Brands are getting serious about podcasts as a content marketing strategy. Podcasts lend themselves well to branded content – their storytelling nature is engaging, appealing to brands seeking a better way to connect with consumers.
Branded content strategies in podcasts can vary greatly, from subtle approaches where the sponsor is barely mentioned, to shows where the sponsor is prominently featured within the editorial, with several alternatives in between.
Branding by Association – A subtle approach to content branding relies simply on a connection with clever, innovative and appealing content to establish a brand’s connection. GE’s The Message is a best in class for this type of content marketing. The podcast was hugely successful and very innovative. The sponsor branding was very subtle – GE Podcast Theater was the producer of the show along with Panoply Networks. GE’s presence in the podcast is very understated, which in this case may well have added to both the success of the series and the effectiveness of the branding. It is really artful branding for sure.
Editorial Branding – A more overt type of content marketing is employed by eBay in the recently launched Open for Business by Gimlet Media. This type of branded podcast features the sponsor’s name and company within the podcast, and in fact, features an eBay partner business within the episode. The editorial content of the podcast is focused on entrepreneurship, and reportedly, the company had input into and final say over the direction and content of each of the six installments. It’s well done, with strong and interesting reporting elements that exemplify Gimlet’s expertise in the space.
Sponsor Produced Podcasts – In this approach to branded podcasts, the sponsor produces its own content, with or without the help of outside resources, and focuses entirely on the sponsor’s business. The McKinsey Podcast, produced by the inhouse McKinsey Publishing, focuses on educating its audience. It’s a well done B2B podcast that discusses topics like the customer experience or the Chinese consumer. It’s a great example of using podcasts to expand a customer base by positioning the sponsor company as a thought leader.
Sponsored Content – This most common approach to content marketing in podcasts is the one that familiar podcast advertisers like Mailchimp and Squarespace employ. Those companies employ native ads within popular podcast series like Serial to establish their brand. The native ads, often done by the podcast hosts, are personal and effective. I think the branding for Squarespace in the podcast series Reply All is particularly good. Hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman create quirky websites using Squarespace, and then talk about them. (Has PJ met Alex’s son yet is one, and Goldman.gripe is the other). It’s funny and, as I am demonstrating right here, memorable.
Podcasts as branded content can take many different forms and create really great exposure for advertisers. These deeply creative approaches add enormous value and impact for the brands, and generate both quality content and great buzz that is no doubt part of the momentum driving expanding interest. May they thrive..
A few days ago Slate’s Panoply Network launched a new series with best-selling author, speaker, and quirky, insightful social scientist Malcolm Gladwell called Revisionist History. The day it launched it hit number one on the iTunes Podcast Chart. The podcast series of ten episodes will be released week by week and examine past events that were mis-interpreted the first time around – Gladwell will attempt to “correct the record.”
This is a big score for Slate’s Panoply Media, and for the podcasting industry. Panoply’s Andy Bowers thinks Gladwell’s big name will bring new listeners, who haven’t already listened to a podcast before, not to mention new advertisers.
The launch of the program came with a live reading at the iconic 92nd Street Y in New York by Malcolm Gladwell. Attendees were given a handout with instructions on how to download to a podcast on Apple’s purple podcast app – the Revisionist History podcast series is sponsored by Apple’s iBooks, another remarkable aspect of the show. Apparently, Gladwell was thinking about writing a book about these misunderstood historical events, but was convinced to do the podcast series instead.
Everyone is hoping the new series will see the same kind of blockbuster success that Serial saw in its first season. In addition to the live reading, Gladwell’s been tweeting about the series to his 373,000 followers – “My mother says it’s amazing!” Meanwhile, his motives for producing the series are characterized as kind of a lark, more of a challenge than producing another bestselling book.
