Kelly Scott Madison

The Rise of Podcasting



Podcasts are starting to emerge as an important audio format for marketers seeking engaged and dedicated audiences

Through recent years, marketers have largely viewed podcast advertising as a low supporting piece to dynamic audio campaigns. However, podcasts are starting to make a dent in their longstanding mold, thanks in part to the breakout show Serial that aired in late 2014. The hit series was produced in collaboration with NPR affiliate, WBEZ Chicago where Serial creators previously worked on the well-known show This American Life. Podcast exposure heightened after this 12-episode sensation achieved an iTunes record as the fastest to reach five million streams. This feat demonstrated the potential reach of podcasts and solidified the medium as a serious advertising consideration for marketers and sponsors alike.

This year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) held the first-ever Podcast Upfront Showcase, focusing heavily on the power of podcasts and thevalue of its audience. Additionally, NPR announced new higher-profile sponsors for Serial, such as Target and AT&T. Both represent a step up spend-wise from their previous sponsor Mailchimp, a mid-sized email marketing company.

Origins and evolutions

Unbeknownst to many, podcasts have been around for more than a decade,with elements of its own name outdating itself. The term “Podcast” was actually derived from a combination of “iPod” and “broadcasting,” and originated from Apple’s iTunes version 4.9, which provided native support for podcasts. Since its 2005 debut, podcasts have showcased a subtle but steady exposure growth year-over-year (with a one year exceptionin 2013), and have officially outlived their original partner, the classic iPod.

In addition to Serial’s success, the consistent rise of podcast awareness and penetration can be attributed to numerous advances over the years. According to NPR and Edison Research, more than 75 percent of podcast listeners tune in at home or while commuting, with the majority listening on a portable media device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Mainstream adoption of the smartphone allows consumers to seamlessly downloadand manage their podcast usage on a personal device. The emergence of in-app streaming services installed in cars also allows podcast consumers to tune in on the go, and provides an easier barrierof entry for testing out new, pre-inserted programs.

A particularly defining feature of audio storytelling is its audience. Historical data supports defining these users asprincipally loyal and passionate. According to the 2015 Public Radio PodcastListener Survey by Edison Research, the average weekly podcast user consumes...

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