The Rise (and Rise) of Branded Podcasts
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Are podcasts the new blogs? Judging by the way brands and publishers are doubling down on podcasts, it seems like we may have already crossed over into the next content frontier.
For years, listeners have tuned into podcasts to hear crime anthologies and pop culture analysis, but podcasts are no longer a niche corner of the content market controlled by NPR, they’re going mainstream with the help of major brands. Every brand, regardless of vertical, is endlessly concerned with developing new strategies for carving out audience connections. In this age of content overload, brands have the unenviable task of determining how to create content that actually cuts through all of the noise on the internet.
With more content to consume via blogs, editorial websites, social platforms, YouTube, etc., internet audiences have less patience for material that is not engaging or immersive. Many consumers don’t have the time (or will or energy) to read long-form articles and essays. Instead, they’d rather see, or hear, the subject matter being presented for them. As a result, podcast consumption is on the rise. Entrepreneurs, especially, are voraciously consuming podcasts as a means of gleaning new ideas and inspiration for business solutions.
According to a recent Edison Research study, an estimated 67 million people have listened to a podcast in the past month.
Like the blogging boom that came before it, the beauty of podcasts lies in their inherent accessibility. In theory, anyone can produce a podcast and amplify their story. But as the podcast landscape becomes more saturated and entangled, taking the approach of simply recording and hoping for the best will not suffice.
Large organizations, including eBay and GE, are not riding the podcast wave lightly. The reason why their branded podcasts, Open for Business and The Message, respectively, have achieved such praise and success is because these organizations made the decision to partner with experienced podcast producers to get it right. It would have been easy enough for GE to simply set up its own audio initiative in-house and stake its claim in this corner of the content market. But GE didn’t want to produce a podcast for the sake of producing a podcast, it wanted to leverage this medium as a way of bringing a new dimension to the GE brand identity and, ultimately, breathing new life into the company.
By partnering with proven audio storytellers, GE was able to rely on Panoply’s expertise in creating a narrative that not only supports that unique medium, but also challenges GE to explore new ways to tell a story and engage an audience. With the help of Panoply, GE was able to deliver a new-age sci-fi anthology, reminiscent of War of the Worlds that successfully attracts audiences without overt promotion.
Understand your audience.
Podcasts are giving brand marketers the opportunity to think and create outside of the box. However, just because this growing medium is expanding the parameters of branded storytelling, it does not mean that brands can abandon their identities altogether for the sake of telling an interesting story. The only way in which branded podcasts work is when there is a perfect marriage of brand voice and story.
As a digital market and auction place that has helped many earn side incomes, eBay understands that its users and followers are interested in side hustle and entrepreneurial success stories. Its podcast, Open for Business, connects with eBay's target audience because it explores real stories of what it takes to open a business and bring entrepreneurial dreams into fruition. The content is informative and inspirational, but it is also highly relevant to eBay’s core demographic. The company made the choice not to just stamp its name on a knockoff version of Serial because they knew that type of content would be too disconnected from eBay’s corporate identity.
If media analysis and patterns can be trusted, then we’ve likely only just began to uncover the power of podcasts for brands. In fact, industry experts predict that branded podcasts will have doubled by the close of 2017. When executed correctly, podcasts enable organizations to think beyond their current storytelling pillars, and expound on new ways to forge deeper audience connections. But before you invest in new audio equipment and tease your production to your current audience base, you would be wise to follow in the footsteps of the brands that have gotten podcasting right, by taking the time to align with experts and explore content ideas and frameworks that actually relate to your core demographic.