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The Rising Value of Podcasts To Digital Marketing

Every time I go online, I come across posts on marketing covering all sorts of topics, like search, paid search ads, display ads, and various social media platforms.  But I don’t get to read much on podcasting.  That’s a shame because of the rising value podcasts gives marketers yet another channel for connecting to an audience.  That value should be part of every marketer’s digital strategy.

Podcasts have evolved from their role as niche entertainment or hobbyist activity. The Pew Institute noted that the number of people who listen to podcasts is steadily increasing. Consistent audience interest means marketers are starting to take notice.   The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) conducted a study looking at the performance of the largest players in podcasting. It noted that podcast ad revenue is anticipated to reach more than $220 million in 2017, a rise of 85% over 2016. Previously, ad revenues for podcasts jumped 73% from 2015 to 2016. 

Podcasts are a means of presenting useful content where listeners are, in effect, a captive audience, such as  in a car – a sharp observation given that cars are increasingly offering wifi hot spots to allow streamed media. It’s also worth mentioning that podcasts elude ad blocking technology.

Apple has been a major registration portal for many podcasts, but podcast producers have long criticized the company, complaining Apple was not providing basic listener data that could help podcasters learn how listeners respond to podcast episodes. 

Apple’s response is the introduction of an in-episode analytics dashboard for its podcast app.   The dashboard, announced at the WWDC conference that Apple regularly hosts for its developers, will share graphic information about how much listeners engage with podcast episodes.  The results are based on anonymized data to keep individuals unidentified.  The dashboard display time-line trending graphs, showing number of podcasts plays per day, for example.   Another report shows listeners per minute, calculating an abandonment point and completion rate to learn where listeners are potentially dropping out of the program.  

The in-episode analytics dashboard will be introduced alongside the latest Apple operating system iOS11 in the fall. One limitation of the dashboard is that it is only available for podcasts issued through the Apple Podcast app, meaning podcasters have to register with Apple to benefit from the reporting. 

Nevertheless, the dashboard launch from Apple is unprecedented – most analytics solutions came out of digital advertising, and Apple has avoided offering advertising solutions, unlike Google and Microsoft.  Today, every platform has analytics of some kind, so the dashboard may trigger other analytic solutions for podcasts to develop.

Some questions remain in terms of what in-episode analytics means for business intelligence.  Much of the established web analytics, such as Adobe and Google, have become integrated with other digital solutions through additional features and programming advances.  The Apple solution, however, is measurement for a specific platform – think Twitter Analytics for Twitter or Facebook Insights for Facebook Pages, and you get the idea.

But useful metrics will certainly evolve if the podcasting continues to grow in popularity, and as marketers take more notice.   What marketers should do with any campaign that includes podcasts is to plan alignment with content in other channels. For example, a blog post containing “top ten tips” on a topic can be developed as a series of podcasts to explore each tip in further detail.  This kind of approach signals omnichannel strategy with nuance for each channel, making messaging less repetitive and more engaging for consumers.

All in all, the growing interest in podcasts has a chance to enhance digital marketing measurement.  People have their favorite podcasts, so measuring a podcast audience’s behavior might yield better information than counting clicks.    The Apple Dashboard is a 1.0 of analytics for podcasts, but it is certainly a significant step for marketers as they learn to corral customer experience in all its digital forms.

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