This is an exciting and important inflection point in the audio-on-demand evolution. Technology has made it increasingly easier for consumers to listen to podcasts. Fifty seven million people listened to a podcast in the past month, and Edison Research reports that this figure represents a 24 percent increase over 2015, the highest increase since the study’s inception almost 10 years ago.
Equally impressive is the quality of the audience, which is educated, affluent and completely engaged with podcasts. As an example, 73 percent of NPR podcast users hold a more positive opinion of a company when they find out it supports NPR podcasts, and more than 80 percent of NPR podcast users take action as a result of hearing sponsors in NPR Podcasts (NPR Podcast User Survey, March 2016). It’s worth noting that positive audience sentiment towards sponsors is occurring when their messages are somewhat muted due to our public media standards compared with those of commercial media.
Research by Edison reveals that podcast listeners gravitate more towards media that are either commercial free or have far fewer commercial messages than traditional TV, radio and print. As a result, the reachability of that slice of media consumer is becoming ever more limited and podcasts represent an effective way to tap into this demographic.
Quality, scale and measurement are all important to sponsors of podcasts.
NPR was one of the first in the podcasting space, which makes sense given NPR’s heritage of great audio journalism and storytelling, as well as technological innovation. Bryan Moffett, now the General Manager of NPR’s sponsorship team (NPM), was on the team that launched NPR into podcasting ten years ago and is one of the most active and knowledgeable executives in the podcasting space. He and other members of public media have been instrumental in forging measurement standards and best practices for an industry on the verge of explosive growth, but lacking uniformity. As part of the Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Digital Audio Committee, this group is now working to refine and expand these standards for the entire industry, which will lay a strong foundation for continued growth.
Recently, Podtrac launched the first-ever podcast industry ranker that compares audiences across a significant number of the largest podcasts in the industry.
“Podcasting has enjoyed steady audience growth over the past 10 years,” Moffett says. “’Serial’ certainly raised the profile of podcasting, but I think the industry is primed for explosive growth. Podtrac’s ranker provides one necessary ingredient -- a third-party measure of scale. The IAB’s Digital Audio Committee is focused on creating standards and awareness for the space. Finally, large platforms like Spotify, Pandora, Google and Audible are embracing podcasting in a significant way, putting content in front of huge audiences. It’s a perfect storm and a great opportunity for all of public media.”
With the arrival of Podtrac’s industry ranker, podcasting becomes a more transparent industry for sponsorship. For NPR, this means increased revenue potential and the opportunity to launch new content, expand delivery platforms such as NPR One and audience growth. And for sponsors, it’s another opportunity to reach NPR’s engaged, curious audience.
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