With podcasts becoming increasingly popular and plentiful in New Zealand, marketers are beginning to realise how the audio outlet can become an effective tool for brands to reach niche and targeted audiences.
Podcasting – a form of talk radio on demand – has been around for nearly 20 years and has been witnessing a surge in popularity in recent years brought on by shifting consumer behaviours, and a more fragmented media market. The audio form is now making a play for the mainstream media table alongside the likes of radio and television.
Recent research from The Infinite Dial New Zealand survey shows that 30 percent of New Zealanders are weekly podcast listeners, which is more than the US, Canada, and Australia, each of which are at 26 percent.
“According to The Infinite Dial New Zealand, listeners consume an average of five podcasts per week,” says Peter Richardson, General Manager of The Radio Bureau.
“Podcasting presents a significant opportunity for advertisers to build brand recognition, as 80 percent of Kiwis 16+ are aware of podcasts and 39 percent listen to them on a monthly basis.”
From radio recaps and succinctly packaged news programmes, to thrilling crime mystery and advice on finance and wellness, the rising popularity of podcasts is an opportunity for brands to get in front of engaged audiences who are consuming audio for a purpose.
Many brands across New Zealand have already caught on to the rising trajectory of the audio channel, with ASB being one example of an organisation working alongside MediaWorks to create a podcast and raise brand awareness.
“It’s an exciting time to be in the audio space, with emerging products, sponsorships and bespoke options being developed,” adds Peter.
Richie Culph, Head of Digital Audio at MediaWorks, says podcasts in general are a great tool for brand recognition as they not only bring in reach and frequency but also high trust listeners and community.
“It makes sense that some of the most popular podcasts are actually radio show feeds largely consisting of ‘catch up’ listening, because the podcast medium takes these strengths and supercharges them by giving listeners the power to consume on their terms: when where and how they want,” says Richie, who runs some of the highest listened-to podcasts in the country.
With the current reach of podcasts, big media companies across the country are slowly shifting their focus on what the audio form can bring to the table in terms of audience. And alongside the growing number of listeners, the question of how marketing can be fit into this, rises.
“Due to the ‘user-initiated’ nature of the channel, and the volume of consumption through mobile and headphones, podcasting can play multiple roles within the marketing funnel,” says James Butcher, Head of Digital Audio at NZME and iHeartRadio.
iHeartRadio is home to some of the most popular podcasts in New Zealand and James says the opportunities for advertising within the industry is vast.
“Whether that’s leveraging the content/topics of what’s being discussed, the profile of the podcast hosts themselves, or more performance-driven campaigns,” he says.
In the past year, James says the industry has seen more advertisers utilise podcasts but acknowledges there’s still a gap “between a growing channel with a large number of consumers and time being spent listening, and the volume of brands investing in podcast advertising”.
“With it being one of the fastest growing digital media channels, there is definitely an opportunity for advertisers to get on board early and avoid clutter and competition,” says James.
Looking at the NZME catalogue of podcasts, James says Digital Ad Insertion is by far the opportunity many brands opt for when it comes to reaching customers across all audio platforms.
“From a publisher standpoint, this also allows us to ensure we have relevant brand messaging across our ‘evergreen’ content, as much we do throughout new content,” he adds.
Companies who are able get the most out of Digital Ad Insertion are those that take into account the channel and listener context, considering that the best aspect of the podcast world is the ability to serve different communities, audiences and niches.
“What’s good for the listener is good for the advertiser, and when you’re advertising your business within podcasts, your brand/message really is part of the show,” says James.
For MediaWorks on the other hand, Richie says some of the best opportunities for brand marketing and advertising within podcasts is via a native solution, and the popular option of a podcasts’ host doing a “host read”.
“If there is a good fit with the advertiser and the host, it’s worth taking this to the next level and allowing the host to riff off the copy pointers and tell personal stories about the brand or product,” says Richie.
“When it’s done right, the result can be highly engaging, micro-native content pieces that listeners truly enjoy.
He adds that commissioning existing podcasts to deliver content through sponsored episodes are also a great opportunity for brands to take advantage of.
For MediaWorks, there are many podcasts already commissioned by brands that are produced by the company, such as the work the media owner does alongside ASB to create the Level Up podcast series: A Masterclass for your Money, with popular radio host Tegan Yorwarth.
“I think the best way to get results from podcast advertising is to take an opportunity with a series that has an audience that fits well with the brand. This offers the best opportunity to marry the commercial messaging with the personal, trusted and engaging nature of the medium,” says Richie.
James says for NZME podcasts, many brands have elevated their approach by working alongside some of their existing catalogue of podcasts. And what better than a sport and alcohol partnered podcast.
The Alternative Commentary Collective podcast that covers everything sports is sponsored by DB Breweries in an ongoing, multi-platform partnership not just through the podcast but through other audio and social content.
Sam Forrest, the Senior Marketing Manager of Domestic Brands at DB Breweries says that alongside working with “great buggers”, the podcast format allows the brand to reach a “breadth of different consumer groups and deliver contextually relevant branded content through people of influence in those channels”.
