‘Early Innings for Podcasting’; Experts Say Time Is Still Now to Go All in on Audio

“We hear every day from advertisers that they are more interested in podcasting,” said Vox Media’s SVP and general manager of audio and digital video, Ray Chao. “People who’ve never spent money in podcasting, ever, but they buy display ads from us and video advertising from us. They want to experiment in podcasting. So we just feel a lot of that potential in the long term.”

A question was put to a podcast panel last week if there is room for further expansion.

For companies “who care about building a sustainable business… to me it feels very much, at least from where we sit, as early innings for podcasting,” Vox’s Chao said, in an article in the Press Gazette covering The Podcast Show 2023 in London. “There’s continued movement of consumers—I always think about how it’s only like a third of Americans [that are] listening to podcasts regularly. The opportunity for us is so much bigger than that.”

Priya Sahathevan, director of commercial and business development at Sky News, agreed. “Our [podcast] audiences last year were 50% higher than the year before and our [podcast] revenues were 50% higher than the year before as well.”

At our AMPLIFY 2023, June 27-28, here in Washington, D.C., it will be interesting to hear from the award-winning panel for the session: Leveraging a Podcast Program for Any Size Organization. Speakers include: Meredith Landry, GLC, Jen Hajigeorgiou, National Association of Realtors, Matt Ausloos, American Health Law Association and Henry Howard, The American Legion.

“Literally beginning in March 2020, our podcast channel exploded, and we went from one or two per month to several per week,” Ausloos, an Emerging Talent winner of our 2022 IMPACT Awards, told me late last year. “It was just the best way to get that timely information out to as wide of an audience as possible as quickly as possible.”

Here are 6 recommendations for podcasts:

Focus on content—and time. Think audio-first, rather than a translation of a text or video product, Vox Media’s SVP and executive producer for audio, Nishat Kurwa (pictured with Chao; both were promoted in December), said. “The thing that is a truism about audio is it’s really intimate. So you do have to think about respecting the audience’s time.” Added Chao: “Quality of content is paramount at the end of the day… We do really look for opportunities where there’s an ambitious creator at the helm…”

Choose talent wisely. Kurwa said Vox asks what is going to make “a distinctive audio show” and that includes talent. A 2023 EXCEL Awards finalist for Best Single Episode, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies’ Insurance Uncovered podcast, is hosted by Catherine Imus, their VP, public affairs.(Hearing more female voices is encouraging.) The Association of American Medical Colleges is nominated for their Beyond the White Coat Podcast, hosted by their president and CEO David Skorton.

Have a value proposition. “Niche market strategy is absolutely critical,” said Soyini Coke, health care transformation and culture expert and host of CEO Exclusive Radio. “…But what is also equally important, and maybe a little bit more subtle is having a very clear value proposition. I don’t have to tell anybody how distracted and how much information we all have coming at us every day. And so if I’m going to get a CEO [on my podcast], you’re going to get whoever you’re targeting to give you a half an hour, 15 minutes of their time.”

Include a transcript. “What makes the audience engage?” asked Meghna Rao, senior editor of Neal Awards finalist Rheumatology Advisor. “What factors drive people to an episode on your podcast? Is it a title with good SEO value? [One UK executive said, “Even your episode titles are so important.”] Is it the expert? Is it the topic itself? Is it maybe the duration being aligned with your listeners’ time? Having a transcript was something that really elevated our podcasts. If people want to refer back to something that was not clearly mentioned, or the audio quality wasn’t good at that point, they can go back.”

Have a clear plan. “Having somebody that’s dedicated specifically to sponsorship or a donor/patron strategy is absolutely necessary to being successful,” Coke said. “You’re launching the podcast because you want to extend your reach, or to build deeper relationships, or get a greater share of mind or greater share of wallet from listeners. Then, having a clear plan for how you’re going to sell those services, how you’re going to sell more advertising, etc., is absolutely critical.”

Evolve your style. “It’s great to have a signature style, but this is the one thing that can evolve over time,” Rao said. “…If you listen to my podcast episodes from the beginning until now, you will see how different my style is. It’s obviously become more casual and more conversational. I recommend that you listen to a couple of popular podcasts to see how you can adapt.” Identifying the expert and topic in tandem could also be beneficial, she said. “Aligning your content with your audience’s needs always has to be front and center. I keep reminding myself sometimes of this.”


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