Wondery Sells Audio’s Emotional Powers With A Data-Driven Message.

Amazon has just reported its quarterly earnings, telling shareholders revenue grew 15% during the third quarter. But more telling: for the first time ever revenue from Amazon services including its advertising business, surpassed its retail sales. And Amazon highlighted its podcast business in its announcement, although it did not provide any specific revenue figures.

During Amazon’s two-day advertiser event Unboxed this week, podcasting had the stage like never before. Amazon has spent billions developing audio technology, mostly on smart speakers and Amazon Music. But during the past year it has expanded its focus on spoken word content led by a $300 million deal to buy the podcast studio Wondery which it followed with a deal for the podcast platform Art19. And that put podcasts alongside Amazon’s Alexa and Twitch.

“This is a pivotal moment in our industry as podcasts experience rapid consumer adoption,” said Wondery CEO Jen Sargent. “Sometimes new industries try to change consumer behavior or get consumers to adopt new technology or devices. The beauty of podcasting is that most people already have a phone in their hand and have already been trained to expect content on-demand.”

Wondery has scored several big hits with series like Dr. Death and it recently picked up the buzzy show Smartless, but Sargent leaned into data other than downloads to make her pitch to marketers. “Our listeners experience a stronger emotional response to audio storytelling than visual storytelling,” she said.

Two studies helped back up that claim. At the end of 2019, Wondery commissioned a study to see how listeners feel when they hear an ad on one of their podcasts. It found podcast ads were more memorable than social media ads and they were effective at building brand trust – especially at the end of the ads. “Our retention goes up at the end of a podcast ad, with 38% higher memory encoding at key branding moments, while it tends to go down at the end of a video ad,” Sargent said.

Earlier this year Wondery again focused on research, partnering with MindProber to conduct neuroscience experiments to measure listener’s emotional engagement with content and advertising by looking at biometric responses. “We found that podcasting reached greater emotional impact than general TV entertainment or live radio,” Sargent said. This presents an opportunity for our advertisers to connect with our listeners on a deeper emotional level.”

Amazon Director of Global Marketing Claire Paull also told marketers that during the pandemic, they have found that consumers more than ever prefer “tailored advertising” and “meaningful experience” and have a heightened need for comfort and joy. “The world has changed, and so have we,” she said.

From Alexa to podcasting, Amazon has so far spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build its audio business – including advertising. While it may not seem like a natural fit for a company best known for putting brown boxes on doorsteps, CEO Andy Jassy explained to ad buyers that their ad focus is part of their larger strategy to help customers with the heavy lift of infrastructure technology. “The same is true in our advertising business,” he said. “We’re not close to being done to inventing, experimenting, and building all kinds of tools and integrations.”

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