Podcasts & The Attention Sweet Spot

“Podcasts are more genuine, more intimate, more authentic [than other media] — the issues I deal with cannot be explained in 140 characters. You can’t explain migration in a tweet. You have to present a story, make it compelling, present the pros and cons of an issue to help people understand.” - Claudia Romo-Edelman, Host, GlobalGoals Cast (USA)

Get ready to listen close. We’re entering the golden age of podcasts — and are just at the precipice of what’s possible. Whether listeners are riveted by Crimetown, belly-laughing to Germany’s cultural hit Fest & Flauschig, or getting their hip-hop fix from The Joe Budden Podcast, they’re tuning in at record numbers for their daily dose of the deep, personal connection that only podcasts can provide.

Podcast listening was on the rise across the globe in 2018. On Spotify, we saw listening increase by 175% over the last year.1 Additionally, in countries such as Brazil and Mexico, where the format is still catching on, new podcasts are cropping up daily.

Note: Feb 2018, Ages 18+ Source; Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, “Digital News Report 2018” conducted by YouGov, June 14, 2018

Audio is by nature an especially intimate form of communication, and podcasts take this intimacy even further than other types of audio. Unlike other mediums, many podcasts are tailored to niche audiences — whether it is a show for knitting enthusiasts who love comedy (Shinybees), a podcast for wine lovers who are also passionate about crime (Wine & Crime), or a series for women in Brazil in the advertising community (Jogo de damas). As a result, listeners can find their community and bond with hosts who share their humor or a quirky personal interest.

Our research supports this. 60% of our audience say they tune into podcasts to educate themselves, and two out of three podcast listeners give them their full attention. We also found that podcasts are instrumental in building communities, allowing people to find and connect with their tribes. Respondents even told us that podcasts are better at driving social media connections than other forms of media.2

“Podcast [listening] is a very ‘lean-in’ activity,” says Bryan Moffett, chief operating officer of NPR. “Someone tunes in because they want to listen and want to absorb it.”

More ear time. Less screen time.

Podcasts aren't just intimate and personal — they're also convenient. Audio is a uniquely flexible format, ideal for our mobile, modern lives. People can listen during screenless moments — working out, cleaning, and cooking — when visual media can’t reach them as easily.

While music is often used to enhance a moment or mood, podcasts demand a little more auditory effort — and that’s what makes them so unique. They hit that sweet spot of attention. Listeners are able to multitask while tuning in, simultaneously absorbing information and challenging their brains. As one listener told us, with podcasts “you can get all the stuff you would get from reading or watching, just by listening.” In fact, one in three respondents said they tune into podcasts because they are screenless3.

Given our current media consumption habits, it makes sense that people are increasingly turning to podcasts for education and entertainment throughout their day. Our data shows that 81% of Spotify users tend to listen to podcasts on a weekday during the day; 35% during their commute; and 77% on a mobile device — indicating that podcasts add value to screenless moments, when they are on-the-go4.

Podcast fans listen up and take action

Unlike many other forms of media, there is no such thing as a passive podcast listener. Many podcasts encourage listeners to deep dive into topics they’ve actively chosen to engage with — which means podcasts offer that “holy grail” moment for brands to reach their target audience.

Our research shows that a staggering 81% of listeners have taken action after hearing audio ads during a podcast. These actions include researching a product online, connecting with the brand on social media, and talking about the brand with others5.

When done well, respondents even told us that advertisements provide a welcome break during longer shows, as they provide a short reprieve from active listening time.

For brands, it’s important to remember that context is still everything. Said one listener from Germany: “I don’t mind an ad if the host identifies with what they say. For example, a nutrition expert talking about nutrition — that sounds relatable... It really has to fit the topic.6

The podcast opportunity

So, what’s the best way for brands to take advantage of this medium to connect with an especially attentive and receptive audience?

Since launching podcasts on Spotify, we’ve worked with a number of brands on exciting opportunities, from host reads to original branded podcasts.

Sonos and Dissect: Connecting with true music fans through host reads

Sonos engaged a passionate audience of music superfans with host reads on Spotify’s original podcast, Dissect, named one of New York Times’ “Five Great Podcasts in 2018.” Dissect’s beloved host Cole Cuchna deconstructs classic albums one song at a time, fostering a loyal community of music geeks and audiophiles along the way. In a perfect partnership, Cole shared why he’s so devoted to Sonos’ speakers — and why his fans should be, too.

eBay and Fest & Flauschig: Weaving a brand message into a popular podcast

Fest & Flauschig is Spotify’s second-most popular podcast, drawing a loyal and enthusiastic audience in Germany every week. Hosted by satirist Jan Böhmermann and singer Olli Schulz, the humorous weekly show explores issues ranging from political to social to personal, often through interviews with celebrities. To tap into Fest & Flauschig’s huge audience of dedicated listeners, eBay used co-branded media to drive fans to the podcast, then presented the show with a branded audio message woven into the beginning and end of every episode.

Get original: branded podcasts

Some leading brands are seeing great success by experimenting with their own original branded podcasts. One example? Mastercard’s Fortune Favors the Bold, exploring what happens when people take risks, take control, and redefine their financial relationships.

As Marcy Cohen, SVP of Digital & Creative Content, Global Communications at Mastercard said, “If a podcast can help elevate our brand and offer a new perspective and perhaps some insight into something a listener didn’t know before, we see that as a win for the brand.”

The massive potential for success in these partnerships is why Spotify is working with brands to help them create their own sponsored podcasts. In 2018, we launched Ebb & Flow, a six-episode collaboration with New Amsterdam Vodka. The podcast features the hustlers, dreamers, and doers in the hip-hop and R&B world, and gives fans a look into how their careers were made.

New Amsterdam Vodka and Ebb & Flow: Finding fans through a branded podcast

Spotify worked with New Amsterdam Vodka to create a six-episode branded podcast hosted by accomplished DJ, musician, TV host, and influencer Jasmine Solano. Jasmine speaks candidly with rising hip-hop artists and entrepreneurs about their dreams and sacrifices on the road to fame. With Ebb & Flow, New Amsterdam Vodka was able to align with a receptive micro-community of hip-hop music lovers through powerful, authentic storytelling.

As part of these sponsorship packages, Spotify is exploring how to give brands the ability to target on-platform promotional ads to recent podcast listeners (verified by Spotify's first-party data) in order to connect with a highly relevant audience and drive adoption of their sponsored podcast content.

Whether through host-read ads, co-branded audio messaging at the beginning or end of the show, or working with Spotify to develop an original sponsored show, now is the time for brands to tap into the immense opportunity offered by podcasts. Brands that advertise on podcasts have an opportunity to reach customers increasingly looking to the medium to learn and connect with their community.

Stay tuned for even more on how brands can tap into the podcast opportunity in Part 2 of our podcast series coming next month.

Sources

1Spotify First Party Data, Global, January 1-Dec 1, 2018
2Crowd DNA & Spotify, “We’re All Ears,” 2018, US, UK, AU, MX, BR, DE
3Crowd DNA & Spotify, We’re All Ears, 2018, US, UK, AU, MX, BR, DE (Emma, 31, Podcast Listener, Australia)
4Spotify First Party Data, Global Free, 2018
5Crowd DNA & Spotify, We’re All Ears, 2018, US, UK, AU, MX, BR, DE
6Crowd DNA & Spotify, We’re All Ears, 2018, US, UK, AU, MX, BR, DE, (Linda, Germany)