here is that the way we use the internet is shifting towards mobile, and I believe podcasting has benefitted, and will continue to benefit from, that shift.

Podcasting, like radio, is a nice backdrop to mundane activities, such as driving, mowing the lawn, doing house chores, etc. You could argue our attention spans are waning with the rise of technology; but I would argue we just seek more mental stimulation. Podcasts, while generally longer in form, add mental stimulation to monotonous activities, and that’s where I believe the growth lies, and that wouldn’t be possible without the rise of mobile internet. It is bringing a wider audience to podcasts, but it is the audience itself and way the ads are delivered on podcasts that are really enticing to advertisers.

woman listening to podcast on mobile phone
Podcasting is often used as a background medium, and has benefitted greatly from the rise of smartphones.

Podcasts boast desirable audiences for advertisers. The same Edison-Triton research found the median income among podcast consumers to be $63,000, compared to the median income among the U.S. population the study cited of $53,000. But that’s just the beginning; podcasts tend to focus on highly niche topics, and those topics can be just about anything. With all the different specific topics being covered, companies are bound to find podcasts for which its advertisements are highly relevant to listeners.

The targeting of advertisements could be convincing enough on their own, but the real differences may be the advertisements themselves, and the way they are delivered. The delivery, in my opinion, is the most natural and least annoying type of any media I have consumed. Usually, the podcasters promote the products themselves, and some even get creative with the delivery.

Additionally, the advertisements on podcasts usually are effectively being delivered to a captive audience. You can skip past it, but most people tend not to, and a big reason for that is, similar to radio, podcast listeners are often doing another activity while listening. It could be while driving, exercising, walking, or just doing chores, but when doing that, listeners will generally just let the ad run through. This idea of a captive audience can be especially enticing with the rise of AdBlock threatening common forms of online advertising, such as banners, or Youtube ads.

There’s a common saying that advertiser’s know they are wasting 50% of their budgets, they just don’t know which half is the waste. The measurability of internet advertising is changing that philosophy already, and podcasting answers the bell there as well. At first glance, it may seem these types of ads are hard to measure, since they can’t be clicked on. However, many advertisers overcome this by announcing specific codes on the podcast offering deals for purchasing with the code. This effectively works as a type of conversion tracking for advertisers who use the tactic. This isn’t necessarily a new concept, as it’s also been employed on television ads, but the practice is much more ubiquitous in podcasting.

Podcasting likely isn’t done growing anytime soon, so the ad spend towards it will likely only increase in the future. These type of ads solve many of the issues of modern advertising, such as viewer avoidance of ads and tying ad spend to return on investment. With the way podcasting answers these issues, more and more companies will catch on and try to capitalize. The fast growth of this media is just another example of how the internet has forced marketers to adapt to changing forms of consumption.

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