Editorial and Sponsor Podcast Content Is Acted on, New Study and EXCEL Winners Say

We often hear the retort, “I’m not buying that.” But a new study says that podcaster listeners are buying not only the editorial content they hear but the products being advertised as well. Almost all frequent listeners have shown love for advertisers in some way. With the 2023 EXCEL Awards Regular Deadline on Friday, here are some previous EXCEL podcast winners to offer more proof to the power of this growing medium.

“I’m just glad I brushed my hair today,” says a woman, with a joyous tinge of at-least-I-had-time-for-that, thus beginning the 2022 EXCEL Gold Award winner for Best Single Podcast Episode. The moderator then says, “Strategies for Working Moms and the Future of Patient Friendly Payment on Voices in Healthcare Finance, sponsored by ClearBalance.” Cue the music, and we’re under way.

The Healthcare Financial Management Association aired the hot-button, working moms episode with guests from McKinsey & Company. This came a couple months after the BLS reported that 865,000 women over the age of 20 dropped out of the workplace in September 2020. Host Erika Grotto later brought on Brad Dennison, HFMA’s director of content strategy, to discuss their December cover story about the financial risks of deferred care. (We love when events push our own content people.)

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals won the EXCEL Silver Award for Best Single Podcast Episode for “Old Man Psoas: The Rebel MT” with Allison Denney. In the first minute we hear: “Anatomy Trains [a sponsor] is delighted to announce a brand new livestream specialty class on September 18th—Lumbo Pelvic Stability…” And “This episode is brought to you by the Massage Mentor Institute…” When host Denney finally comes on, her prose is lyrical: “It is a little overwhelming to dip your toe into the sea of anatomical knowledge, only to find that it is a bottomless ocean.”

Think those early ads might distract or turn off listeners? Think again.

According to new research from Acast, 95% of U.S. listeners have taken action in response to podcast advertising, and that rises to 97% for frequent listeners. Podcast fans are willing to listen to advertising to support their favorite shows—82% in the U.S. feel that way and 66% in Canada. Of those who feel that podcasters are like friends, 77% in the U.S. and 55% in Canada are willing to listen to ads all the time. And 82% of US and 67% of Canadians follow a podcaster on social media.

Podcasts “replicate the way people would react” to magazines, Donna Murphy, deputy managing director of Haymarket Business Media—a company increasing its investment in podcasts after seeing a 300% rise in listeners—said recently. “We see podcasts as a key audience engagement tool, and as we continue to move away from print in some areas, it’s a perfect medium to build personality and tone. Like magazines, podcasts are episodic and have clear structures.”

DC Thomson head of podcasts Christopher Phin added that they are “looking at what can podcasts do for us, where are the successes, what does success look like, and coming to the realization that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for what podcasts can do for a publisher, no one answer to how are you measuring success with your podcast.”

One of their podcasts, launched in 2020 from the 153-year-old women’s weekly The People’s Friend, converted 2% of listeners into magazine subscribers.

The 2022 Gold EXCEL Award winner in Best Podcast (Series) was the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for its ASHA Voices: Gender-Inclusive Services. In one episode, Greg Robinson, a faculty member at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, “shares guidance on how to approach conversations on gender—including information on the ‘they/them’ pronoun—and provides history and context for the conversation.” In another episode later in the year, NCAA men’s basketball champion and NBA veteran Michael Kidd-Gilchrist joins ASHA Voices to “share his experiences as a person who stutters. He also discusses his related advocacy work he does through his nonprofit initiative Change and Impact.”

Audio in general is becoming much more standardized. Podcastle’s new text-to-speech feature called Revoice allows publishers to produce audio content by typing into a text document. Revoice automates repetitive but important content creation, including as advertising copy, episode intros and voiceovers. “Users must record themselves reading 70 distinct sentences, along with a legal disclaimer,” writes MediaPost. “Podcastle’s AI-powered learning algorithm will then process and generate a digital copy of the voice within 24 hours.”


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