Audio Execs Reveal Why They are Bullish on Podcasting

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Following Podcast Movement 2018 in July -- billed as the world’s largest gathering of podcasters -- media and marketing executives have shown themselves to be bullish on the medium’s potential to move beyond early adopters and into the mainstream.  MediaVillage caught up with four audio veterans for their thoughts on the industry:  Bryan Moffett, Chief Operating Officer of NPR subsidiary National Public Media; Christina Albee, Chief Marketing Officer for Westwood One and Cumulus Media; Roddy Swearngin, President of Content for Art19, and Steven Goldstein, Chief Operating Officer of Amplifi Media and Co-Founder of SonicAi. Each one spoke about podcasting’s evolution, the challenges ahead and their favorite shows.

E.B. Moss:  What key learning did you take away from Podcast Movement?

Bryan Moffett:  That we still have a long way to go in maturing this medium, despite steady audience growth.  [Senior Vice President, Consumer Insights for Edison Research] Tom Webster challenged the podcast industry in his keynote address to get 100 million people listening to podcasts each week.  Right now, Edison reports 48 million do, so Tom made the difference of 52 million more a rallying cry.  The good news is, Edison reports 180 million people are aware of podcasting, so this should be doable.  I think as an industry we can make real progress on that front in the next 12 months.

Christina Albee(pictured right):  Aside from the overwhelming passion and authentic dedication to storytelling, content creators are ready to be heard.  There is business to be done in podcasting, and the potential to make serious money is here and now for any podcast show that connects with an audience.  Broadcasters can help make this happen, while respecting the art.

Steven Goldstein: Seventeen percent of Americans are listening to podcasts weekly, and that’s great, but the growth is surprisingly slow given how much podcasting is talked about.  So, what about the other 83%?  We have talked about the friction of discovery, downloading and learning about podcasts.  It’s still not so easy for many.

Roddy Swearngin:  I walked away from Podcast Movement really thrilled by the energy and momentum in the space.  It's fascinating to see the excitement grow year after year.  Google and Spotify getting serious about podcasting was probably the headline of the event for me.

Moss:  What’s the biggest change in the air for podcasting and audio in general?

Moffett(pictured left):  There’s a tremendous sense of shared energy across the whole industry.  I’ve been to all five Podcast Movement conferences, and the energy and excitement were definitely more palpable this year.  Everyone understands the opportunity around podcasting.  The medium feels poised for significant growth on all fronts.

Albee:  Measurement is a key issue.  We need to develop an industry standard.  Also, the medium of podcasting is experiencing dramatic increases in audience and advertiser demand.  This spike is fueling a fast-growing marketplace around the space, and general interest in other forms of audio such as radio, streaming and voice AI technologies.  A byproduct of all this change is audio has never been hotter or more in demand by listeners and marketers.

Swearngin(pictured right):  New measurement standards and shortly thereafter actual listening data will solidify the existing podcast advertising marketplace andattract more brands and dollars to the space.

Goldstein:  It is becoming a business, with many content providers and tech companies now on the scene.  So, it is moving beyond the hobbyist phase, although there are many of those.  

Moss:  What’s your biggest piece of advice for sponsors or advertisers embracing digital audio/podcasting?

Albee: Find a podcast host that relates to your brand and let them tell your story in their voice.  As a marketer, I understand how hard it is to let go of well-tuned message points but put trust in the host.  They know their listeners absorb what they say very carefully and trust that it’s authentic.  Podcasting is akin to a conversation between friends … 98% of podcast listeners say they listen to the ads and one in five podcast listeners recall an ad two weeks or more after hearing it.

Goldstein:  It is a good time to experiment.  Our client Trader Joe’s did and connected with their shoppers in way they never could have before with traditional 60-second audio ads.  This can be a new form of marketing for the right brands.  

Moffett:  Ask the right questions about metrics.  As more publishers and networks adopt the IAB’s newest guidelines, advertisers should understand how download windows affect what they get and how they can vary publisher to publisher.  The IAB’s guidelines are the best common definition of a download available right now, and implementation of these guidelines is improving the quality of the media for advertisers.

Moss:  What’s yourfavorite or most-recommended podcast?  Or the genre you most prefer?

Albee:  I am loving “Ear Hustle” and “In The Dark.”

Goldstein(pictured left):  I like the news genre and listen to ABC’s new daily morning podcast “Start Here” which is a good 20-minute digest of five top stories, andThe New York Times’ The Daily.  Both are great and both are very different.

Moffett: Lately I’ve been binging on NPR’s “Planet Money Indicator,” which is available as a podcast and a flash briefing on Alexa.

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