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Podcasters Poised To Benefit As Influencer Marketing Budgets Continue To Grow.

While a lot of attention is being paid to the shift of podcasting advertising away from most direct response to brand advertisers, a lesser noticed shift is where those ad dollars are originating. As research studies pile up showing podcasters have strong relationships with their listeners, that has positioned the audio industry to capture a slice of influencer dollars.

“If a company’s media strategy is shifting towards more influencer-based media, it would be a miss to not include host endorsed podcast ads,” said Lisa Prentis Jacobs, VP of Media at Ad Results Media. Similar to social media influencers podcast hosts personally endorse and rave about products and services they love to an audience who is leaning in, driving higher conversion rates than other push media tactics.”

Ad Results Media has long tapped into enforcement ads, using radio talent as local influencers long before anyone took notice of podcasters. Now, Jacobs says they have seen an increase in brands partnering beyond the podcast, including social, events, and email blasts. “That leads us to the conclusion that at least some influencer funds are being directed towards podcasts and podcast hosts,” she said. “The influence podcast hosts have over their audiences is driving brand consideration, awareness, and sales for brand partners.”

There is no official tally of influencer spending. But eMarketer estimates $3.69 billion was spent on influencer marketing last year and it estimates that total will grow 12.2% to $4.14 billion this year and jump to $4.62 billion next year. Its analysts see smaller influencers the biggest winners in that growth curve as more so-called “micro-influencers” grab the attention of mega-advertisers. It’s not only because there are only so many Kardashians, but there are also only so many brands that can afford them, eMarketer says.

The rise of the TikTok star has helped too, as a March 2021 survey from the influencer marketing platform Linqia showed nine in ten U.S. marketers said they wanted to work with influencers with between 5,000 and 100,000 followers on social media.

“As bigger influencer marketing budgets grow, we expect parallel growth in host-endorsed podcasting,” says Patty Mertes, VP of Media at Ad Results Media. “Overall, we saw growth in podcasting and host endorsement dollars last year but it’s hard to pinpoint if these budgets were pulled from ‘influencer dollars’ or other media. Though concerns from social media giants' continued conflicts with protecting data privacy and ability to track has led to more conversations around podcast testing.”

Ad Results Media recently teamed up with Edison Research to conduct a quantitative study on various aspects of the overall effectiveness of podcast advertising. The Super Listeners Study shows podcast ads are the most recalled type of ad – with 86% of respondents saying they remember seeing or hearing an ad ahead of either social media (80%) or websites (79%). Podcast listeners also scored high in terms of engagement with ads, with 76% of listeners saying they’ve taken action after hearing a podcast ad, which could include visiting a site, making a purchase, or taking out a subscription.

Mertes’ takeaway is that podcast partnerships should be part of any robust influencer marketing strategy. “We believe there is no other medium to tap into that provide the most engaged listeners, often tuning in during their valuable me time,” she says.

While direct response advertisers have long known podcast ads deliver because of the influence that creators can have on listeners, Nick Southwell-Keely, Acast’s U.S. Director of Sales, says that has become clear to all marketers, many of whom are only just discovering the audio medium. He says it plays to the loyalty, engagement, and trust that listeners feel when they listen to their favorite shows.

“Podcasting really is influencer marketing at its finest,” says Southwell-Keely. “There’s been a push of Hollywood and celebrity-type podcasts from a content perspective. And with those big audiences, comes another huge opportunity for brands to align with them.”

Marketer Education Still Needed

Taylor Michelle Gerard, Head of Content at Horizon Media’s content marketing arm Blue Hour Studios, thinks podcasting is a good fit into a landscape where brands want to experiment more with influencers and creators in the audio space, including influencers who are making the leap into podcasting as a way to extend their reach. But she says education is still needed with some clients.

“Brand marketers who are interested in podcast reads have not yet equated ‘influencers’ or ‘creators’ with ‘podcast hosts’ necessarily, and those budgets still remain, for the most part, separate,” says Gerard. “We do see value beyond performance in podcast integrations since each unique podcast tends to have its own very engaged community of listeners. There is brand advocacy, loyalty and healthy fandom to be found in podcast communities.”

For now, she says podcast reads are treated somewhere between traditional media like radio and publisher partnerships and sponsorships. Gerard says the hurdle is that they are typically turnkey, which means they cannot always be as creatively flexible as a piece of influencer-generated content on social media. And when it comes to tracking, they’re often measured for very specific performance metrics such as listens, site visits, signups, and redemptions.

“We think this is going to shift as we begin to see brands understanding ‘ROI’ of activating influencers and creators in different ways, and as we go beyond ‘engagement’ as the primary validator for doing this kind of personality-based marketing,” Gerard says.

‘2022 Looks Bright For Podcasters’

What could keep podcasters from grabbing a bigger share of influencer ad dollars are some familiar hurdles. “Brand safety and influencer controversies are factors, for any medium, that could keep marketers away from fully committing to the space,” says Mertes. Nevertheless, she thinks 2022 will be another record year for podcasters in terms of adverting growth as measurement technologies evolve and brand safety issues are at the forefront of the discussions.

Jacobs is just as optimistic, agreeing 2022 “looks bright” for podcasters. “We are seeing an increase in listenership, diversifying audiences, new advertisers, and increased budgets from existing advertisers,” she says. “With stay at home restrictions opening up we are also seeing live podcast recording and events pick back up, giving brands an additional way to partner with hosts and podcast hosts the opportunity to connect more deeply with their audiences.”

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