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Last week we looked into how audio advertising is changing. And that's great because it creates new opportunities for individual podcast hosts and publishers.

This comes as a result of podcasts finding their place in branded content. This intimate medium is an unobtrusive-yet-significant way of being a part of your target audience's day to day life.

So, this week I wanted to make sure that you know why podcasts – making them, appearing on them as a guest, or sponsoring them – should be on the radar for every brand marketers.

Branded podcasts are comin' in hot in 2021

TikTok made the remix culture that was already thriving in China, go mainstream everywhere.

By default, it encourages improving, integrating and otherwise remixing copyrighted work by combining or editing existing materials to produce new work.

With decades of pushing the boundaries of copyright laws behind us, this is a tricky idea to embrace for some.

But it can't be denied that it's gotten people used to a whole new genre of content delivered in no more than 60-second clips.

And as we've been more open to trying new kinds of content lately, brands are once again finding their stride with branded content.
 

Big tech is rallying around podcasting

Spotify recently became the world's leading podcast platform.

It already had a huge share of listeners from music streaming, and with podcasts only added to its appeal and kept existing users in the app for longer to drive up premium subscriptions.

Apple has long been the podcast platform to be on but reportedly only built its podcast subscription product for fear of losing out to Spotify. Apple now has audio originals in the works, building upon its gaming and TV verticals. 

Amazon also made a play into podcasting by buying podcast network Wondery.

And Amazon has the money and the platforms (Audible, Amazon Music, Twitch) to quickly scale its presence in the industry.

YouTube already hosts the best podcasts with camera footage or still images.

But its podcast experience still comes off as forced since the Premium users can listen in the background but most free users must run the video.

Unlike video and text, audio is a uniquely sticky and intimate medium that you can still enjoy without having to drop everything to pay attention to it.
 

Throughout 2020 podcasts kept their momentum

Even when brand activity across all mediums was down. Many brands went from simply advertising on podcasts, to starting their own.

Consumer brands are using podcasts to highlight their values and connect with likeminded people. Like Ben & Jerry's who partnered with Vox Media (known for their informational videos) to launch a podcast series called; Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America.

And podcasts are an opportunity for B2B brands too.

Digital selling is becoming the new norm among sellers, and B2B decision-makers are turning to suppliers with deep knowledge and expert teams

Podcasts are a great and cost-effective way to establish both.

There are hundreds of podcasts available but these are some of my faves, both in B2B and B2C:

  1. Science Champions by 3M
  2. Simplify by Blinkist
  3. Changing Lanes by BMW
  4. Venture Stories by Village Global
  5. Three and a half degrees by Facebook
  6. Decoding Genius by GE
  7. The sleep podcast by IKEA
  8. Hello Monday by LinkedIn
  9. We are Netflix by Netflix
  10. Rework by Basecamp
  11. The AI Element by Element AI
  12. Wierd work by Hubspot
  13. The McKinsey Podcast by McKinsey & Co.
  14. The Marketing Cloudcast by Salesforce
  15. Vanguard by Shopify
I won't pretend like I can keep up with every single podcast on my list.

But across the titles above, I can always find something inspirational to listen to. The one that I never miss though, is Coaching for Leaders by Dave Stachowiak.

It doesn't qualify to be a branded podcast but it's one of the best out there.
 

What brands can expect from podcasts in 2021?


Distributing podcasts will become easier as the industry consolidates.

And new trends will bring new opportunities. 2020 was dominated by mergers and acquisitions and 2021 won't change much there, but as Spotify focuses on making Wallstreet happy with its current investment, I expect to see a lot of buzz in Amazon's and Apple's camps.

It is worth noting that professional creators will have access to more advanced and more affordable solutions in 2021. They'll be figuring out which ones are useful and easy to integrate into existing workflows meaning that this year will reward those who are willing to re-learn and adapt and are never too afraid to try something new.

More niche creators, delivering high-quality content, will also find a willing audience. 

Successful podcasts will continue building legitimate relationships with their listeners. This sincere engagement with fans will lead to organic growth despite the crowded environment.

And podcasting will start segmenting itself beyond clear genre categories — sports, politics, fiction — into consumer-driven categories based on editorial composition (akin to how book publishing organizes itself). New improvements in digital audio ads will further support this development.

Premium content and podcasts subscriptions are becoming more common.

Just like paying subscribers-only newsletters, premium podcasts – such as Dithering – are already seeing success with this monetisation model.

And let's not forget microcasts.

Microcasts are no longer than 10 minutes long. A short, sweet and to-the-point format that's gaining steam thanks to smart speakers. Think of micro casting as quick answers on Google.

Many experts believe that besides strengthening YouTube, Google will introduce new search features to make audio more discoverable in organic search. 

And then there's Twitter that already has plans to purposefully move towards audio. Last year they introduced voice-based Spaces and purchased Breaker to expand their audio focus.

Podcasts are exciting, and unlike text or video, you can have them playing in the background while getting on with your day.  That's just another reason why this medium should be any brand marketer's agenda in 2021.
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In case you missed:

Facebook News is now available in the UK a little over a year after its launch in the US. Working with Upday, which also provides news aggregation on Samsung devices, Facebook promises to deliver news from more diverse sources while also personalizing the content based on user activity.

Facebook and Google have been under a lot of pressure to start paying news publishers for their content, and this update means more revenue for the struggling news publishers. Facebook’s confirmed that France and Germany are next on the list. [TechCrunch]

It wasn’t too long ago when revolutions were being organised on WhatsApp. But just last week people are leaving the app in droves after Facebook changed its privacy policy.

Now Signal is filling the gap left by WhatsApp and they have ambitious growth objectives of their own.

Now people working for Signal are sounding the alarm that the app’s lack of content moderation policies, and no interest in improving them, can hurt encryption technologies' reputation. [The Verge]

Political campaigns are a treasure trove of impressive marketing strategies. And the Biden/Harris campaign was no different. Biden’s campaign was all about matching the message to the medium. They did that by going where ever their audience was including online games, branded content, influencers and obviously TikTok and more. [Advertising Age]

Publishers are holding their breath to see where Google will land with contextual links in featured snippets. Google is currently testing a feature where a single snippet from one news publisher could include links to other publishers. [SEL]

Since 2019 it’s been illegal to advertise e-cigarettes to anyone under 21, but vape sellers on TikTok seem to have missed memo. Videos are often set up to upbeat music clearly targeting teenagers promoting unauthorised flavours. And you can get your vape delivered disguised as fuzzy slippers. Take that, you pesky parents. [TechCrunch]
These 5 articles are from my daily digest where I curate the best content covering everything from emerging trends in marketing, consumer behaviour, retail, public policy, strategy and technology. You can sign up here.

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“Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process."

- David Ogilvy

Until next week,
Aliyar

PS. Are we connected on LinkedIn? No? Let's remedy that, shall we?
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Thanks for reading and sharing! BR, Aliyar.
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