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The Big Business of Podcasts  

13th November 2020 

Amazingly, US podcast advertising revenues are expected to surpass $1 billion in 2021.  It’s a startling figure and demonstrates how podcasts have become big business over the past ten years or so.  It is said that almost a third of all Americans listen to podcasts on a monthly basis.  Here in the UK, the reach is lower than in the US but the Spring 2020 MIDAS Survey (Measuring Internet Delivered Audio Services) reported that over 10 million people are listening to a podcast every week in the UK.  So what has created this surge and will it continue?  What’s in it for the companies and brands who are producing, or thinking of producing, podcasts?  And what does the future hold?  Aquilanta asked three industry experts for their views.


Denize Belingy

Media PR Specialist


Andy Williams

Executive Producer, Director & Founder, Vamonos


Ruth Leonard,

Group Director,

Hello Communications Group

Why do you think podcasts have become so popular over the last ten years?


Denize Belingy: I think podcasts have become so popular for many reasons: the scope, location, ease and there is something for every interest from power tools to nuns!  The evolution has been interesting to watch.  When I first started listening, the podcast seemed to be a medium made by those with established careers, like Adam Buxton or Ricky Gervais, so I looked at it as another outlet for those with a ready-made audience.  That has changed.  Most of us have 24/7 access to iTunes and Spotify, so a podcast is as accessible.  We’re watching and listening on the go: it’s now more than just having your music library with you.  We are always looking for ways to be informed or entertained and the podcast ticks many boxes.  As a publicist, it gives me another opportunity to place talent, and offers a bit more than just "doing promo", since there’s always an additional angle, be it music, culture, mental health or books. 


Andy Williams: There is no barrier to entry.  The production costs are low.  And content, content, content.  Anything you’re interested in is out there and being discussed on a podcast.  The duration of an episode isn’t restricted by available air-time; only by the listener’s attention and patience.  Before podcasts, you’d never have had a host like Joe Rogan interviewing Kanye West for three hours.  This means that the most popular ones can deliver passionate, dedicated listeners.  So not only is a podcast cheap to produce, it can be attractive to advertisers.  For example, if you’re an advertiser who wants to get the attention of English customers with an interest in interior design you can sponsor The Great Indoors or The House Guest podcast.  It has done for radio what YouTube did for TV.  Anyone with talent and an idea can be a radio producer and host now.  And, being an audio product, a podcast is easy for people to fit around busy lives, as you can listen to it on a commute, on a run, or in the car. 


Ruth Leonard: Even only a few years ago, ‘podcast’ was a word very few of us used and we didn’t even really know what they were.  Today, they are becoming a main-stay of content for many businesses and brands looking to share their stories.  Demand for ‘on-the-go’ content is at an all-time high, and the fact podcasts lend themselves so well to a commuter, on-the-move and multi-tasking lifestyle is in my view one of the reasons they have gathered such momentum.  Even during these times when travel is restricted, podcasts are a great way of enjoying snackable content which can be picked up and put down to suit any lifestyle.  Whether as an aid to help falling asleep, a running mate, driving companion or as a distraction when doing the housework, podcasts are a great way of catching up on favourite topics whilst juggling a busy life.    


What can a company, brand or individual gain from producing podcasts?


DB: Producing your own content gives you direct access to people, partners and consumers at their convenience, an opportune way to build and create your audience.  The podcast is a great way to focus on content creation in a more engaging and personable way; it’s about giving the brand or company a voice.  There is also the opportunity for additional exposure as inevitably contributors and will promote through other mediums like Twitter. 


AW: Promotion and marketing.  A company, brand or individual can gain recognition and build awareness through a podcast.  It allows a brand to take customers behind the scenes of their business and to establish a connection through a shared love of a product category, such as Fashion and clothing.  For a company or individual, it is a way to talk directly to your customers and clients and give them valuable content. Podcasts can also be used for B2B as a way of networking, by inviting leading figures in the industry to be guests. 


RL: The fact that barriers to entry are low is probably the biggest attraction to most businesses, from both financial and physical resource perspectives.  Podcasts, by nature, lend themselves to a ‘just start it’ approach.  If a brand has a story to tell, a topic to discuss or an opinion to voice then a podcast is a great way of doing it.  No expensive set-ups are required – and it’s acceptable for even an established brand to just be getting on board now without looking late to the party. 


How do you think this trend will develop over the next 5-10 years?


DB: I think the next 5-10 years will see an orbital evolution of sorts: better tech, more spend and big investment.  I would hazard a guess that the last nine months during the coronavirus pandemic has produced quite a few! 


AW: I think it will follow a similar trajectory to the one it’s been on for the last few years.  I think it’s going to become more and more professional with bigger and bigger stars.  I think you’ll see more exclusive deals like the Joe Rogan one with Spotify where music platforms act more like traditional networks acquiring talent. 


RL: I believe the biggest changes will be in monetisation and personalisation.  Audio will continue to stand the test of time as a means of sharing news stories, and as consumers we have free social media channels to share our news.  Podcasting is likely to ‘become a thing’ at an individual level also, with brand owners having a world of advertising opportunities at their fingertips to both monetise their own content, sponsor others and reach new audiences through laser-sharp targeting.

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