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Women Podcasters See Progress And Urge Advertisers To Support Diversity.

Media research shows there is a growing number of Black and Brown podcast listeners as the sought after diversification of the industry continues. Podcasting’s conscious efforts took center stage at Advertising Week in New York on Monday, where a group of women podcasters said despite the fact that fewer than 30% of podcasts are being hosted by women, they are seeing progress. That is good for the industry, they said, because more female creators mean bigger female audiences -- and more ad revenue flowing into the industry.

“The voices we hear matter,” AdLarge co-CEO Cathy Csukas said. “And gender diversity is imperative for representing a breadth of viewpoints and experiences.”

One example of the change comes from Tori Dunlap, who leveraged her social media reach of more than four million to launch the Financial Feminist podcast in May 2021 as a way to go more in depth than a one minute TikTok video allowed. When it debuted, the podcast was the only woman-focused financial show in the top 30. Today there are more shows like hers targeting Millennials and Gen Zs, which Dunlap said is not only a validation that they were trailblazers but also that the podcast industry has started to catch up with economic realities of which gender makes money decisions.

“If you're not thinking about women, if they're not on the forefront of those conversations, you're missing a predominant demographic in order to market to and to connect with,” Dunlap told the gathering of advertisers and their media buyers.

Diversity is no longer a “feel good thing” said Reena Ninan, founder of Good Trouble Productions. The veteran TV news journalist and now podcast host and producer said podcasters and advertisers need to embrace a diversity of content and hosts from a purely business point of view. “It's not about just bringing new voices. If you want to make money, and you're looking at the changing demographics, you can't ignore it anymore,” she said. “It's important to understand it and find the right people to help you translate it.”

Steph Colbourn, CEO of the podcast production company EditAudio, said one of the hurdles that often needs to be overcome in podcast circles is the idea that a diverse host or topic is too niche to attract a large enough audience.

Since EditAudio has started to release its own podcasts, Colburn said they have found that the shows that are hosted by diverse talent have done the best. “They're the shows that are being sold for TV,” she said. “So if you're a creator and want to create something, push for it, and show the examples of people that are successful in those marginalized communities that are doing really well.”

The Universal Color Is Green

Expanding the ranks of female podcasters is only one of the tasks at hand. Attracting the advertising dollars to support and grow their shows is just as critical for the long-term diversification of the industry. Csukas told the gathering of advertisers and agencies that they can help be examples of the change by partnering with a wider spectrum of hosts and shows.

“What I've learned is that allies of gender equality need to provide resources, financial support and community for creators, hosts and voices that matter and make a difference,” Csukas said. “By supporting these voices in podcasting, brands have a tremendous opportunity to accelerate their own growth while illuminating important conversations. Brand alignment for advertisers has never been more important than it is today.”

Making Ads That Work

Research shows 52% of people who listen to podcasts are receptive to the ads they hear. Dunlap thinks that has a lot to do with advertisers giving hosts the flexibility to present an ad that fits the tone of the show and personality in front of the microphone. She told advertisers that if they are handing “super-scripted” copy to a host, they are missing the point of podcast ads.

“Give us some flexibility and trust that we know our audience better than the brand does,” Dunlap said.

Colburn said she always pushes back when a brand tries to script the spot too much. She suggests that if an advertiser feels the need to control ad copy, she focuses on scripting only the call to action portion at the end of the ad. “When you script the whole thing, it never flies,” she said.

“When you’re looking at that demographic, the ethnicity matters—and authenticity matters more than ever for this generation,” Ninan said. “They can sniff it out when you're fake.”

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