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The forecast for podcasts

Glenda LeGendre Big

Podcasts are currently getting increased interest from both listeners and sponsors/advertisers, partially due to the recent focus and fame of the wildly popular programs, “Serial” and “This American Life.” Yet audio programs have been available for streaming or real-time listening for some time ahead of those high-profile series.

A marketing-derived term from the merger of iPpods and broadcasts, podcasts are usually considered episodic digital media files. They have been downloaded from Apple via iTunes, Google and other sources, are now played on Amazon’s Echo (thanks, Alexa), and can be found on traditional radio and Sirius. Connected car features, already a growth market, are enabling podcasts to disrupt the more traditional car radio tune-ins.

Podcasts are, importantly, a type of on-demand content favored by millennials and are described by the Interactive Advertising Bureau as the fastest-growing digital format. With the power of the human voice and  little (if any) interference by visuals or ad blockers, listeners become almost passionate about the stories. They can’t skim through the content. Rather, they become educated, engaged, and enlightened enough about the topic to think differently.

Quality content is critical over brand messaging, and well-told audio stories can help enhance a brand. Podcasts take time and research to prepare, but are inexpensive to produce in defined studio settings.

Small but mighty

As an advertiser or supporter of an audio pod series, you can expect that the listener market might be small, yet two-thirds of podcast listeners surveyed by the IAB say they are more inclined to consider purchase of products and services that advertise on their favorite podcast. That is clearly a strong incentive to add podcasts to a marketing mix of promotions. Prudential, ESPN, Netflix and others have already done so, and the advertising market for podcasts is expected to reach $200 million in 2017. Metrics are still a challenge but downloads from the Apple store or web visits can help determine reach and the IAB recently developed metrics standards.

There are also public relations gains from producing ongoing podcasts. Recently, the Maryland chapter of the Public Relations Society of America awarded its “Best of Baltimore” award for podcasting to the Irvine Nature Center in Baltimore County. Irvine has already produced more than 100 three-to-four-minute segments of its eco-friendly perspective series, “The Nature of Things,” thanks to support of local NPR station, WYPR, and sponsors such as the Bozzuto Family Foundation.

The public relations goal, defined by Irvine Executive Director Brooks Paternotte, was to enhance the recognition of Irvine and its naturalist programs for children and adults. Irvine and WYPR promote the podcast program on their respective websites and through social media. Each segment is voiced by Brooks, following natural history research and engaging content writing from internal staff. The spots are subsequently housed on WYPR’s website. Visitor attendance at Irvine was increased significantly following the first full year of the podcasts.

Local personalities

Other local personalities are listeners, producers, and contributors to a growing podcast scene. Christopher L. Reed, chair/professor of film & moving image at Stevenson University, has long recorded on film reviews and other topics, some along with Dan Rodricks of The Sun. Chris notes, “There is a lot of good content out there, but it can be difficult to find the good ones.”

Ken Kinard of Hunt Valley-based Accent Interactive seemingly agrees. He has co-produced and writes/records a podcast called “Workwise: The Growth Mindset for Wisdom at Work.” Ken is an aggressive podcast listener as well as producer for clients. He has assembled a slew of technological support approaches to find, organize, and create quality podcasts with regularity.

New methods to distribute podcasts are expanding, and the industry appears to have a strong future. Literally, stay tuned.

Glenda LeGendre is principal of Strategic Marketing and Communications and can be reached at [email protected]

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