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The digital audio awakening

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This year I experienced a digital audio awakening… perhaps a little late to the game, I became a podcast addict. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve dabbled previously; along with the many millions I listened to Serial and my entire friendship group are avid fans of My Dad Wrote A Porno. Despite this I don’t think I really got podcasts until a few months back when I listened to Modern Love and, well, fell in love. The podcast features a myriad of celebrities reading aloud personal essays which have been submitted to the New York Times all about (drum roll) love. This is love in all it’s forms though, the love of a father struggling to connect with his disabled son or the difficulties a man faces in his marriage after becoming blind. Some are funny, some sad, but all are heartfelt and interesting. For me, Modern Love came with the realisation that podcasts are an extremely accessible source of short-term storytelling. They tend to be free and you can either download them to your phone or listen online. In length they vary naturally but I tend to listen to ones which are between 30 minutes and an hour, which is perfect for a tube journey home or the gym. Suddenly I was listening to them every day and it looks like I’m not alone.

According to a survey undertaken by audio content hosting site audioBoom, there are 13 million listens in the UK per month. The number of listeners is also quickly rising, with podcast consumption doubling in 2016 from the previous year. The actual percentage of the population listening to podcasts weekly remains relatively small although I struggled to find an exact figure – a RAJAR study in 2015 puts it at 7% but I would be surprised if that hasn’t increased. They’re also highly engaged listeners, with a significant 93% saying that when they’ve downloaded a podcast they listened to it all the way through. This doesn’t surprise me, speaking purely from my own experience and discussing shows with others, people speak just as enthusiastically about their favourite podcast as say, the show they like to binge watch on Netflix. Podcasts capture an audience on the go, listening primarily on smart phones (57% RAJAR) and commuting (42% name this their preferred activity whilst listening). There’s that accessible storytelling coming into play.

Podcasts offer brands a highly engaged audience who often have a strong attachment and trust in the hosts

So why should this matter to brands? Well according to audioBoom, two thirds of listeners have said that they’ve bought a product or service they heard about on a podcast and nearly half would be likely to tell friends or family about a product they’d heard about on a podcast. Podcasts offer brands a highly engaged audience who often have a strong attachment and trust in the hosts they tune in weekly to listen to, much in the same way that local radio is viewed as a ‘trusted voice’ by it’s community. There’s also a clear understanding that it’s adverts which finance the making of the podcasts these listeners love so much – many a podcast begins with a chirpy message from the host thanking their ongoing sponsors. This may well be why 63% of those audioBoom surveyed said they would pay more attention to a podcast advert compared to an advert broadcast on the radio. Major brands are already starting to utilise the media channel, with podcasts appearing on plans for the likes of Disney and Ford and it’ll certainly be interesting to see how the channel is utilised going forwards.

But brands aside, as a final round up, here’s a list of some of my favourites to get any podcast novices going:

The Leap – Non-fiction podcast which tells the story of people who have made dramatic, risky changes.

Hopefully We Don’t Break Up – Comedian couple Giulia Rozzi and Will Miles interview other couples they know and chat about their experience with relationships.

S Town – This is probably the closest thing to a blockbluster in the podcast world at the moment, an investigative journalist looks into the life of one man living in rural Alabama.

Sooo Many White Guys – Podcast hosted by Phoebe Robinson who interviews a range of celebrities (the latest was Tom Hanks!) and is very funny and frank.

This American Life – This one probably doesn’t require an introduction since it’s been around for over a decade, these are interesting journalistic insights into peoples lives. I recently enjoyed one of their older episodes ‘My Pen Pal’ all about a ten-year old girl who befriended Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.

Matilda Payne, Campaign Executive

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