Your top 5 podcasting questions answered

Bryce Crosswell
By Bryce Crosswell | 6 October 2022
Bryce Crosswell. Image: Supplied

Bryce Crosswell, Group Sales Lead, Victoria at Acast

Before Acast, I spent almost a decade of my career in the world of out-of-home advertising, so making the switch from amore traditional medium to an emerging one like podcasting has been quite the change. It has been a time full of questions, as brands look to better understand this new channel during what has been an epic growth period.

According to The Infinite Dial Australia 2022, 40% of the Australian population now listen to podcasts each month. And, while we don’t have more hours in the day, Aussies are now dedicating more than seven hours of their week to consuming podcasts (up by an impressive two hours from 2021) — something that’s easily done while I’m walking my dog Kenny and feeding my obsession with Ted Talks Daily.

While consumption is certainly on the rise, podcasting is still a greatly undervalued medium when looking at consumption versus ad spend. In fact, according to the 2021 WARC Global Ad Trends report, podcasts have the biggest investment gap — while podcasts are forecasted to attract $1.5bn in advertising spend worldwide in 2022, that figure needs to be 27 times higher ($41.56bn) to match daily consumption.

So, as consumption continues to grow, we need to rethink the portion of the media pie that’s put aside for podcasting. To help with advertiser confidence, I’ve answered five of the most common questions I’m asked as podcasting continues to establish itself as a key channel for brands.

“Does podcast advertising actually work?”

Without a doubt the question I get asked the most, but here’s the good news: The industry is moving quickly to make measurement work, and Acast has consistently been at the forefront.

We’ve partnered with leading attribution platforms that allow advertisers and publishers to better measure advertising performance. These platforms provide advertisers with metrics such as site visits, conversation rates and cost per visit, helping determine the effectiveness of a campaign against their own benchmarks.

But what about the return on investment from a podcast advertising campaign? Acast conducted a study during 2019 and 2020, in partnership with OMD and Spotify in Sweden, that reviewed the return on ad spend by media channel and product, specifically looking at long- and short-term impact. Podcasting finished first in both tests, with audio ads driving the best short-term objectives and native (host-read integration) driving the best long-term results. 

We’ve also seen huge success through brand effectiveness studies with independent partners to measure specific campaign and brand KPIs. National Australia Bank (NAB) has been an early adopter in podcast advertising, using the channel to great success, and recently ran a study for one of its business products which saw:

  • 64% of people who heard the ad indicate that they’d likely contact NAB if they were to seek business support, demonstrating 23% lift in purchase intent compared to non podcast listeners (43%)
  • A 27% lift in targeted reach, highlighting podcasts as a viable, contextually relevant environment for this campaign
  • A high campaign liking among podcast listeners (83%),9% higher than the global benchmark.

Mark Tzintzis, NAB Enterprise Lead at Mindshare Melbourne, said: “We were incredibly excited to partner with Acast to bring this campaign to life in the podcasting space. Podcasts have become an increasingly important channel in not only the audio ecosystem but the entire channel mix for NAB. For NAB Business specifically, the fact that we could align our message to contextually relevant business podcasts meant that we were truly able to reach the right people with the right message at scale in a proven lean-in environment. This was pleasingly quantified by the brand lift study as well.”

“How can we reach people at scale with podcasts?”

Relative to other more established mediums such as TV and radio, podcasting is still considered to be in its infancy — but, as we’ve seen, its audience is growing. And it’s growing fast.

Acast alone now hosts more than 66,000 podcasts — a number that sat at 30,000 when I first joined the business in October 2021, and that has grown by 20,000 in the last quarter alone. And it’s not just the number of podcasts growing. Between April and June our listens grew 41% compared to the same period in 2021.

So, if it’s scale you’re after, podcasts can now well and truly play in this space.

The PWC Australian Entertainment & Media Outlook 2022-2026 notes: “Australia’s Podcast sector continues to grow significantly, driven by ongoing expansion to the listener base and diverse content library.” We couldn’t agree more. With more than two million podcasts and nearly 50 million episodes floating around the podcast ecosystem, there is truly a podcast for every interest and a podcast to suit every brand.

At Acast, we’re constantly adapting our advertising capabilities to align with consumption and content trends. We’ve seen a huge rise in demand for podcast inventory from advertisers, which has meant investing in areas such as programmatic to give our clients choice and flexibility.