It just might be a social experiment as well. Gladwell just might be hoping his new series hits at The Tipping Point for podcasting. In his book The Tipping Point, Gladwell examines “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” Podcasting is arguably at its Tipping Point – as Tom Webster of Edison Research pointed out in his presentation on the Podcast Consumer a few weeks ago. Podcast listening has been growing modestly for a bunch of years, but this year things have taken off, says Webster, citing the 24% growth in monthly listening and referring to a possible hockey stick pattern in growth. (All hail to Gordie Howe)
When a product reaches the tipping point, “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point,” it can spread like wildfire with a few simple factors, which Gladwell calls “agents of change.” The podcasting pot is arguably ready to boil. I’m thinking this new show Revisionist History is both a new podcast and a social experiment, where Gladwell is looking to be one of the agents of change that propels podcasting into epidemic status. Read the book and see what you think…
This week I listened to the intro and first episode of Revisionist History, and also listened to Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour.
Podcasters have an episodic approach to content that lends itself to binge listening. People that listen to podcasts weekly listen to more than one – 64% of those that are listening weekly listen to more than two a week, according to Edison Research. This is not surprising, given the “serial” nature of some of the more popular podcasts, such as the popular Serial (there’s a reason they were not allowed to trademark that name!)
Bridge Ratings confirms not only that more people are listening more to podcasts than ever before, but also that they are listening for an average of 33 minutes per session. This data, which is based on a year-long study of podcast listeners, confirms a healthy time spent listening trend that Bridge says has already “helped some ad agencies take the leap” into investing in podcast advertising.
Podcasts’ long form audio consists of several approaches:
- Episodic programs, like Serial, where one story is told over a series of episodes -usually released week by week. While week by week releases can put a damper on bingeing, that only applies to listeners who are keeping current with the material. Listeners that are coming to the party mid-stream or later can consume more than one at a time.
- Theme programs, which have new subjects each week, but tied together around a central theme. These are also compelling and often clever – listeners want to stay with the theme of the podcast and listen to several. WNYC’s Death, Sex and Money, about the topics we need to talk more about, and the New York Times/WBUR’s Modern Love, which covers lots of angles on love, take that approach.
- Personality podcasts use the host as the consistent element from week to week, and topics cover whatever the host wants to talk about. Marc Maron’s WTF, Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour, and The Adam Carolla Show for example.
All three approaches are compelling, and I find myself wanting to stay with many of the podcasts I try and listen to more than one. That’s why Netflix-like consumption of podcasts is a big thing, one that is good for the listener as well as the advertiser.
Long form, compelling audio programming isn’t new – in fact broadcast radio’s roots are in that type of programming. The famous “War of the Worlds” was a Halloween episode of a regular weekly radio drama called The Mercury Theater on the Air. Amos and Andy was a personality driven one-hour weekly broadcast. Somewhere along the way that kind of programming disappeared and radio turned its attention to capturing quarter hours. Now we have “news and traffic every ten minutes” but the unique and creative storytelling approach to audio has in many cases left the broadcast building…
This week I’ve been listening to the podcast Modern Love, produced by the New York Times and WBUR.
New data from comScore says that people listen, like and act on ads in podcasts more than ads in any other digital media. As highlighted in Audio4cast a few weeks back – podcasting has taken a native ads approach that is reinventing audio advertising by integrating the ads into the program and creating a live-read, endorsement feel to the ads that is both memorable and inspiring to the consumer.
The new comScore study was commissioned by Wondery and also tells us that two-thirds of the respondents have acted on an ad by researching a product or making a purchase. Not surprising – ads in podcasts are remarkably compelling. Like the ad for Eero, “the world’s most innovative wifi system” in this episode of 99% Invisible. Roman Mars chats the product up at the beginning, “I love these little things, unreliable wifi has been my nemesis.” and “My whole family is happy I’m not stomping around the house…muttering about not being able to watch Netflix.” He’s even tweeted about the product to his 60k followers:
What’s more compelling than that? The comScore/Wondery study adds strength to the concept that podcasts, and podcast advertising, are creating valuable opportunities for advertisers to connect with listeners with messaging that is innovative, integrated and impactful.
There’s an incredible dedication to crafting great content in podcasting, and it extends to the ads as well. It’s a holistic approach that makes the advertiser part of the program rather than an interruption to be tolerated. The end result – satisfied listeners who listen to, like and react to ads, translating to happy advertisers. That’s the secret sauce driving the energy and success in the podcast space..
This week I have been listening to – you guessed it – 99% Invisible. Still loving my Overcast app..