I’m obsessed with podcasts. I could write thousands of words on why I love them — and why hundreds of millions of people around the world do, too — but I think it’s more useful to provide some hard evidence to back-up my opinions.
I recently joined Acast’s Commercial Insights team in the UK, tasked with providing ammo for our global sales teams to prove to advertisers that podcasts are the right fit for their campaigns. I also oversee all brand effectiveness research, so we can show our brand and agency clients in the UK that their podcast ad campaigns worked.
Before Acast, I worked in the research team at a well-known London media agency for the best part of a decade. I’ve seen brand interest in podcasting explode during that time, but I’ve also seen plenty of skepticism — so I think it’s time to bust some myths.
Here are six of the most frequent misconceptions I’ve heard, with plenty of evidence for why they’re wrong.
1. Radio and TV have higher reach, so why would we use podcasts?”
I can’t argue with the first half of this one — it’s true. But is every ad campaign only about reach? Does reaching a wider audience automatically equal stronger recall, purchase intent and action? Not necessarily.
Podcasts have been proven to be a more engaging advertising medium than TV. A BBC study found that people in the UK were 22% more likely to remember a brand mentioned in a podcast than one mentioned in a TV ad. And data from Kantar echoes this, showing that podcast listeners are more receptive to brand messaging than most other media — second only to influencer-endorsed branded content, and beating TV, online display and social media story ads.
Furthermore, a Nielsen study found that podcast listeners have 4.4 times greater brand recall and higher purchase intent, compared with those exposed to other digital ad formats. Kantar research also shows that podcasts have been proved to be more effective than radio in shifting metrics such as favorability and purchase intent. Podcast listeners connect well with ads, and this resonance translates to strong brand growth.
Additionally, the Ofcom Podcast Survey 2021 illustrates that podcasts offer more variety and choice, with people choosing to consume this media over radio. According to this survey, 78% of people said they find it easy to find a podcast they will enjoy, while 80% said podcasts offer more choice in what to listen to than radio. 83% also said podcasts offer something they can’t get on the radio, and 87% said they like the range of content available on podcasts.
Podcasts provide an environment where consumers are more engaged and actively listening — both to the content they’ve chosen, and the advertising within it. You might reach fewer people in total than you would with a mass media campaign, but those who hear your ads are more receptive to what you have to say.
2. “People don’t listen to podcasts”
OK, we’ve agreed that reach isn’t everything. But if it is scale you’re after, podcasts have you covered on that, too. MediaTel’s Connected Consumer Survey shows Brits listened to almost 60 million hours of podcasts every week in 2021 — up 50% from two years ago, and 17 times higher than 2015.
And listenership numbers are rising every year. eMarketer forecasts there are 14.6 million podcast listeners in the UK (2.4m higher than estimates), equating to a 19.7% rise since 2020. And eMarketer expects this to increase by 2.9m listeners in 2022 — a 23% increase from pre-pandemic forecasts.
Podcasts are — and will continue to be — a fast-growing media channel among consumers, and one that brands and agencies should be adding to their media plans.
3. “People don’t listen to a full podcast episode or pay attention to the ads”
According to the MIDAS Spring report, 90% of UK podcast fans say they listen to the majority, or the whole, of a podcast episode — and they’re more likely to engage with the ads. A study by the IAB also found that 78% of podcast listeners approve of sponsorship messages because they understand these ads fund the content they love.
The IAB’s Real Living 2021: Understanding Listeners report also illustrates that podcasts are more likely to be a listener’s sole media focus. They might do something else at the same time, such as going for a walk, but they’re choosing to listen to the podcast and to give it their sole attention — listening with more purpose than they do with many other media channels.
According to Kantar Media Reactions 2021, Brits also perceive podcast ads as both better quality and more relevant.
If consumers are listening to the full length of a podcast, are engaged with both the content and the ads, and find them relevant and of high quality, it’s clear podcasts are a key media channel to tap into an engaged, attentive and receptive target audience.
4. “Consumers don’t trust podcasts”
This couldn’t be much further from the truth — and, at times, podcasts are trusted more than other media channels. According to Magna Global, 48% of UK listeners said they trust podcast hosts more than hosts of other traditional media, such as TV or radio shows, while 43% said they have a strong passion for the host of their favourite podcast — versus 34% for the actor in their favourite TV show.
YouGov Profiles 2021 data also shows that 17% of weekly podcast listeners in the UK find the information they hear to be trustworthy, with further YouGov research also illustrating that Brits are more likely to feel ‘deeply connected’ to a brand when they can hear a ‘voice’ — something brands can find in the unique voices of so many well-known podcasters.
Working with a podcaster on a sponsor read, for example, could help consumers further connect with the brand — tapping into the authenticity and trust the podcast host has built with their audience, often over the course of several years and hundreds of episodes.
5. “Podcasts aren’t mainstream enough”
Of course, podcasting — relative to established mainstream media like TV and radio — is in its infancy. But its audience is growing. Fast.
Mediatel’s Connected Screens research shows that podcast listeners in the UK skew younger, but there’s growth year-on-year for older audiences. And, when looking at listening activities, podcasts are the only media continuing to grow quarter on quarter, as other channels plateau.
There’s clear room for further growth among a wide range of age groups and, with more than two million podcasts and nearly 50 million episodes in circulation, there’s a podcast for every interest, every audience, every genre, every category — and every niche, engaged target audience a brand could ask for.
6. “We can’t measure podcast campaigns”
This is a stick podcasts have been beaten with for some time, but the industry is moving quickly to make measurement work. Acast has partnered with Podsights, for example, an ad-tech company offering advertisers the means to measure podcast campaign performance.
Podsights combines pixel data from Acast and our advertiser clients to show who received the ads, and whether they took action afterwards — such as visiting a brand’s website or app. Podsights can then provide metrics such as visits, conversion rate and cost per visit, so advertisers can determine the effectiveness of the campaign against their benchmarks.
We also run brand effectiveness studies with independent partners to measure specific campaign and brand objectives and KPIs, which helps clients determine the success of their campaign. Was it noticed? How did it impact awareness, consideration and intention?
Despite some of the common myths I’ve hopefully helped to dispel here, podcasts are deservedly being given a bigger and more influential role in media plans everywhere. The industry, with Acast leading the way, has come a long way in a relatively short space of time — and we’re just getting started.
If you’d like more podcast advertising insights, or want to learn how Acast can make podcast advertising work for your brand, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.