The media landscape, and how we consume it, is evolving to the point that almost every half-decade it’s like we’re living in a whole new technological world. But nearly a century after families raptly congregated in their dens listening to the first radio stories, we’re revisiting that specific story-telling technique: the simplicity of voice and sound.
Podcasts, coined by combining “iPod” and “broadcast,” are having their turn and there is no indication of that trend slowing. The numbers of Americans who are familiar with, have listened and listen regularly to the episodic story-telling form has been increasing steadily for the last decade: an estimated 90 million Americans have listened to a podcast in the last month.1
The history and evolution of podcasts is well detailed. Multiple podcasts began as, and still are, a hobby; people following certain interests and passions while using the boundless format that the medium provides. From interviews and true crime series to movie reviews and fantasy sports, podcasters haven’t held back in their ability to tell countless types of stories.
Podcasts have continued to grow, joining the likes of online audio and social media as a consumer habit in which marketers monitor. Among Americans who listen to podcasts, 28 percent of the time listening to audio is spent on podcasts, which is more than traditional radio (24 percent), streaming audio (15) and owned music (13). On smartphones, that number increases to 42 percent, with streaming audio at 18 percent.1 Consumers are listening and brands have taken notice.
There is no question that authentic brand engagement is becoming harder and harder to garner with waning attention spans and advertising overload—almost like Waldo at a party filled with Waldos. Brands are turning to podcasts as a way to engage, and in some cases, creating their own content to tell their own brand stories.
ZipRecruiter worked with Shark Tank investor Daymond John on a branded podcast called Rise and Grind. Trader Joe’s gives listeners a look into how it fills its aisles with Inside Trader Joe’s. General Electric created a science-fiction series called The Message. There’s a strategy behind all of it. GE’s chief creative officer Andy Goldberg explains why brands are getting involved.
“I don’t consider it advertising. It’s a podcast show that just happens to be produced by a brand instead of a network. I’m not saying, ‘Hey, go out and buy a jet engine.’ It’s a science fiction story to connect listeners with what the GE brand is about, without selling the GE brand.”
Podcasts, both branded and non-branded, are going to continue to be incorporated into our daily lives. Streaming audio giant Spotify joined in with its podcast acquisitions earlier this year, hinting at growth and evolution of the medium. There are indications that Spotify’s curated playlists will soon include more than just music, with select podcasts integrated into daily lists as well.
Research has shown that consumer concentration is more than 1.5 times higher when consuming a podcast than social media, providing a great opportunity for brands to reach their audiences in an authentic and engaging way.2 Consumers want to listen. Now it’s up to brands to tell them a compelling story.