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Just Make Sure They Know It’s An Ad

Podcast listeners prefer native host-read ads to recorded units, according to new research from the IAB and Edison Research. According to this new study, 55% of podcast listeners expressed a positive sentiment to hearing an ad discussed by the show’s host, while 34% had the same response when asked how they liked “pre-recorded advertisements from a brand, company or sponsor.” If the advertiser was positioned as the sponsor of a show they liked, the listener’s response was favorable 61% of the time.

Podcast listeners put a lot of weight in ads read live by hosts. One interesting note about this is, I know from talking to some podcast publishers, that those ads are often recorded, but with the design and intention of having them sound like part of the program. One person told me the ad is actually recorded when the program is recorded, but separately. This, so that scheduling, starting and stopping a campaign, and dynamic ad insertion can happen. Good idea. New ads each time, with the same tempo of the day’s program.

Podcasters have developed a really great niche in native ads. That comes from a few places. First, let’s give credit to public radio, one of the early sources of great podcast content. Public radio folks are all about host read ads that don’t really sound like ads, born out of the requirements of publicly funded on-air broadcasting. That training made them approach ads in podcasts from a different place – a live, host read, irregular length, soft sell approach that feels like part of the program, not part of a commercial stop-set.

Second, native ads were born from necessity, since the first advertisers that were willing to invest in the space were direct response brands who were evaluating the success of the campaign based on the results. That made podcasters work hard to make it work.

Native ads are great for podcasting – they make listeners happy, and happy listeners spend more time listening. They make advertisers happy, and that makes them spend more. As demand for the inventory grows, and it will because audience is growing, it will be important for advertisers and sellers to remember the importance of the native sounding approach to listeners.

At the same time, podcasters and advertisers should be aware of the FTC guidelines for truth in advertising. It has to be clear that it’s an ad. Sounds easy, but with host-read ads it can get a little tricky. It’s a good idea to very clearly identify the ad as an ad to avoid any confusion. For more information, you can check out the guidelines from the FTC here.


New York Life Touts Results from WNYC Podcast Ads

The Podcast Upfront earlier this week, produced by the IAB, was the best one day audio conference the industry has ever seen. Set in the beautiful auditorium at the Time Inc building in NYC, the second annual event brought tons of energy and excitement for podcasts to the audience of potential advertisers. It featured many presentations – each segment was great – some due to celebrity podcaster presence, some due to really great insights. Highlights of the day included celebrities: Katie Couric, Ira Glass, Malcolm Gladwell, Questlove, Abby Wambach, Shaquille O’Neal, Marc Maron, Adam Carolla, Amber Rose, and others, all touting their podcasts and ad opportunities. Michael Rapaport from podcast I Am Rapaport stole the show as the host for the afternoon. And information – new research from Edison and IAB, a case study from New York Life, insights on audience and advertising from WNYC, a great immersive audio experience from Wondery, and more, more, more. It was an incredibly dense, powerful day for podcasting full of hip, fun, interesting, diverse energy. When the show wrapped up after almost 8 hours of stagetime, the seats were still as full as they were when the show started – evidence of the high quality of the program.

One of the most meaningful segments was WNYC’s presentation which was chock full of really great data on their podcast platform, which sees 30 million downloads a month. CFO Margaret Hunt had several really great data points to share that advertisers were sure to take note of:

  • 91% of listeners to their podcasts complete the program they are listening to.
  • 95% of their listeners have taken action as a result of hearing an ad in a podcast

Hunt then introduced Kari Axberg, VP Strategy & Experience at New York Life, who presented a case study on a podcast campaign they ran with WNYC which netted tremendous results, including:

  • 14% lift in brand awareness
  • 47% lift in brand favorability
  • 33% lift in purchase consideration

Impactful stuff. Possibly the most meaningful info of the day in terms of motivating the advertisers in the room to spend more in the medium.


The day ended with a loud and lively cocktail reception featuring a live podcast experience with Adam Carolla and Shaquille O’Neal. There were photo ops all over the place. Katie didn’t come to the party, but I did get a selfie with Abby Wambach that made my daughter jealous ūüôā



Download Data on Podcasts

Most downloaded podcasts are consumed within the first 72 hours after download, according to new info published by podcast hosting platform Blubrry. Working with data from the 35,000 podcasts they support, other interesting insights include the fact that 60% of podcasts are downloaded for on-demand consumption.  Blubrry has also broken out the four major types of consumption:

  • Mobile Apps – consumption within mobile apps accounts for about 72% of listening.
  • Desktop Apps account for 13%
  • Desktop browsers account for approximately 11% of consumption (streaming and downloads)
  • Mobile browsers, tv apps – have about 4.5% of the consumption

So – most of those downloads (85%) take place within podcast apps to desktops and mobile devices. The trend toward mobile is not surprising, and also not surprising is the fact that most of the consumption takes place within apps, which download new episodes automatically over connected devices to subscribed podcasts.