Acast has really been at the forefront of driving programmatic advertising capabilities in podcasting, offering the most advanced executions, targeting solutions and partner integrations in the audio space. Our programmatic solution was designed to offer our clients choice and flexibility when it comes to how they access podcast inventory, and allows buyers to tap into our premium podcast marketplace at scale in more efficient ways. 

Conversational Targeting is the latest innovation from Acast to help advertisers reach the right listeners within the most relevant conversations, across our entire network of podcasts. It means advertisers are targeting conversations — not individual users — dramatically expanding reach and covering more diverse categories and subject matter.

For example, a food delivery service could target individual podcast episodes where the hosts discuss what they’re having for dinner, or their love of cooking — even if it’s outside of the regular genre of podcast considered by that advertiser. By targeting individual conversations, advertisers can go deeper into podcast content to position their brand in the most relevant way possible, at scale.

“Where do I buy podcast ads?”

The podcast landscape is becoming more cluttered than ever before and, with more players entering the game, it can naturally cause confusion in the market on where exactly to buy podcast ads.

Acast is a platform-agnostic podcast network which, simply put, means all our content is available across all platforms — from Apple to Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. This is important because only Acast can sell Acast podcasts — people may listen to their favourite podcast on Spotify, but if it’s Acast content, it’s Acast-delivered advertising.

All ad insertion and delivery happens on our end. When we receive a ping that a listener has opened an Acast podcast, we dynamically insert the ads in real time and serve them on Spotify or Apple Podcasts  (or wherever the person is listening) for delivery into their ears.

For listeners, that means freedom of choice when choosing their preferred listening platform — and, for our podcasters, it means they’re not restricting their audience to a single listening platform, and are able to reach more listeners and grow their audience.

Crucially, for our advertising partners, working with a platform-agnostic podcast company like Acast means delivering massive scale when activating campaigns. So, if you’re asking, “where do I buy podcast ads?” the answer (with Acast, at least) is “everywhere”.

“Do I really need to create podcast-specific ads?”

Thousands of brands across almost every sector run ads within podcasts. Some reuse audio that’s made for other channels, while others invest in original creative designed for the unique podcast environment — but does it really make a difference?

To find out, Acast invested in proprietary podcast listener research and found that regular podcast ads and 3D podcast ads both performed better than traditional radio ads that had been reused on the medium — supporting the notion that ads tailored to the podcast environment create a more immersive experience for listeners to connect with brands.

Think Tourism New Zealand transporting listeners through a 3D audio experience using soundscapes from the serenity of Doubtful Sound to the joy of Hawke’s Bay wine region.

It would be remiss not to mention the impact that podcasting talent can have on a podcast ad, with listeners three times more likely to say they’d buy a product or service after hearing a host read than an audio ad. Listeners believe the people that host their favourite podcasts are trustworthy (68%) and authentic (77%).

If brands tap into podcast talent, they can join their conversation and connect with listeners through the voices they relate to. In a media world where resources can be scarce and time is often of the essence, host reads are a quick way to get integration off the ground. This is something we can take care of in-house with Acast Creative, offering everything from script writing to production.

Aussies are hugely receptive to ads within the podcast environment when they’re done right. As many brands are discovering when creating podcast specific ads — from host reads to Sponsored Stories and Branded Podcasts — the best ones are those that are fueled by creativity and designed specifically for the medium.

“Do podcast ads really capture attention?” 

We all know how topical attention has become. One quick look on LinkedIn and you’ll soon find yourself well and truly down the attention rabbit hole — and podcasting has not escaped such questions, with attention becoming a key marker for the impact of the medium.

The reality is that, through podcasts, brands have an opportunity to tap into a medium  where attention is inherent to the consumption experience. 74% of podcast listeners say podcasts provide them with content they want to dedicate their attention to, and they use headphones 90% of the time.

This is a leaned in, one-to-one channel that the listener has actively chosen to listen to — and has switched off distractions to do so. It’s purposeful listening, and a ritual that’s proven to win out in turbulent times as people look for familiarity and comfort.

People are leaning in to learn something new or expand their personal knowledge, it’s mentally engaging, and it’s a media habit they feel good about. This isn’t a medium where people dip their toes in, it’s one they dedicate a considerable amount of time to — so the level of attention they’re paying to the words they’re hearing, from both podcasters and advertisers, is unrivalled.

With any new medium comes questions, but it’s clear that podcasting has come a long way in answering them. Podcasting is now the fastest-growing channel in the audio space and one that’s capturing the attention of people across Australia. With its scale, engagement, targeting and measurement capabilities, it deserves a lot more attention from advertisers and their media plans, too.

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