There are many signs that podcasts are about to hit the mainstream. Now some of you reading this may be wondering what I'm talking about here because you may be thinking podcasts are already immensely popular.
Our company has been especially supportive of podcasting, underscored by our participation the last two years in the Podcast Movement conference. We also see podcasting progress in our Techsurveys, especially in the public radio sector where the platform has continued to grow in popularity.
And when you look at this chart, you can see definite signs that podcast listening is achieving an impressive degree of regularity – that is, if you're a glass half full person.
But if you're a glass half empty type of soul, you're staring at the big red piece – people who say they never listen to podcasts. That's nearly half our massive nationwide sample of web users (a group that would seem to be logically predisposed to digital content). Yup, a lot of people who have nothing to do with on-demand programming.
They think “Serial” is breakfast food, they think “WTF” is a sassy expression, and they think Gimlet is something you drink. They may watch on-demand television, but they have not found the path to access and enjoy audio podcasts.
Some blame the name “podcast” itself, while others point the finger at the still clunky way podcasts have to be accessed. Some believe a Google version of Apple's Podcasts app could break the space wide open. Others say it's just a matter of time before Apple releases its long-awaited metrics that could unleash millions in sponsorship dollars.
And despite it all, podcast growth remains steady, but still very slow. So, what's the catalyst that can make the podcast go mainstream – both in popularity and among advertisers?
It could come down to…
That's correct. Oprah may be telegraphing her media bets. It was announced yesterday she sold a majority stake in her network OWN to her partner – Discovery – who will now control a majority interest in the company.
This doesn't mean Oprah no longer believes in television. But she may be placing her substantial chips on new platforms – like podcasting. Oprah converted her “Super Soul Sunday” program on television into a podcast last summer.
But despite Oprah's massive brand, the podcast didn't cash in until OWN connected with Midroll – a familiar name to both radio and podcast pros, owned by E.W. Scripps. They now market and rep her podcasts, and the monetization process suggests strong advertiser acceptance.
In fact, a recent Adweek article – “How Oprah's Podcast Sold All Its 2017 Advertising Slots in Just 24 Hours” – breaks down the wild success of Oprah's new podcast venture. And her “formula” is something that most people in radio know well.
- Get your biggest name and build around her
- Affiliate with an established podcasting host/marketer
- Use live reads to support sponsors
- Develop success stories
In the article, Midroll's head of sales, Korri Kolsea shares a secret that every successful radio station intuitively knows:
“Oprah's name, and anything produced by OWN, is so well-known and also trusted. Some brands have been hesitant to embrace the podcast space, but this type of content eliminated that hurdle of trust for them.”
Shockingly, they have discovered that live reads by the hosts of the podcasts (not even Oprah) resonate best with listeners. And Midroll uses sales success stories to prove a great audience response.
The Adweek story showcases ThirdLove, an intimate apparel brand, who says OWN podcasts are generating four times more action from these ads. Their head of marketing, Julie Zischke, points out that being first-in to a big-name podcast gives her brand great presence – much more than they'd garner from traditional or even social ad platforms.
Now, you may be thinking your company doesn't have an Oprah you can simply build around. But chances are you may have the next best thing, especially in your local market.
KQRS morning icon and now successful podcaster, Tom Barnard, has been dancing the same dance in the Twin Cities. His growing network of shows is leveraged on his flagship podcast and his massive brand. Tom has made significant investments in his venture, but it revolves around the power of his name, cred, and reputation for being a consistently great entertainer. Yes, like Oprah.
But perhaps the biggest lesson from Oprah's foray into podcasting revolves around the lemming nature of the advertising business. Sometimes, all it takes is one big name – nationally or locally – to stimulate interest from advertisers and marketers hungry for the next big thing.
OWN's SVP and head of sales, Kate Mitchell, sums up the “philosophy” of her network's podcast ad model when it came to advertiser participation:
“They said, ‘if you guys are there, maybe we should start being there, too.'”
Glass real full.
The Podccast Movement conference is in Philadelphia on July 23-26, and Jacobs Media will be playing a major role once again. Info here.