“As a long term partnership, we are able to evolve our brand meaningfulness with their support and creative expertise over time across different commercial initiatives, whilst also delivering our short term brand saliency objectives through sponsorship to drive sales with our target audience,” he says.
Sam adds that the audio form is an “effective platform” to reach a group of people who don’t use traditional media and who are unreachable.
With the audience being highly engaging, the partnership of DB Breweries and NZME adds value to the podcast, as audiences build over time and allow the brand to be associated to real people and stories.
“That’s why we focus on long term partnerships, which can evolve and grow with our brand over time vs a sponsorship or advertising approach in this channel,” says Sam.
“This additional layer of media builds our brand equity and meaningfulness over time more effectively than just a blanket brand campaign pushed out to consumers in isolation could.”
When it comes to independent podcast producers, Tony Snow, Director and Planning Manager of New Zealand’s leading podcast studio wtfproductions, says that independent content has to be more proactive and creative when it comes to advertising.
“Independent podcasts offer a voice that may not be so regulated or bias [compared with those produced by larger media companies]. We all have our biases and opinions, and podcasts if done right with authenticity and integrity, can add to the brand and business profile,” says Tony.
Despite the added difficulty of creating a podcast, Tony says what they have in common with big media company produced podcasts, is the effectiveness of understanding the listener.
“Understanding the listener or customer avatar is as important on podcasts as it is for the service and product the business provides.”
However, while creating a podcast is one thing, getting the audience involved and engaged is the next. Looking at audience engagement, Richie says that with podcasts being free, people are more acutely aware of commercial messaging.
James says that Kiwi audiences of podcasts are “receptive to good, timely and relevant messaging”.
“I just think that is even more important in podcasting given the intermittent nature of the listening experience and the relationship the audience has with the content.”
“Brands that recognise that and use that knowledge effectively are achieving outstanding results with engaged and receptive audiences,” James adds.
Advertising messaging that fits the content is more likely to generate effective communication to the audience, especially with podcasts being catered to specific communities and niches, adds Richie.
But when it comes to creating branded podcasts, Richie says that it may not be the “best path”.
“Even if your brand is able to make good content, the barrier to entry is going to be higher because the perception of a branded podcast may be that it’s going to be a 30-minute infomercial for the brand,” says Richie.
Becoming a key form of media at a fast pace, podcasts is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly when it comes to looking at it as a way to market your brand, whether it be a sole independent podcast or working alongside the big names of the industry.
But the use of podcasts when it comes to marketing a brand is still a new tool, with many still learning how to best utilise the audio form.
“The more we understand about the creative, the more we can shape the distribution of the ad units to be the most memorable and ensure the best integration and its content,” says James.
Infinite dial survey results
Over 80 percent of Kiwis listen to podcasts, with 54 percent ranging from the ages of 16-34, 40 percent between the ages of 35 to 54 and 25 percent are aged 55 and over.
There is an even split in Kiwi podcast listeners, with 48 percent of men and women saying they have listened to a podcast in the past month.
There is a clear difference however with Kiwis between the ages of 16 to 34, with 44 percent of women listening to podcasts compared to the 33 percent of men tuning in.
On the other side of the spectrum, 35 percent of men aged 55 and over are the majority when it comes to podcast listening.
On a weekly basis, Kiwis average five podcast episodes each week, with most Kiwis listening to one podcast episode a week at 25 percent. About eight percent of Kiwis listen to 11 or more episodes weekly.
Crafting a captivating podcast
What does it take to make a good podcast? We dive in deeper with Shaun D Wilson, Audio Innovation Editor for podcasts such as The Front Page and Chasing Ghosts: Below The Surface.
Tip #1: Know what you’re making
Shaun says that when it comes to making podcasts, you need to know what the podcast is going to be. Does it have regular segments or is it a show of casual chats? Is it personality or information focused? Are there episodes and what level of production will be needed to make this an engaging podcast?
Tip #2: Have a practice run
Practice makes perfect, so feel free to chat to experts in the field who can give suggestions or help with any troubleshooting.
“Once you have the gear and technology to record your podcast; record a pilot episode. This test will help you work out what does and doesn’t work about the show.”
Tip #3: Give it a shine and polish
Any show, whether it is meant to sound unproduced needs a “light edit” even if that means a low level of audio compression.
“Your podcast will benefit from having some attention paid to it,” says Shaun.
“This a great chance to reshape your show and remove any overly long pauses or sections that didn’t work. Why not have a music theme to start and end every episode?”
Shaun has an Audition subscription but says that may be a bit pricey. He still recommends Audacity, a free recording and editing software, perfect for novices.
Tip #4: Respect your listeners
For any podcast, it’s the listeners that really make it.
“Audio storytelling is fantastic, but there’s no shortage of substandard podcasts available. Stand out by making one people can look forward to listening to.”
This article was originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of NZ Marketing. Click here to subscribe.