PR + Podcasts – A New Media Frontier

February 12, 2021

According to a 2020 survey conducted by Statista, 55% of Americans state that they have listened to a podcast. Furthermore, 15% of Americans actively listen to one or more podcasts a month. Clearly, the platform of podcasts has become the auditory medium of choice for many. Able to be accessed on-the-go, podcasts offer the same value proposition as many streaming serv
ices and, in most cases, are free. As consumers choose what, when, where and how they listen, the podcast medium provides unsurpassed engagement and listener loyalty – as PR professionals, we’re taking note.

The medium of podcasts was invented by Dave Winer in 2004. Dubbing it, “RSS-to-iPod internet radio,” users could download episodes of his blog to their devices for later listening. Noticing the platform’s pickup, Apple launched a “Podcasts” portal in iTunes in 2005, becoming the dominant distributor of podcasts – a title it keeps to this day. Today, Spotify, Apple and Stitcher have evolved to become the “Big Three” distributors of over 34 million podcast episodes in over 100 languages.

There’s no doubt about it – podcasts are doing something right. The success of the podcast platform is centered around integration. Podcasts integrate sponsorship segments into the natural flow of the episode:

  • The host of the podcast often delivers the sponsored segment, without a jarring transition to a commercial break (think radio, TV)
  • The host vets the products to ensure that they are relevant to listeners
  • Ads are sold in quick-hit :30 and :60 second timeslots

Podcast integration with music streaming services provide many touchpoints, conducive to listenership loyalty:

  • Phone notification
  • E-mail notification
  • Lock screen notification
  • In-app notification

The numbers speak for themselves. According to eMarketer, listeners report greater trust in podcast advertisements (18%) than radio (10%), higher brand and message recall in podcasts (18%) than radio (11%) and greater enjoyment in podcasts (20%) than radio (11%).

Furthermore, podcasts are able to provide potential sponsors with vast listenership data, making possible a new frontier of niche content. For example, consider welding. A pitch for a radio show based on welding would not be successful – why would welding-specific advertisers back a show on FM radio? On the other hand, a welding podcast can approach prospective sponsors with concrete listenership and demographic numbers, demonstrating measurable ROI while providing relevant content to the welding community.

Podcasts continually seek thought leadership from both for-profit companies and non-profit organizations to fuel content creation. While it can be hard to source podcast opportunities, we’ve enjoyed exploring PodcastClout, a Cision-like software that’s perfect to start outlining a podcast PR strategy. In addition, Facebook Groups, long known to be an influencer-sourcing platform, are now abuzz with podcast opportunities, both seeking guests and looking to be placed.

The golden age of podcasts is here – and we can further fuel it. As public relations professionals, it is critical that we be the bridge between our clients and such opportunities, and further integrate podcasts into the larger PR strategy.