February 19, 2016

Is 2016 the year of the podcast?

Whether you were one of the raving fans of last year’s chart topping podcast Serial or haven’t yet ventured into that world, the surge of sponsored content and brand generated shows reveal that this is definitely a space to watch.

With recent tech news buzzing around audio additions to the app world (check out anchor and ZCast) and podcast consumption consistently on the rise, it’s tempting to suggest that 2016 may be the year of the podcast. Many are suggesting we may even be entering ‘the podcast age.’

Podcasting has been around since the early 2000s but has had a niche quality about it that has, for the most part, kept business and marketing outside. However, the growth of this space is prompting brands to grow with it and success stories that boast strong audience engagement with sponsored content are hard to ignore.

The intimacy of the human voice

Jacob Weisberg, chairman of The Slate Group, has been quoted saying, “the most intense connection and most intense engagement I’ve ever seen run any medium is around podcasting because it combines the intimacy of the human voice with time-shift listening.” In other words, podcasting is an incredibly personal way of communicating with your target audience. A list of subscribers coming to you each week consuming your curated content has incredible potential for brand awareness and engagement. You are speaking directly to them. The platform also allows listeners to listen back or pause for other tasks. Unlike its rigid comparison FM/AM radio, podcasts are accessible – we have the tech in our pockets, coupled with the desire to be constantly entertained. There’s even more room for audio than video as we can listen to audio while we do other tasks – driving, cleaning, waiting, working.


While some brands are producing their own podcasts (check out BuzzFeed, Wells Fargo, Vogue, General Electric and Esquire) many brands are wary of throwing themselves into the medium. The process has a high demand for resource, time and energy and even with all of this it’s hard to pull it off. Many podcasts lose steam and stop publishing early on which is a warning to those who think producing quality audio might be an easy addition to their current content marketing campaign.

Native ads and sponsored content

However, running your own show isn’t the only way brands can benefit from the podcast medium. The personality and access of the medium has opened up a new channel for creative content marketing. Native ads sound more like genuine referral seamlessly fitting in with the rest of the content of the show, leaving audiences feeling empowered rather than annoyed. The platform is also producing brand sponsored content in a similar vein to Wes Anderson’s marketing portfolio, and predictions for brand sponsored TV shows to appear in the future. Instead of direct voice over ads at some weird high pitched register, podcasts promote native advertising such as brand the sponsored rock songs on “Back To Work” for Squarespace and Mailchimp. These innovative approaches hit key content marketing mantras: knowing your audience, adding actual value to listeners and creating content specific to the platform.