Move over celebrities and social media mavens; podcasters are the newest influencers. As more Americans flock to podcasts, their favorite hosts are an important source of information and recommendations, creating new brand opportunities.
At a time when the best endorsers can move products with a simple mention, podcasters carry considerable sway. In a new report by the Media Trials division of MAGNA, which is the intelligence and investment arm of IPG Mediabrands, and Vox Media, a top podcast publisher, 75 percent of consumers said podcasters are more influential than Hollywood stars or social media personalities.
Podcasters' influence correlates with a steady rise in podcast consumption. According to Edison Research, about half of Americans listen to podcasts monthly, up from 43% in 2021. By 2025, an estimated 58 percent of Americans will be monthly listeners. With that growth, podcasts are moving from a niche experimental buy into a mainstream component of a well-balanced media plan.
"The trends in consumption are catching everyone's eye," noted MAGNA's Executive Vice President of Intelligence, Kara Manatt. "Our clients are starting to understand the value of the listener and the value of the engagement with the medium and the podcasters."
With more than two million available podcast episodes (and counting), listeners can find them on nearly any topic or passion. From true crime to sports to self-help, audiences find interesting and relevant content and listen on their schedule.
Even the way podcast fans listen is more intimate than other media. Users stream via earbuds or over smart speakers. They listen when they're driving, running, gardening or shopping. Podcasts are portable and hands-free.
"Listeners find it critical that they make time to spend with their favorite podcasters," Manatt said.
Podcast hosts build bonds with their audiences. They deliver news and information, share their passions and reveal details about themselves, transforming them from a nameless voice into a trusted, beloved companion. That relationship carries weight: 75% of listeners say podcasts are their primary source of information on a topic.
"The audiences get to know the podcasters. They're not just covering something they love; they're starting to influence other parts of their listeners' lives," said Edwin Wong, Senior Vice President for Insights and Innovation at Vox Media.
Listeners learn from their favorite podcasts. According to the MAGNA report, 90 percent of listeners said podcasts have made them more open to new ideas and perspectives, and 77 percent said they've made better decisions based on what they've learned from podcasts.
Hosts play an essential role in that process, with 50 percent saying they've made self-improvement decisions based on information they've learned from a podcaster and 38 percent saying they've made business or financial decisions based on podcasters' input.
"The effect is: As a result of listening, I'm not only getting smarter, but I'm also becoming better versions of myself," Wong said.
Thanks to these high levels of trust and deep connections, listeners are open to endorsements and ads from brand sponsors. Trusted hosts are authentic, so listeners are all ears when they suggest a product or service, and they respond favorably. When brands align with these hosts, they enjoy a halo effect.
"We're at a turning point, and it's important to talk about a podcaster as an influencer," Wong noted.
Podcasts offer more brands and more creative freedom. Unlike traditional ad breaks, hosts can talk for 15-30 seconds, or longer. They mention a brand multiple times through an episode and relay their experience driving a car or eating a sandwich. Brands can take over an entire episode.
As brands consider how to advertise on podcasts, MAGNA's study found that listeners have some strong preferences. They like ads with substance and don't want their shows cluttered with them They prefer when a brand sponsors an entire episode and advertisements that offer helpful information about a product or service.
Rather than being intrusive or interruptive, "Brand messages are part of the soundtrack of the content and the experience," Manatt said.
Time is on the advertisers' side. Podcast listeners are locked in compared to social media and digital media, where users rapidly scroll through their feeds and toggle between apps. Many shows run for 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or even an hour. There's plenty of time to deliver thoughtful messages to an engaged audience. With podcasts, time equals engagement.
When listeners like what they hear, they respond favorably. The study reported that 68 percent of listeners said they pay more attention to podcast ads than spots on other media. Additionally, three-quarters of listeners surveyed said they have learned about new products and services from podcast ads.
Increasingly, marketers are using podcast ads to drive conversion, Manatt explained. MAGNA reported that half of the listeners said they had tried a product or service after hearing a brand message on a favorite podcast. Hosts can share a vanity url or an exclusive promo code that drives sales and endorsements.
The bottom line is that podcasters are a powerful asset to help brands elevate their marketing game.
"People get excited about podcasts like no other topic," Manatt concluded. "They love to talk about their favorite podcasters and experiences."
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The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet.