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The Podcast is dead, long live the Podcast...

18 November 2019
Listening sign

In 2005 the (American) Oxford Dictionary named “podcast” its word of the year, at the same time Apple launched podcasts on iTunes which was only 12 months after Podcasting (universally credited Adam Curry and Dave Winer) was born. Podcasts were new, innovative and a product of the digital revolution.

Since then we have witnessed unprecedented media innovation and Podcasts were somewhat left behind. That is until the last couple of years where they have been experiencing a renaissance which has put them firmly back on the media horizon, from both a consumer and an advertiser’s perspective. And not only are they back but they are currently in the midst of a boom which shows no signs of slowing down. But why is this and how long will it last?

Podcasts predate Facebook, YouTube & Twitter but as technological advancements gathered pace during the middle of the last decade, the media landscape became unrecognisable as it desperately tried to keep up. Podcast’s started to lag behind other media platforms and became more niche especially when compared to mass media outlets and the explosion of digital media.

This has now changed, and it is estimated 7 million people currently listen to Podcasts each week in the UK alone. This has more than doubled over the last 5 years and a further increase of nearly 60% compared to 2 years ago. Half of those now listening to podcasts had never listened to one before – this is quite a growth spike and one which shows no signs of slowing.

The most popular genres include entertainment, comedy, news and sport – all of which have over 40% of the traffic that tune in each week and the demographic of a UK podcast listener has an average age of 39, is most likely to be ABC1 with an even gender split. There is also a steep rise in the number of 15-24 year olds who are embracing podcasts.

High quality recordings, an increase of publishers into the market and easily accessible platforms have all contributed to the boom. The changing media landscape has also played its part. Look how we now consume TV compared to 15 years ago. How often do you watch a tv programme when it is actually aired on tv? On demand media consumption sums up the new generation’s attitude to media and this has spread to all generations as we embrace the new media culture. We all want to consume media when it fits into our schedules, not when broadcasters decide. Society is changing and so many of us profess to having less time but more interests and this is how we keep up with our media consumption.

It’s not just our changing media habits that have driven the demand for podcasts. Content is of higher quality, easier to download and there are less barriers to entry for would be publishers. This has provided variety in what we are able to listen to. Content has also become more mainstream and there has been a big resurgence of audio over the past decade as well with 90% of Brits tuning into radio each week

“Podcasts are transforming the ways people listen to audio content…It’s fantastic to see how UK radio broadcasters as well as newspapers and other media companies are embracing podcasting and offering more choice…”

Ian Macrae – Ofcom’s Director of Market Intelligence

Other trends have helped the podcast revival, and these shouldn’t be understated. We have all witnessed the growth of short-form content. Tweets, gif’s, blogs, snap chat, the list is endless, but long-form content is back on point. Consumers want more engaged and authoritative content, and this is what is currently being lapped up. The podcast with the most downloads worldwide, The Joe Rogan Experience is regularly 2 hours long and receives up to 16m downloads per month. That is a huge amount of time to keep your listener engaged and one that advertisers are picking up on.

Brands are savvy to the rise of the podcast and are increasingly adding them to their marketing mix, and why wouldn’t they? Here we have a totally engaged audience that can tune into a podcast almost anywhere and advertisers who apply the right context and understand their audience are now reaping the rewards of increased sales and brand awareness.

The huge increases in advertising revenues being spent, £26b in the UK alone mean that the consumer is king, and advertisers are starting to take notice. Advertising revenues for podcasts in 2018 were estimated at £45m which is a drop in the ocean compared to the total UK ad spend. However, it’s year on year share has grown by +30% which is more than any other advertising media, including search and online. What’s more it is predicted to rise by a further 22% this year and a further 20% in 2020 topping the growth charts once again.

And although Podcasts are never likely to be an advertiser’s number one choice of media and the numbers are unlikely to match those of the finales of shows like Friends or blockbuster series such as Game of Thrones, they are proving to be very credible and deserve to be added to the advertising schedule.

The most popular platforms for listening to podcasts are YouTube, Apple & Spotify. All platforms that have seen unprecedented growth in the last decade. Therefore, should we really be that surprised that the podcast is making a comeback? Apple launched podcasts for the iPhone in 2013 and it’s no coincidence that the current boom started so soon after.

In fact, it is reasonable to assume that as the platforms which house podcasts continue to grow so will the podcast. Is it this that has really caused the rise in popularity or is it the trend for consumers to move towards easily accessible long-form content or the variety and ease of entry into this market that is fueling the resurgence? Most likely it’s a combination of all of the above. In the meantime, if you are looking for somewhere to spend your next advertising pound, or you have an hour or so to while away on your commute home, you may just want to join the Podcast revolution. Could it be that 15 years after the first download, the podcast is finally coming of age?