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Casper Mattress, Mailchimp, Blue Apron, Squarespace…you’ve probably heard of these iconic podcasting brands even if you aren’t an avid listener. Podcasting has exploded in popularity the past few years across all demographics. Let’s take a walk through the rise of the pod and its unique relationship with advertising…

The Birth of Podcasts

If you had an iPod in the mid-2000’s, you probably remember that mysterious “Podcast” category mostly made up of sports and public radio style content. While there were more than 100,000,000 related Google searches in the first year and podcast was New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2005 word of the year, few people became regular listeners.

MP3’s made long audio files easily downloadable, but podcast popularity lagged for a few years. Early podcast listeners were largely sports fans wanting more in depth discussion of current sports events outside of radio shows and articles. There was a slow, but steady increase in listeners over the next few years as radio personalities, sportscasters, comedians, and politicians began to create shows. Outside of these pockets of interests though, people were no longer enticed by this new form of media. In fact, in 2013, podcasts started to die out.

The Return of Podcasting

Then a little thing called Serial, the most interesting show NPR will ever produce. Downloaded 80 MILLION times, Serial was my first pod love along with seemingly everyone in America. As Stefan would say, “Serial. Has. Everything,” teenage angst, a (maybe) unsolved crime, corrupt prosecuting attorneys, and, mostly, enough uncertainty for fans to let their imaginations run wild with different theories. As people latched onto the Serial bandwagon, they found a place for podcasts in their daily lives. Trying to finish all 10 episodes as quickly as possible? Throw it on during your commute, at work, before bed, while working out, etc.

A huge new crop of listeners found a way to fit podcasts into their schedule. Once they finished the season, they needed new podcasts to fill the Serial sized hole in their lives. Because there had been a small, but steady group of listeners and podcast creators, the variety and volume of content for these new listeners was already available. It was a perfect storm for podcasts popularity. Since 2014, the number of monthly listeners has doubled and is still consistently increasing.

Advertising on Pocasts

In terms of podcast advertising, established shows actually spend a significant chunk of time on ads, but they are less invasive to the listener experience than other media. Most notably, you can skip them. Like all of them. Many shows even have fade in music to indicate when the ads are over so listeners can more easily skip them. Because of this and previously limited viewership, advertising slots on podcasts have been dirt cheap in the past.

Because small, relatively unknown companies were the only ones buying these ad slots for years, they tended to give show hosts more leeway to spice up the sales pitch. Ultimately, regular listeners come back for the hosts’ personalities regardless of the topic so letting hosts improvise has proven profitable. The informal delivery has become a staple in podcast culture over the years. Plus, using promo codes unique to each show, companies are able to easily track conversions and understand their customers’ interests beyond their demographics.

Whatever your brand’s target audience or your personal interests, podcasts are now a viable source of on-the-go content that will continue to grow in popularity. They offer a unique and intimate experience for listeners to connect with show hosts. Podcasts offer advertisers a huge opportunity to affordably and meaningfully reach their specific audience if they are willing to hand over the reigns to hosts to add their entertaining personalities to ads.