Once a niche industry, podcasts are maturing into a medium with serious reach. The 2014 hit Serial, which was downloaded more than 80 million times, sent a strong signal that podcasts in general were poised for a breakout with the public, and two years later, advertisers and marketers are catching up.
According to some, we’re living in a golden age of podcasts. This year, an estimated 98 million Americans will listen to a podcast, according to a recent report from Edison Research. Nearly a quarter of Americans listened to a podcast in the last month, up from just 9% in 2008. It’s no wonder that, according to Nieman Lab, podcast advertising is forecast to grow 25% per year through 2020.
But why rent space on someone else’s podcast when you can design your own? That’s the thinking behind companies like eBay or State Farm, who have launched their own podcasts recently. Rather than using the vehicle as pure product promotion, however, companies are tapping podcast’s storytelling format to explore different sides to their brands.
“It’s people voluntarily choosing to have a regular, ongoing experience with your brand, every week or every other week,” explains Steve Pratt, principal at Pacific Content, which exclusively creates branded podcasts. “They get to know the things you’re interested in, and if you’re doing a really good job by telling great stories that are not about yourself, you’re instantly building appreciation and love for the brand and a connection. When people are going to make a purchasing decision down the road, it’s a no-brainer because they already have a relationship where they love you.”