According to latest Ofcom stats, around 7.1 million people in the UK now listen to podcasts every week. That’s one in eight people, an increase of 24% over the past year – and more than double over the past five years. The Ofcom research also found that half of listeners have only joined the podcast wave in the last two years. Perhaps this supports what your mother might have said to you as a child….“There’s a reason you have two ears!”
With our insatiable desire for content 24/7, it’s no surprise that most of podcast listening happens on-the-go. Smartphones are the preferred device for listening to podcasts with a share of 65% of the listening hours (Rajar, 2019). In an already saturated world, we feel we need to fill every waking hour with ‘entertainment’, learning or another good use of time. What has happened to idle brain time to daydream whilst we commute, staring blankly out the window of the bus or train. Dare I mention how us Brits queue and used to moan about it, now we’re probably valuing the chance to catch up on our latest download.
It is short sighted however, to think that this medium is “going mainstream”. Podcasts retain the unique ability to explore even the most niche of subjects and notable that some of these obscure topics would never have made it onto radio because it’s unlikely they would command a big enough audience to make it commercially viable. Plus the makeup and intention is not inherently the same as the radio airwaves. In fact 96% of podcast listeners still listen to the radio weekly (OfCom, 2018) – podcasts are not the competition.
As you might expect, the natural fanbase sits within the millennial and Gen Xs but not exclusively so. The most popular genre of podcast is entertainment, followed by comedy, then music, TV and film (Ofcom, 2018). News is certainly due to chip into these percentages before long with this week’s announcement from News UK and The Times’ ‘Stories of our Times,’ alongside the launch of Times Radio – a propos the point that there’s certainly a place for both channels to sit alongside one another.
What we find fascinating about this platform is that in terms of brand communications, does its one on one engagement get any better? A fully engaged audience proactively choosing to download your content to hear what you’ve got to say – Yes please say brand marketers across the globe. There’s a ‘but’ of course. For podcasts to really work in our view, they have to be arresting, captivating and have the power to tease so listeners come back for more – just like episodic TV – the content needs to hook us in and cut through the noise.
We believe this is because this medium really involves the audience. When you listen, you need to imagine the visual and therefore you’re almost co-creating the content – the pinnacle of two way engagement. You can learn a new skill, digest a new piece of information or simply find a useful way to fill your downtime all in the name of wellbeing whether it be meditation or a belly full of laughs.
So with this in mind, we’re all ears.