Hot on the heels of SXM Media's rebrand as the ultimate destination for all your audio ad needs, comes the Edison Research via the 2021 SXM Media Podcast Report, loaded with insights both numerical and qualitative, like this fabulous quote from Oprah herself: "Podcasts are exploding… because podcasts have that ability to meet people right where they are in their daily lives -- and in such a unique and immersive experience." So, where is that "right where they are," both geographically and temporally?
While conventional wisdom might place most podcast listeners in urban centers, new listeners, in particular, are coming from states like Louisiana, New Mexico and South Carolina. Oregon topped the charts for most hours listened per year, followed by Alaska. "There's quite a bit of geographic diversity here," says Paul Riismandel, Senior Director of Marketing & Insights at SXM Media.
Temporally, it looks like Gen Z has discovered the joy of podcast listening: new podcast listeners are 52 percent more likely to be between the ages of 18 and 24. "New listeners -- people who've been consuming podcasts for less than a year -- are younger and more multicultural than the average," Riismandel explains. "They're looking for shows that speak to them and their lived experience."
Often, these listeners find what Riismandel dubs a "gateway show" -- a podcast that serves as their entry to the genre. Riismandel offers up the example of "I Weigh with Jameela Jamil" as a common gateway show. The show itself is fairly new, and a big chunk of its listeners hadn't listened to a podcast before encountering Jamil's.
"Once listeners get into podcasts, they'll seek out more," Riismandel adds. "That entry point is crucial – every listener has their first podcast."
And what of the shows themselves? Not every podcast features advertising -- some are supported purely by donations. But of the top 17,800 podcasts, 44 percent are monetized with advertising. While those ads may not reach every person who listens to podcasts, that is a huge piece of the audience pie. Even if you just look at the 300-plus podcasts that advertise with Stitcher exclusively, those shows reach almost 25 percent of the 116 million monthly podcast listeners.
These shows reach some pretty unreachable ears, too: The majority of podcast listeners ignore just about every other kind of ad -- social ads, TV, web display. But 77 percent listen to podcast ads, and nine out of 10 say they took an action after hearing a podcast ad.
SXM Media's Podcast Report also gives some clarity about what ad formats work in which contexts. Riismandel and his team ran an ad effectiveness study. They tested 15-, 30-, and 60-second ads created by SXM Media's Studio Resonate for Xfinity xFi.
For lower-funnel objectives, the 60-second spot is indeed king, confirming Riismandel's hypothesis. Perhaps the most surprising result, though, was how well 15-second ads performed for top-of-funnel objectives. "I expected them to perform well but thought the longer creatives might edge out the :15 across the board," Riismandel says. "But the :15s were on par with the :60s."
So, what does this effectiveness mean for advertisers?
Podcast inventory, particularly for the most popular shows, is extremely limited. Riismandel says that by quantifying the effects of ad formats that were thought to be less effective, advertisers now have more options. If a 60-second spot isn't available, but the advertiser is looking for brand awareness and recall, a 15-second will get the job done.
"This provides advertisers with strong options for building a campaign," Riismandel says. Better options, better results, and a better listener experience: all part of the SXM Media ethos.
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