An important strategy for the increasing growth of podcast listening is subscriptions. Once a listener is subscribed, new episodes get downloaded onto devices automatically, in the background. This obviously drives listening, letting a listener know when a new episode has arrived and linking new episodes within the app so that they play consecutively.

The role of subscriptions, and in fact the meaning of a subscriber to the podcast industry is pretty different than on the streaming side of connected audio, where a subscriber is generally paying a monthly fee. It’s very interesting to stop and take notice of the fact that 85% of podcast listening is done by subscribers to the programming. On the streaming audio side, using Pandora as an example, less than 5% of listeners are subscribers, but all are registered users.

These days I’m thinking hard about the Digital Connected Audio universe as one space, and analyzing the similarities and differences between the streaming and podcast varieties through that lens. This is an interesting piece to stop and think about..


Gold Medal Podcasts About The Olympics

The Olympics have a way of cutting through the summertime haze and grabbing our attention like few other things. With so many events and talented athletes, the Olympics provide a lot of great interesting content for podcasts as well. For the first time in weeks, winners like Michael Phelps and Simone Biles are at the top of our mind, replacing the negative day to day updates on Trump and Clinton with positive reports about talented athletes performing at the top of their games. The Internet is crazy about the games – NBC has livestreamed more than one billion minutes of the games so far. Everyone’s talking about them on facebook and twitter too.

Which is why it’s surprising that there are not more podcasts about all the amazing things happening in Rio. There are a few, and some are pretty good:

  • Sports Illustrated’s At The Games – this daily podcast features hosts Mitch Goldich and Alex Abnos chatting through a recap of each day at the games. It’s chatty and interesting, and despite not being at the games, these guys cover a lot of what’s going on – with perhaps a little tmi on rugby, and occasional interviews.
  • USA Today’s Going For Gold – Rachel Axon and Nancy Armour of USA Today Sports are on site in Rio. This podcast is produced every few days, and offers highlights from the games.
  • Yahoo Sports Grandstanding – Is a regular twice weekly podcast that has been all about Olympics since the games opened. It’s hosted by Greg Wyshynski, who is in Rio, and it’s pretty interesting.

It seems to me that there should be more, given all the great content there is to talk about. In particular, I would think some radio stations could muster the talent necessary to produce some pretty good updates for their listeners. Perhaps it’s the short term of the Olympics, but producing recaps like this in podcast form is a great way to expand digital offerings, grow audience, and look for new sponsors. You might even call it a gold medal opportunity…

What’s Your Podcast Strategy?

When it comes to building a community to support your business, Another Mother Runner gets it done. AMR is an online business that targets moms that run – providing a community and connecting with their audience through a daily newsletter, facebook page, books, podcasts and more. When it comes to connecting with new members of their community and growing their brand, their podcast strategy is critical. Sarah Bowen Shea and her partner Dimity McDowell have been podcasting since 2011, which makes them trailblazers of the audio variety (as well as being actual trailblazers!) Their most recent weekly podcast was their 221st.

They credit their podcast, which is hosted by Acast, and available on iTunes and Stitcher as well, as one of the most effective ways to get new audience. “I think a lot of brands don’t realize the power of the podcast.” says Bowen Shea. She says the podcast helps them grow and strengthen their community, while at the same time entertaining women as they run. Get that? The goal of their podcast is to grow their community.

Their formula for success is to offer lots of ways for running moms to connect – through the online store, books about running and being a mom, podcasts, the Train Like a Mother club, and on-site appearances at races. It’s working. Their facebook page has 59,000 likes, and their daily newsletter goes out to 13,500 subscribers. Their podcasts get 80-95,000 listens a month. One of their newest brand extensions is to offer archived podcast content behind a paywall through Acast+¬†for $2.99 a month – an option available through Acast that Bowen Shea says they are really excited about.

AMR’s approach to advertising is as holistic as their approach to their content. Another Mother Runner has about a dozen corporate sponsors, who are visible on the site, and have native ads in the podcasts as well. It’s a highly integrated approach to sponsorship that no doubt creates lots of value for the advertiser.

In the end, Another Mother Runner’s podcast strategy is one to admire because it’s not content for content’s sake – it’s a way to stay connected with their community and grow their brand. And yes, it helps that runners have lots of time on the road when they’re looking for company and something engaging to listen to. AMR’s podcasts keep them company. And, as they promise, they keep talking on the uphill…

IAB Announces Podcast Upfront

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) will host its second annual Podcast Upfront on September 7th and expand from a half to full day long program. The Second Annual Podcast Marketplace will feature 12 podcast companies, selected from a larger group based on their proposals to participate. Attendance is by invitation for advertisers and media agency executives.

Selected sponsors will each have a 20 minute presentation that will spotlight marketing opportunities for advertisers in podcasting. Last year’s event was very successful, and the expanded format for this year promises to be just as exciting.

