In this guest post, Optus Entertainment content writer Tym Yee talks the evolution of the podcast and how Aussie marketers are missing a golden opportunity when it comes to sponsored content.
Content needs a new baby. We’ve gone from white papers to blogs to infographics to listicles to videos to interactive websites to apps to web series.
Chart this narrative against the rising popularity of podcasts and it’s not difficult to predict where content creators are going to poach their next play from.
Over in the USA we’re already starting to see this trend. Brands and podcasts have been criss-crossing each other for a few years now. If you’ve ever listened to anything from Gimlet, This American Life, Serial or anything from the Radiotopia stable you’ll be well familiar with sponsor bits from Audible, Mail…Kimp?, FourSquare and Stamps.com.
Their consistency in this space proves that somewhere out there, there are marketers who believe in the power of the pod.
This was confirmed last year when GE released their branded podcast The Message – a fictional sci-fi story about a mysterious extra-terrestrial audio recording which caused the untimely demise of those who listened to it.
Part murder mystery part alien encounter it was a bold move of creative content from a very traditional brand that evidently cut through. It momentarily knocked off frontrunners This American Life and Serial from the iTunes podcast charts to claim the number 1 spot. It was like the podcasting world’s ‘Dumb Ways To Die’!
In Australia, however, things in the podcasting space are moving a lot slower. There are barely any sponsored Australian podcasts. I note that FBi’s radio-cum-podcast All The Best recently broadcast an episode sponsored by Audible, whilst the Osher Gunsberg podcast has spruiked The Iconic before, and there are probably a few other examples. But by and large brand and marketing investment in the medium has been minimal on local shores.
Without the clout of a US-sized listening audience, podcast devotees in marketing and advertising might face strong opposition from within Australian companies.
Firstly, the medium is notoriously unsophisticated. Producers can look at some indicative figures, but we’ve got nowhere near the same kind of targeting, tracking, measuring, optimisation and distribution that you can get from other forms of digital marketing.
Secondly, the practice of podcast listening is far from ubiquitous, although various reports suggest it’s improving. Unlike with blogs, Facebook posts and YouTube videos, the phrase “did you listen to that podcast that [Some Brand] posted the other day?” doesn’t hold quite as much social resonance, yet.
So where does that leave the branded podcast in Australia? I predict, unfortunately, in a relatively uninspiring place.
If podcasting can’t deliver hard numbers to justify its investment and we can’t rely on the spray and pray approach without the audience size, say, that FM radio has, my gut is telling me we’re on the verge of a less than desirable outcome: conservative, legal-team-vetted, awareness-based branded podcasting. Essentially, PR podcasts. Or as I suggest we called them: ‘PRodcasts’.
PRodcasts could very well come into being over the next 24 months in Australia in instances where corporations that have the budgets to produce amazing, inspiring, entertaining, engaging and fierce podcast content choose to play the safe card instead of taking a risk.
They’ll happen when the medium hits the mainstream and follow-the-leader-marketers start uttering “hey, we should start a podcast!”
But the good news is that between now and then agile content creators have a sweet window of opportunity. There aren’t really any Australian brand doing podcasting particularly well at the moment.
We should be excited about the intersection that podcasting and advertising and marketing sit at. To take advantage of this we need to be nimble, take gambles and be insistent. We need to act fast and pitch far out, whacky ideas and stand strong when compliance teams tell us that we couldn’t possibly do that.
We need to show not tell when our clients can’t quite see the point. We need to create a sense of urgency and purpose for podcasting before it gets owned by the masses.
You’ve heard the warning. But the question is: are you listening?
Tym Yee is a writer at Optus Entertainment and is currently researching podcasting at Macquarie University.