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Why Branded Content Could Be Bigger Than You Think

Why Branded Content Could Be Bigger Than You Think

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Written By

Tom Webster

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October 4, 2023

Sounds Profitable is a proud sponsor of the Afros and Audio Podcast Festival. Be there, October 21st and 22nd, at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in downtown Baltimore. Get your pass for in-person or virtual attendance for 15% off, just use our code SP2fAFAU at checkout.

Last month, we debuted our largest study to date, The Podcast Landscape. There was SO much data in this project that we knew if we released it all at once, we would kill you, dear readers. Like Frank Cody always told me, we must challenge our audience, but not defeat them.

When it came to deciding what the focus of the next Podcast Landscape report would be, one finding stood out very clearly. I am not often surprised by data, because I see so much of it and how it trends. But one stat from our last report shocked the crap out of me:

Most of this graph is about celebrity/TV/entertainment content, with one noticeable outlier. Here, let me fix it for you:

More than four in ten Americans 18+ say they would likely listen to a podcast about a favorite brand or product. Now, ask this a different way, like “how likely would you be to listen to an ad for a product you like” and I bet you get a lower number, even though the ad is likely to be significantly shorter than a podcast. And this makes sense: the wording of the question is about a “favorite” brand. We’ve already been sold, so the ad is irrelevant. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t interested in the product, what it stands for, and how we as humans identify with the things we love.

Let me give you a little context about why this number was so shocking to me. Edison Research doesn’t often release the actual reach percentages of podcast genres from Edison Podcast Metrics, so I went into the Wayback Machine to pull this from a webinar I did during the COVID lockdowns:

By the way, these percentages match up very well with the data we put out in Q4 of 2022 in our Safe and Sound study, which didn’t include as comprehensive a list of genres, but the top three here (Comedy, News, and Politics) were the same and within three percentage points of these 2020 numbers, so genre appeal is pretty stable.

Now I want to issue a massive caveat here: hypothetical behavior does not translate to actual behavior. Asking someone if they would be likely to listen to a podcast about a given topic is always going to produce a higher number than asking people if they have actually listened to a given topic. So stipulated. But if you imagine that most of the 41% who say they would be likely to listen to a podcast about a favorite brand actually followed through on that, podcasts about brands would be a top five or maybe even top three “genre.”

Is that so hard to imagine? If about 30% of podcast listeners listen to sports, don’t you think at least that number have a particular company or product they are passionate about? If you add up every Harley driver and Rolex wearer and Patagonia lover in America, don’t you think you’d get at least 30% who are passionate about some brand?

Now, I am fascinated by this, because not only is it a clear validation of the potential for branded podcasts, but it also opens up a huge opportunity for podcasts about brands, which aren’t necessarily the same thing. More than that, it suggests a call to action for brands that inspire some form of passion – if people actually want to engage further with a company, it seems like a no-brainer for that company to tap into that passion with a podcast. (If a brand does not inspire passion, this is a different issue.)

I spent some time digging into the Podcast Landscape data about this 41% to see how they differ from podcast listeners in general, and there were indeed some incredibly compelling differences. Consider this, for example: I am sure you know someone in your life who is completely nuts for a particular product, and rarely misses an opportunity to talk about it or share their experiences (hopefully not overshare, but we all have those friends, too). That person is a natural ambassador for the brand – a micro-influencer, if you will. They have a natural predilection for evangelizing things they believe in or enjoy.

I wonder if they would do that with a podcast?

Well, there is no need to wonder. I found that answer deep within the data, along with a lot more fascinating detail about these brand activators and potential podcast proselytizers. So much, in fact, that we have prepared an all-new report, The Power of Brands in Podcasts, that we will debut in a free webinar on Wednesday, October 18th. Among the things we will reveal are the following:

  • The demographics most interested in branded content
  • The surprising, non-podcast way to reach brand fanatics
  • How branded content can become a “force multiplier” for podcasting
  • The benefits of podcasting that resonate most
  • How fans of brands use and perceive video differently from mainstream podcast listeners

…and much more! I hope you will register here and join me in a couple of weeks as we continue to provide actionable data and insights to lift the whole space and continue to grow the audience and revenue for podcasting.

Speaking of research…

This week we are launching our latest partner benefit, the Sounds Profitable Research Database. One of the most common types of email I get (nearly every day) is from someone asking if I have or have seen data on a given subject. Sadly, there is no single searchable database of all the various studies extant about podcasting – everything is scattered in PDFs across many companies, and often behind a registration wall as a lead magnet.

We decided to fix that.

The Sounds Profitable Research Database is a single, searchable repository of the latest research in podcasting, regardless of source. Currently it includes 2023 studies and much of 2022, and will continue to get more robust over the next few weeks as additional studies are added. We have tagged metadata at the individual slide level for dozens of studies so that users can find the exact datapoint they are looking for, as well as the source study for further context.

We are not hosting any of these studies (well, except for the ones we have produced.) All slides are clearly watermarked “Not for Reuse” and linked to the original source. We are in no way after “clicks.” We are just trying to make some sense of the space and aggregate all of the wonderful resources we have in this space to learn more about our audience and our customers.

Here’s a sneak peek at the app, which was developed for us by our partners at Digital Avenues:

For now, access is a benefit for employees of our nearly 150 partners, but we are continuing to expand and explore other uses for this valuable resource. If you’d like to explore Sounds Profitable partnership, just hit reply, or use the contact form on our website. But of course, even if you are not a partner, all of the research we have conducted on behalf of the industry is available here, free of cost and without needing to register for anything.

Victory through progress, comrades. I’ll see you next week.

New Partners

Sounds Profitable exists thanks to the continued support of our amazing partners. Monthly consulting, free tickets to our quarterly events, partner-only webinars, and access to our 500+ person slack channel are all benefits of partnering Sounds Profitable.

  • Linkfire for Podcasts is a powerful marketing and industry-shifting analytics toolkit designed to help you promote your shows, top episodes and everything that goes along with your growing brand.

  • Miller Kaplan is a CPA firm with over 40 years as a source for real revenue measurement as data, directly supplied by participating companies and confidentially aggregated.

Want to learn more about partnership? Hit reply or send us an email!

About the author

Tom Webster is a Partner at Sounds Profitable, dedicated to setting the course for the future of the audio business. He is a 25-year veteran audio researcher and trusted advisor to the biggest companies in podcasting, and has dedicated his career to the advancement of podcasting for networks and individuals alike. He has been the co-author and driver behind some of audio’s most influential studies, from the Infinite Dial® series to Share of Ear® and the Podcast Consumer Tracker. Webster has led hundreds of audience research projects on six continents, for some of the most listened-to podcasts and syndicated radio shows in the world. He’s done a card trick for Paula Abdul, shared a martini with Tom Jones, and sold vinyl to Christopher Walken.

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