John McNeil Studio

Content Culture: The State of Podcasting

JMS Blog

Strategy Sessions unpack a topic of interest discussed within the JMS strategy team. From business trends to personal passions and everything in between, these conversations spark innovation and help us find new ways of thinking.

This Week’s Topic: Podcasting

Over the past several years, the ever-growing podcast market has changed how we consume information, frame narratives, and receive targeted advertising messages at large. It’s projected that podcasting will be a $4 billion industry by 2024, with over 144 million podcast listeners in the US alone by 2025. Beyond that, the opportunity this provides for advertisers and content creators in general to cultivate audiences and disseminate their message with more precision and reach is boundless. Recently, the JMS team discussed the current culture and capabilities of podcasting.

Read a high level of our thoughts below.

Audiences: Impact Matters Even More Than Reach

Podcasts are such a powerful medium if you know exactly who you're talking to, and you're not trying to talk to everyone. Thinking about really encouraging clients or creators to narrow the audience, hyper-target the audience, and not necessarily feel like they have to make a bunch of different podcasts for any given audience target. Pick the one that's going to be most influenced by the medium. In general, it's still an awareness or an educational play that doesn't have a direct impact on sales, so that's one thing that makes clients a little hesitant. If you are hyper-targeting, that means inevitably, you're kind of lowering the number of people that you're reaching, but you’re reaching the more impactful.

– Sarah Jessee, Strategy Director, Editorial Content

I feel that the weird thing about a podcast strategy is the idea of inventing and creating an audience is often kind of overlooked. I feel like there is a language that's being shaped and being made by the podcasters themselves—and they're actually shaping an audience. That's one of the things that I think we don't do enough. Just generally ‘we,’ the general, royal ‘we.’ We don't do enough study in how audiences are created, and not just existing.

– Remi Abbas, Executive Director, Innovations

Leveraging Value in the Media World

There's this perception that insights—as with audiences—are existing, and you just have to do the uncovering work to find them, but actually what you do, if you're a good strategist or really a good creative thinker, is pick the pieces that feel clickable and put them together. Then you can create the audience the same way you create the insight.

– Sarah Jessee, Strategy Director, Editorial Content

I think there's a huge difference in perception between podcasts and YouTube videos. Podcasts are entertainment, but I think they have this air of, like, intellectual wisdom and being kind of a literary alternative, whereas YouTube is not that.

– Laura Ogle, Senior Strategist

And there's a lot of credibility that I have for the host. It's almost like the things they recommend are the things they believe in. I wonder if it's deceptive to look at just the level of investment and what you get out of it, because one loyal customer for the rest of their life is maybe more valuable than somebody who buys your thing once randomly and never buys it again.

– Sonia Minden, Executive Director, Brand Strategy

The Challenge of Predicting Profitability

I think that you need to think about the advertising stack of most of these clients and most clients generally, because usually, when they are promoting a product or running a campaign, they're like, I need to calculate a very specific ROI so that for every dollar I put in, I can get $3.50 out. They're gonna say, “I'm going to go to the very predictable places first.” I think because podcasts are in that niche, unless you really have a very experimental President, CEO, or Head of Marketing, you're never going to get the first bucket of money invested in podcast advertising for that reason. So I think that's the challenge we're always gonna face, just realistically.

– Snow Burns, Executive Director, Social Strategy

When I think about the people who go on a podcast to pitch their idea of their product, it's always those startups that are like, I have no marketing budget anyway, so I don’t care.

– Sonia Minden, Executive Director, Brand Strategy

As well as, how do you borrow from radio and actually make podcasts kind of part of two things? One, the event strategy of an organization, so that it becomes more presenter-based, maybe, and connected to what's happening on the event calendar. And then two, if we thought about monetizing it as a portable radio show, does that change the way we can kind of go to market with podcasts? It could be kind of an interesting experiment.

– Remi Abbas, Executive Director, Innovations

Love to listen? Here are some podcast recommendations from our team.

Context Creators: Revisit our collective understanding of historical events and situations

You’re Wrong About: We’re especially fans of the episodes prior to 2021 with Michael Hobbes as co-host.

Revisionist History: Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast (you can imagine the vibe).

The Memory Palace: Nate diMeo’s long-running show is as good as it ever was.

Deep Dives: Get into the weeds (in a good way) of unusual or overlooked topics

99% Invisible: What started as a side project has now expanded into a bit of an audio empire, in the form of Radiotopia – a great resource for additional listening recommendations.

Serial (Seasons 2 and 3): The show that shifted the podcast paradigm has two other seasons – and you know what? They’re really, really well-reported.

Mood Boosters: Unwind with shows that are pretty much guaranteed to make you laugh out loud

Normal Gossip: Defector’s *genius* concept centers on other people’s (low stakes) drama.

Scam Goddess: Improv comedian Laci Mosley strikes just the right balance between admiring and admonishing scammers. (Side note: her guest appearance on Normal Gossip is one of our favorite episodes.)