Here at Social Communications, we’re firm believers in the power of podcasting as a marketing tool for our clients, and as an exciting and ever-growing medium for sharing ideas. It’s why we have a dedicated podcast production service, with a team that has over a decade’s experience of creating, producing and presenting podcasts, supporting our clients in getting their message out in this thriving digital space.

Strategic podcast consultancy 4DC have recently released a report titled A-List(en)ers: The Power of UK Podcasting. Based on proprietary research into over 3,000 UK-based podcast listeners, the report explores trends in both listening habits, and wider purchasing habits, to build a picture of just who listens to podcasts in 2019, and how effective they might be as a marketing channel.

Here are a selection of our top takeaways from the report.

Podcasting continues to grow and thrive

A decade and a half since Ben Hammersley coined the phrase “podcast” for online radio in a Guardian article, the medium still feels like it’s yet to reach its apex. We may have been describing each successive year as a boom for podcasts since some time in the late 2000s, but still they keep on getting bigger and bigger. According to Ofcom, 5.9m adults in the UK listened to podcasts in 2018 – compared with 3.2m in 2013. Year on year growth of that figure is projected to hit 15% for 2019.

Podcast listeners like to buy stuff

It’s one of the key hooks of the report that podcast listeners are a demographic who engage with things, and who have purchase power. There are some remarkable figures for the amounts spent on a range of products by podcast listeners compared with their non-listener counterparts, particularly among millennials.

The report also notes that Gen Z – the 16-24 audience – may have a smaller gap in spending between listeners and non-listeners, but that gap is still pronounced enough to show that this elusive audience can be at its most valuable when engaged with podcasts.

Podcasts are a personal experience

A whopping 90% of listeners enjoy podcasts alone, and 51% do so while commuting. The most popular listening device is, unsurprisingly, the smartphone or MP3 player, at 77%. All of this adds up to podcasts being an almost uniquely individually engaging experience, and accounts for the direct connection that listeners feel with their podcasts.

Comedy and sport dominate the genre

Podcasts based around comedy – including the popular subgenre of “comedians interviewing other comedians” – dominate the charts of most popular genres across almost every demographic. Other popular subject areas include sport, and – despite the inherent issues in licensing actual recordings for podcasts – music.

Does this focus on entertainment and sport mean that podcasts aren’t the field for business-related brands to enter? Not necessarily. Podcasts about news, politics, society, culture and technology all also score highly for certain demographics. Find a relevant connection to those fields, and even if you’re talking about your work in a more specific space, you can align yourself with the podcasting zeitgeist. What’s more, you should never underestimate the appeal of a podcast to a niche, targeted audience.

Podcast descriptions may be more important than you think

The best podcast in the world is worthless if it doesn’t actually find any listeners. Unsurprisingly, it’s word of mouth and recommendations that are most likely to draw people to a podcast – but perhaps more unexpectedly, 70% of survey respondents cited “the description of the podcast is engaging” as an important factor. This compares with only 50% for the podcast’s rating score, 45% for “if I have heard of the podcast presenter” and 40% for “if the podcast is connected to a brand I trust”.

It’s clear that taking the time to craft a well-written and engaging description for your podcast and its episodes can be vitally important in attracting listeners – not just a quick, last job that should be done before publication with little thought given.

The power of advertising directly on podcasts remains unclear

Coinciding with 4DC’s report on listener habits, a study of advertising revenue in podcasts was released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PwC. The headline, as Forbes outlines , is that while growth continues, it “has peaked and is slowing down”.

For many brands and businesses, though, the value of a podcast isn’t just as a direct money maker in its own right. Rather, a podcast can be a valuable investment in terms of building and promoting a brand, pushing thought leadership, and positioning a company in the desired spaces.

It’s not all bad news for podcast advertisers, either, with 4DC’s report asserting that host-read adverts, in particular, have a strong level of recall and engagement for listeners, even proving more effective than TV and radio ads among some demographics.

Smart speakers are a potential waiting to be tapped

Lots of people in the UK listen to podcasts. Lots of people in the UK own smart speakers. And yet, those two audiences don’t seem to overlap much at the moment, with 4DC citing a RAJAR report that just 3% of UK listeners currently tune into podcasts on a smart speaker.

This is perhaps because, as the report makes clear elsewhere, podcast listening remains largely a solo activity. But is there scope for growth in podcasts that, like, radio, work for listeners in communal spaces? If podcast content that fits that kind of routine can grow, then as 4DC put it, “smart speaker penetration could turn podcasting… from a solo endeavour into a team sport”.

Podcasts remain incredibly engaging

As a podcaster who is extremely interested and invested in the medium’s potential, there’s a lot to take heart from in the conclusions 4DC draw about its effectiveness. Podcasts simply don’t suffer the same drop-off in engagement over duration that the much-more-widely-touted video does. According to Edison’s report The Podcast Consumer – 2019, 93% of listeners to a podcast will pass its halfway point (an average of around 20 minutes), whereas 4DC compare this with a drop to below 50% for the same amount of time for video.

Online video doubtless gets in front of more eyes than podcasts do ears – but the difference with podcasts is that when they get there, they stay there. And when it comes to engaging with an audience, fostering trust and loyalty and ultimately delivering ROI, surely that’s incredibly important.

If you’re interested in exploring further what podcasting could do for you and your brand, feel free to get in touch with us.