By John Egan

For years, big brands have enjoyed success on Facebook, Twitter and other new-media platforms. Now, some of them have successfully integrated podcasting into the media mix, with other big brands following their lead, in an effort to attract a different audience and raise awareness.

If your brand isn’t engaged in podcasting, you very well could be missing out on a great opportunity—and may be falling behind your competitors. According to Digiday, industry observers say the amount of branded podcasting could more than double this year. Among the big names already taking advantage of branded podcasting are eBay, GE, Netflix, Slack and State Farm.

Additionally, if they’re not already involved in podcasting, media companies need to keep an eye on it as they seek ways to boost their audience share. For instance, HBO already has immersed itself in podcasting, and Gannett, owner of USA Today and more than 1,000 other newspapers, is taking a deeper dive into it, too.

“Branded podcasts that steer away from the obvious commercial tie and create content that is highly useful for the subject matter are making the most headway,” Dave Van Dyke, co-founder of Bridge Ratings, a media research firm, tells Digiday.

At NAB Show New York, set for Oct. 18 and 19, attendees will get a chance to learn about the business of podcasting during two sessions featuring podcasting insiders like Pamela Ann Berry, Jessica Kupferman and Rob Walch.

To break into—and succeed in—podcasting, some brands aren’t going it alone. Instead, they’re teaming up with podcasting companies like Gimlet, Midroll Media and Panoply to produce audio content, according to Adweek.

In producing that content, brands and their podcasting partners must tread carefully.

“Unlike a sponsored post or video that takes a few minutes to skim over, podcasts are little episodes of entertainment that require people to tune in for longer periods of time, making it harder for a brand's message to get through,” Adweek says.

In some cases, the branding is subtle. For instance, GE’s highly successful The Message podcast series didn’t mention the company’s name in the story narratives, according to Adweek. Rather, GE’s audio technology was woven into the storylines.

Subtle or not, that branding comes at a lower cost than a TV spot, along with a more attentive audience, according to Fast Company magazine.

And that attentive audience might be quite inclined to make a purchase based on a podcast. Research cited by Adweek found that nearly two-thirds of listeners were likely to buy a product after hearing an ad within a podcast. Meanwhile, an NPR study showed that three-fourths of podcast listeners take action on a sponsored message, Adweek says.

Speaking of NPR, it’s one of the media companies making big waves in podcasting, which was drawing about one-fifth of Americans as listeners in early 2016. In early 2017, a campaign designed to introduce more Americans to podcasting was launched by media companies such as NPR, ESPN, CBS Radio, iHeartRadio and The New York Times.

At Gannett, the USA Today Network, the media company’s assemblage of its 109 daily newspapers in the U.S., is wading into big-time podcasting with The City, scheduled to debut next year. According to the Poynter Institute, The City podcast “aims to feature serialized deep dives into various cities across the United States.” Gannett already has more than 60 other podcasts under its umbrella, although they’re generally smaller in scale than The City.

“The resurgence of podcasting has opened up a new avenue for innovative storytelling,” says Maribel Perez Wadsworth, chief transformation officer at Gannett and the USA Today Network.

In 2016, Digiday noted that podcasting “is having a moment.” That’s readily apparent by the investments in podcasting being made by the likes of Gannett and GE.

“After years of operating on the periphery, the medium has become a newfound area of focus, not just for longtime podcast publishers but for A-list newcomers like Time Inc. and The New York Times, which are using their content distribution muscles to quickly scale themselves up,” Digiday says. “It’s also become more interesting to advertisers, who are coming around to the idea of connecting to a highly desirable audience on demand.”

Don't miss the following areas of interest at NAB Show New York, happening October 18 - 19 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City.



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