The sound of a disembodied human voice is intimate, alluring and persuasive. It triggers emotional connections and stored memories, buried deep in our limbic brains.
For almost a century, radio has had a monopoly on building relationships with audiences connected to specific information and entertainment needs. Today, live streaming and podcasting are disrupting established listening patterns.
Leveraging radio fundamentals – audience segmentation, tight, targeted content, personalities, and promotion – podcasts are capitalizing on the growth of mobile media, the ubiquity of smartphones and the magic of the human voice. Podcasts are blogs as radio.
Digital audio better understands its audience dynamic and their movements through time and space than traditional radio, according to my friend Larry Miller, head of NYU’s Steinhart Music Business program. Digital natives who grew up with on-demand media, he argues, use Spotify, Pandora and YouTube, rather than a favorite FM station, to discover new music. And listeners who crave news, information, music and arts are discovering the varied and expanding podcast universe.
An Edison Research survey of 2000 Americans, in February 2017, estimated that 42 million Americans, roughly 15 percent of the population, listen to four to five podcasts each week for one to three hours, or 30 percent of their total time spent with audio media. Half subscribe to three to ten podcasts. Listeners, a third of whom are adults 25-54, are generally college-educated, employed upscale consumers who skew slightly male. Two-thirds click to listen to podcasts directly using smartphones and 80 percent listen to all or almost all of the content at home, in cars or walking around.
The Podcast Download Report, produced by Westwood One in August 2017, pegged heavy podcast listeners ( six hours or more per week) as younger, upscale men who are media junkies and willing to tolerate two to four ads per hour. They prefer ads to be voiced by the podcast hosts rather than re-produced commercials. The top five podcast content categories, according to Westwood One, are news and current events, comedy, entertainment and pop culture, music and storytelling dramas.
The Nielsen Homescan Panel in March 2017, found that 36 percent of podcast listeners are ethnic (Hispanic, African American, Asian) up 16 percent year over year. The remaining majority are white. Looking to monetize the audience, Nielsen estimated that 23 percent of avid podcast users are beer drinkers who spend $122 annually on premium brews, slightly higher than national averages. The implication is that podcast listeners are particularly desirable target prospects.
In assessing the commercial and persuasive possibilities of podcasts, keep three considerations in mind.
Usage is 100% On-Demand. Audiences tune-in one at a time. Most listen at home or en route during drive times, weekends and early fringe. Aligning a product with the content and making branded content evergreen makes ads more effective.
Mood Matters. Like music, podcasts are chosen to achieve a desired state of mind. Ads and commercial messages need to anticipate and synch with this reality. Messages that reflect the sensibility, tone and tenor of the podcast resonate best.
Leverage Endorsements. Host voiced ads, scripted or ad libbed, have the effect of
a personal endorsement. This is especially true for hosts that have built followings. Whether you focus on celebrity hosts or anonymous voices, this can be a powerful driver, especially if the product or service is relevant to the people listening to the topic of the podcast. For podcast subscribers, consistent advertising links a brand with a podcast in ways that can spark brand advocacy.
To a certain extent, podcasts take us back to the future; leveraging the lessons and the techniques of early radio on a one-to-one basis. At the same time, they offer us an opportunity to intersect with customers and prospects in a very personal and intimate way at times and on devices they select – a subtle way into their worlds.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.