Remember all the fuss about Serial? The podcast was instantly cool when it hit the iTunes store in late 2014.
And for good reason. Serial is produced by the people behind This American Life, and if there’s one thing those guys do well it’s tell compelling stories. So it doesn’t take a clever librarian to tell you it shows we love a good yarn.
Look at other examples. We keep buying books in the digital era and our appetite for TED Talks is almost insatiable. In fact, we’ll even excuse TED talkers for intergalactic levels of smugness simply because they tell such great stories.
Meanwhile, you’ve likely enjoyed numerous speeches, comedy routines, and conversations over the years. Invariably it’s the stories and feelings you remember, not the facts and figures.
So its no wonder the podcasting medium is successful. Podcasting, like its radio cousin, has the ability to tap the deeper narratives in life, helping us think, laugh and occasionally cry.
Here’s some promising statistics, but are they good enough?
Here are the stats to back my sentiment. CMO.com reports 46 million Americans listen to podcasts, that’s 17 percent of the population – up from nine percent in 2008. Edison Research also says weekly audio podcast consumption is growing at 25 percent year-on-year.
Yet podcasting still has a long way to go. We’ve been at this thing for a long time, and I’m surprised it isn’t a bigger deal.
When the “podfather” Adam Curry and software guru Dave Winer kickstarted the modern podcasting revolution back in 2003 the blogosphere was just winding up, as was the buzz about a media revolution.
I honestly thought podcasting would take off like wildfire. Some 12 years later it’s fair to say blogs are mainstream and podcasts are lagging.
Podcasting vies for its Share of Ear
So why the disconnect between these two alternative forms of media birthed roughly at the same time? Part of the story is what Edison Research calls “Share of Ear.” That is, how much time do we spend listening to audio sources each day – and how much of that time are we devoting to podcasts?
The research says Americans spend an average of four hours and four minutes a day consuming audio, which sounds pretty good. Keep in mind we also squeeze in social media, the odd TED Talk, pirated US TV shows, a river of cat/dog/goat videos, and more Kim Kardashian than I care to think about.
But when you break down the four hours into different forms of audio, podcasting is still a minnow. AM/FM radio takes up 56.1 percent of time, followed by “owned music” like CDs and digital music files at 17.3 percent, then comes internet radio at 11.8 percent, satellite radio at 6.4 percent, TV music channels at 5.3 percent, and finally podcasts at just 2 percent.
Well, at least it beats “other”! Actually, it’s not all that bad. There’s some great news for marketers.
Edison’s research shows that when you drill into the listening behaviour of podcasters it turns out they’re mad keen. Podcasts account for 30 percent of their total audio listening time, ahead of owned music, radio and streaming audio.
The lesson? Once you become a podcasting fan it really sticks. Loyalty and engagement with favourite podcasts is particularly high when you compare it to other media.
The big aha: podcast fans are great customers
There’s even better news to come. Podcasters listen to an average of six different podcasts, they’re typically well educated, earn more money than the general US population, are equally split between men and women, and most sit within the 18-44 demographic.
This is where things really get interesting for marketers.
A separate research study from Edison in 2012 reveals 54 percent of podcast listeners actually bought something after hearing about it on a podcast. A study by Midroll came to a similar conclusion, saying 63 percent of its listeners made a podcast advertising-influenced purchase. That’s not bad in any marketer’s book.
So why are people buying stuff after listening to podcasts? As Fast Company notes, it turns out people actually pay attention to the ads in a podcast. Listeners trust their hosts, and typically develop a close affinity for the way they think and talk. It’s a deeply personal, intimate form of media. Hosts often read out sponsor messages in a natural, sometimes funny way that creates an authentic connection between the show and the brand sponsor.
As for the ethics, most are happy to know their favourite podcasters are getting a few bucks for their efforts.
Wrap it all together and it’s a great story. Podcasts will keep growing, and consumers will keep responding to well-placed commercials in support. The question that remains is how long it will take for more marketers to discover it’s a very clever way to reach unique, affluent audiences who will likely accept a friendly call to action.
This post originally appeared on Which 50 and has been republished here with permission.