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Look for the branded podcast to make a mark in 2017

While 2017 may not be counted as “The Year of Branded Podcasts,” it is certainly making its mark as podcasts continue to impact the media landscape. Digiday rolled into 2017 predicting a significant uptick in branded podcast production.

This echoes predictions and proclamations made by Adweek and Strategy in the second half of 2016.

Pointing to the GE’s Cannes Lion-winning science fiction podcast “The Message,” Digiday says branded podcasts have come “en vogue.”

“It is kind of exciting and hot right now,” Matt Turck, the chief revenue officer of Panoply told Digiday. Panapoly, which produces “The Message” and is owned by Slate, earns as much as 25 percent of its podcast revenue from custom content. Panoply has made more than 100 branded podcast episodes for more than 20 advertisers.

The list of podcast networks jumping in is certainly growing. Among those launching “brand studios” are Gimlet, Midroll and Gannett.  Digiday predicts that branded podcasting “could more than double in 2017,” although they fail to set a baseline for that growth.

In Canada, Strategy points to a pair of Canadian companies, Pacific Content and Pirate Radio, as players in the branded podcast space.

Add to that list The Antica Podcast Network, a Toronto-based operation with a half dozen great shows including Disrupting the Global Order with Janice Stein andThe Reality Check.

We work with Antica to help develop a revenue strategy. And you better believe we are watching the emergence of the branded podcast with great interest.

While the doubling of branded podcasts still represents a mere ripple across the vast ocean of branded opportunities currently surging, an increasing number of advertisers are seeing something special.

There is a unique appeal to podcasts thanks to a sense of intimacy that few other forms of media seem able to attain. You don’t need to read them, you don’t need to watch them, you don’t need to scroll or turn a page. Whether working in an office, driving home or running on a treadmill, audiences listening to podcasts, require almost no interaction. And unlike linear radio, audiences can pick and download the shows of their liking wherever and whenever they wish.

No wonder many of the best radio programs from NPR and CBC are blowing the doors off once recycled as podcasts. It’s a medium that allows programmers – and brands – to speak directly into the ear of the consumer.

“This is one of the most direct ways of reaching a consumer,” Alexa Christon, the head of media innovation at GE told Digiday.

GE’s two shows, “The Message” and “LifeAfter,” have had their episodes downloaded over six million times combined. “That’s a big audience that is saying, ‘I elect to listen to 20 minutes of branded entertainment.’ That’s a huge opportunity for a brand,” Christon said.

According to Edison Research’s “The Podcast Consumer” report, 57 million Americans listen to podcasts each month, usually on mobile devices.

 These audiences tend to be:

  • Affluent (41% earning over 75K annually)
  • Educated (78% having attended college)
  • And are pretty evenly divided between the 18 to 34 demo (38%) and 35 to 54 (34%).

In the U.S. and Canada, 21% of adults listened to a podcast at least once in the last month. 

Every branded podcast is created and negotiated differently. Some are fiction narratives; some are non-fiction. Some are round table discussions; some are interviews with experts or interesting people.

Gannett launched its podcast efforts only a few months ago, and has already locked in three different branded podcasts which will debut later this year. Meanwhile, Gimlet Creative produces “Open for Business,” in partnership with eBay.

While a small number of players are enjoying first-mover advantage in the branded space, as the market grows and evolves, new players will follow the money, including creative and media agencies.

Certainly, it doesn’t make sense just any brand to dive into the branded podcast space. The audience and brand profile must be right. And the show should provide value to listeners. In other words, if you’re interest is in moving product, there are lots of vehicles for that. But podcasts shouldn’t be one.

Podcasts are a funny business in a media world obsessed with data and targeting. Beyond the number of downloads and some macro statistics, individual podcasts have limited audience insights. That doesn’t seem to matter to many marketers when they know they’ve got the user’s ear.

Brands financing podcasts run the gamut including eBay, State farm, General Electric, Microsoft, InterContinental Hotels, Tequila Avión, HBO

If you think your brand has the right profile around which to wrap engaging a relevant content, don’t hesitate to reach out.  My coordinates are

Peter Vamos