Advertisers and ad agencies are being presented with a variety of new podcasts, new hosts and even some star power this week at the IAB’s 2020 Podcast Upfront. The event, virtual this year for the first time, nevertheless has attracted record attendance which the IAB says mirrors the gains made by the industry overall.
“By almost any metric, podcasts are a growing medium in the United States,” said IAB President David Cohen. He pointed to Edison Research data that shows that 75% of Americans are familiar and 37% have listened to a podcast in the past month. That is up from 12% a decade ago. “Really nice, healthy growth,” said Cohen, who told the gathering of ad buyers, “Podcasts are brand-safe, they’re at scale, and they’re on-demand.”
Cohen – who was named head of the IAB on Wednesday – said there was some worry that a reduction in commuting during the pandemic would trigger a downturn in consumption. But that has not happened. “The growth of smart speakers, like Amazon Echo and Google Nest, have made it easier for audiences to seek out and find podcasts wherever they are –there’s really no barrier to entry.”
The IAB’s latest U.S. Podcast Advertising Revenue study released this summer projected a 14.7% increase in podcast revenue in 2020 and the industry is on track to cross a billion dollars in revenue in 2021.
“As consumer usage has grown, so too has advertising,” said Cohen. “Savvy brands and their agency partners have recognized that podcasts represented an engaged, leaned-in, and active audience that recognizes and appreciates when their favorite shows get financial support from advertisers.”
Edison Senior VP Tom Webster told IAB Podcast Upfront that the research firm’s Podcast Consumer Tracker ranking of the biggest shows includes offerings from the true crime, music, politics, fiction, and society categories. “All of these things are growing and becoming far more diverse,” he said. “It’s really reflective of the engagement possibilities with the medium as people can find things they are genuinely passionate about and not just mass appeal content.”
The result is Edison data shows podcast listeners are receptive to advertising on shows – even though they have a tendency to avoid advertising in general by subscribing to services like Netflix and Hulu. “Their time spent to broadcast radio is down. Their time watching broadcast television is down. They’re simply getting fewer interrupt-style advertising messages and they know that,” said Webster. “But if you look at the data from some of podcasting’s super-listeners, the people who spend the most time with the media, they are extraordinarily open to messaging in podcasts. They see the value in messaging, they appreciate the support that advertisers give to their favorite shows, and they are willing to try the products that are advertised.” Together, Webster said the data shows that podcasts have reach, engagement, and receptivity.
The Edison data found six in ten podcast fans said they appreciate advertisers for supporting their favorite show, 44% said their opinion of company is more positive when they hear it mentioned in a podcast, and 43% said they agree when all other things are equal they prefer to buy products that place ads in podcasts they listen to.
Podtrac CEO Mark McCrery, who will present to ad buyers on Friday, says his company’s data shows an industry marked by continued growth even through the coronavirus disruptions. The average unique U.S. monthly audience of the top 10 podcast publishers grew 15% in August compared to a year ago. And global streams and downloads for the top 10 publishers increased 43% in August year-over-year. Podtrac measured 1.5 billion downloads and streams in August 2020, across all Podtrac-measured podcasts.
Among the publishers and shows Podtrac measures, podcasting has rebounded and grown since the weeks of the COVID-19 shutdowns in March and April. By category, News has grown 103% over the last 52 weeks, Business 55%, Comedy 43%, and True Crime 51%.