Selected presenting sponsors include:

  • AdLarge
  • Authentic (formerly Podtrac)
  • CBS Radio’s
  • ESPN
  • HowStuffWorks
  • Midroll
  • NPR
  • Panoply
  • PodcastOne
  • Time Inc.
  • WNYC Studios
  • Wondery

The content of the presentations will feature an impressive list of some of the most popular podcasts:

  • The Adam Carolla Show
  • Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast
  • Entertainment Weekly: Game of Thrones
  • ESPN: Fantasy Focus Football
  • TED Radio Hour
  • Jim Breuer’s The Metal In Me
  • Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History
  • Radiolab
  • Stuff You Should Know
  • This American Life
  • WTF with Marc Maron

No word on which presentations will include their personality hosts, but I do know that the intial RFP encouraged companies that were interested in participating to make their pitches as appealing as possible in order to be selected, so I’m guessing quite a few podcast personalities will be on stage. It’s bound to be a great day for podcasting. Read more about it here.

Why Millennials Like Podcasts

The study showing that Millennials listen to less radio than older generations is hardly news. Other studies have shown similar trends, and you need to look no further than your favorite Millennial to know that they’re all about connected consumption of all their media.

Meanwhile, we have the growing body of data showing that the very same folks like podcasts. The Podcast Consumer study released by Edison Research shows that 35% of podcast listeners are in the 18-34 demographic. In fact, comScore data shows that same demographic is 44% more likely than the average smartphone-owning adult to listen to podcasts on their device at least once a week. And podcasts are even more popular with younger demos Рwhile 18-34 year olds are more likely than the general population to be podcast listeners, 12-17 year olds are almost twice as likely to listen.

Just this morning I had a conversation with my favorite Millennial about podcasts. She listens at work, and she works in an environment where she can’t be connected all day long. Each day, she downloads her daily diet of podcasts and brings them with her. She says playlists get too boring.

The most fascinating part of this is that Millennials – as well as folks in the younger 12-17 demographic – are listening to podcasts, which are primarily talk programming. The very same programming that on broadcast stations is relegated to the AM dial and listened to mainly by 35+ demographics. How can that be? I’m thinking there are a few things that make podcasts so attractive to younger demos:

  1. It’s all about the device. The younger you are, the more attached you are to your device. If the content is available on your device, it’s worth your attention.
  2. On demand content is the everything. No matter what they’re consuming, younger demos are consuming it on their terms: what they want, when they want it.
  3. Shared content is important. Not only do Millennials like to share, they like to like what others share. Listen, and share with your friends.
  4. Non-fiction and reality content is a thing with Millennials.

Back to the Millennial that I live with. When she’s home from college I really enjoy an evening in front of the tv with her. It used to be easy to pick a movie that we both wanted to watch. But more and more, our tastes diverge, with hers preferring shows about cooking competitions, or brides picking dresses. If it’s fiction, she’s looking for crime and thrillers. The latest Jane Austen novel remake? Not so much.

Offering appealing content in a form that this age group likes to consume is the key to the success of podcasts with younger demos.

Podcasts have struck a chord with Millennials, and it has to do with several things, not the least of which is audio content that they like. While broadcast radio assumes that what they want to hear is the latest hits, it turns out they also want to hear great non fiction programming, on their phones, when they want it. If you podcast it they will listen..



Is YouTube the Next Frontier for Podcasts?

Podcasters are finding YouTube a friendly place to distribute their content. With a billion monthly users, YouTube’s an attractive place to woo listeners. Libsyn, a podcast hosting company, recently introduced a feature that enables podcasters to easily turn their audio files into video and send them to YouTube at the same time they send them to other distribution services such as iTunes and GooglePlay.

But YouTube is a video platform, right? Although it’s often disregarded in a conversation about streaming audio listening, YouTube is by far the largest on demand streaming audio service. It makes sense the podcasters would offer their content on the giant on demand streaming platform as well. YouTube also has some other features that make it a great platform for podcasters – such as search and sharing.

This American Life offers all of its content on YouTube, as do many others. Some, like The Moth, and NPR podcasts like The Hidden Brain and Invisibilia, have organized all of their content into YouTube pages that you can subscribe to, while others, like 99 Percent Invisible and Reply All, are not quite as organized, but easy to find through search.

YouTube also offers recommendations – when I subscribed to Modern Love, produced by WBUR and the New York Times, I got recommendations for a Ted Talk, and a podcast by The Minimalists.

From the looks of the numbers of subscribers to some of the podcasts, it’s early in the idea that YouTube is a podcast distribution platform. The Moth’s 47,000 subscribers seems huge compared to This American Life which has 8562 subscribers. Meanwhile Serial has only 216(!). But¬†Youtube sure seems like a ready-made distribution platform for podcast content. Maybe it’s the next frontier..




Branded Podcasts Come in Several Flavors

Brands are getting serious about podcasts as a content marketing strategy. Podcasts lend themselves well to branded content Рtheir 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 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..



Podcasting’s Tipping Point

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.¬†




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