Podcasts, Audiences, and Brands Enter a New Decade Together

By Spencer Brown, CEO, Cadence13

September 30, 2020

Today, September 30, is International Podcast Day. The fact alone that podcasts have a day to themselves is a testament to how far the medium has come in its short lifespan. Since the term was first coined in 2004, podcasting has grown exponentially. That growth feels especially momentous this year: According to the IAB U.S. Podcast Advertising Revenue Study, 105.6 million Americans are projected to listen to podcasts by the end of 2020 and podcast advertising revenue is projected to jump by 14.7%, approaching a billion dollars for the first time.1 All of this marks a huge opportunity for brands to engage listeners in new ways – to do so, they’ll need to embrace data-driven insights about their audience.

It can be easy to forget that podcasts weren’t always the cultural juggernaut they are today. Indeed, when International Podcast Day started in 2014, no one could know for sure that the medium would be as important and successful as it is today. Even just half a decade ago, podcasting was like the Wild West, an uncharted landscape of madcap creativity and uncertain returns.

Entercom’s early podcast ventures from partner Cadence13 capitalized on expertise through “narrowcasting,” specific content targeting a specialized audience. We partnered with experts like the Silicon Valley reporter Kara Swisher and the NBA journalist Adrian Wojnarowski to bring content to listeners who were already deeply engaged in the subject matter. While the enthusiasm was there, however, the scale was not—yet. There was great storytelling from incredible journalists, but no guarantees. Was this a real opportunity for brands or just a fad?

The answer to that question is now abundantly clear. Entercom’s podcasts have proved their staying power and business viability many times over. Take the Tony Kornheiser Show, which Entercom helped convert from a longstanding local radio program into a national daily podcast, or GM Shuffle with Mike Lombardi where Entercom partnered with a leading NFL executive to launch a podcast providing listeners with an inside look at the NFL. And of course, there’s Pod Save America, the show hosted by former President Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, and Jon Lovett. Entercom was in the White House as these staffers interviewed President Obama, his final interview as President.

These are just some of the podcasts that have become essential parts of the media ecosystem. On average, Americans listen to seven podcasts a week for more than six hours.2 The untamed free-for-all of podcasting’s early days has come to an end, requiring content creators and brands to rethink how they do things.

Much of what made podcasting so exciting at its advent still drives success today. Creative storytelling and compelling hosts are still critical for podcasts and their brand partners. The greatest change lies in how marketers think about a podcast’s audience. The medium has grown in tandem with marketers’ understanding of who listens and why. If the industry spent the past decade mastering the art of podcasting, the next decade will be spent mastering its science.

Entercom is diving deep into that science by studying audience demographics and behavior to determine the best opportunities for brands and podcasts alike while gathering real-time insights. But we also have a deep respect for our listeners, who we consider to be part of a community. That’s why we prioritize audience measurement strategies that put listener privacy first. Through direct response campaigns, for example, we’re able to harvest an immediate determination of listener engagement. Direct response advertising now constitutes more than half of podcast advertising revenue.1

We’re also learning which podcast genres—and which ads—are performing well during the COVID-19 pandemic. News programming continues to lead the pack, while health/wellness advertising has now won the largest share of advertising revenue, followed closely by home & appliances. Perhaps more importantly, we’re pairing brands and podcasts more effectively. It’s paramount that listeners feel that ads are a good “fit” with a podcast. Research shows that strong alignment increases key metrics like brand affinity, ad recall, recommendation, and purchase intent.3 Through our cutting edge understanding of audience segmentation, Entercom is able to unlock that potential for brands.

The unpredictable days of podcasting’s adolescence are officially behind us. The medium’s next decade will be more established, engaging, and rich with opportunity. To seize that opportunity in the next decade, successful brands should join Entercom in its commitment to engaging listeners with modern insights.

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  1. IAB U.S. Podcast Advertising Revenue Study prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, July 2020
  2. Edison Research and Triton Digital, Infinite Dial Study, 2020
  3. Nielsen, ‘How Podcast Advertising Measures Up,’ April 2020.

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