Experts from firms including Acast, the Guardian and Publicis joined PodPod’s recent roundtable, with a number of important trends emerging as 2023 approaches.
1. Growth in news and current affairs podcasts
Those around the table noted a recent upward trend for news and current affairs podcasts, with everything from ten-minute daily roundups to deep dives into investigative stories resonating with listeners. Lizzy Pollott, SVP for marketing, communications and brand at Acast said: “Over the past two years at Acast we’ve seen a massive boost in news podcasts and a change in behaviour.” A variety of formats appear to work in this category, and the success of shows such as The Rest is Politics and the Guardian’s Today in Focus highlight that the desire for current affairs content is still on the up.
2. Human storytelling is the best approach
Brands interested in podcasts have often got a particular message they want to align themselves with, but haven’t always thought about how their brand tone and content needs to adapt for the medium. Neil Cowling, founder of production firm Fresh Air, says it’s all about finding the middle ground between what the brand wants to say, and what listeners want to hear. “It’s all about human storytelling. One of our briefs was from Legal and General who wanted an engaging podcast about retirement planning. We’re now starting work on series four, and we go out and find people with colourful stories – a coal miner who retired and became a ski instructor, or someone who came out at 65 and is now living the life they always wanted. It’s about finding the stuff that fascinates people.”
3. Big hits aren’t always predictable
Many of the UK’s biggest podcasts – such as Off Menu by Ed Gamble and James Acaster – weren’t set up by people with huge profiles, and weren’t guaranteed hits from the start. With such low barriers to entry, anyone with a good idea can potentially capture peoples’ attention – although it will take a bit of work and time. Charlotte Emery, chief brand officer at William Hill says: “We’re often not patient enough these days to allow things to grow. Once you’re always showing up, you become synonymous with something – that’s when it becomes really powerful.”
4. Social is growing in importance for promotion
The table agreed that short, snappy sections of conversations can be used across social channels for promotions. “[Podcasts] translate really nicely into 30-second snippets to Instagram reels or TikTok,” said Karl Newman, managing director at Publicis Media Content. “Those other assets you create are important.”
Andrea Fenel, social media channel lead at HSBC flagged how different channels can shift the experience by bringing a visual element. “YouTube gives a totally different experience, it changed my experience being able to see facial expressions and the chemistry between people.”
Pollott mentioned how TikTok has grown significantly in recent months, driving listeners and becoming the biggest acquisition channel in attracting new podcast creators to Acast.
5. Formats are broadening and evolving
Catherine Cribbin, head of partnerships at IAB UK flagged how podcasting is becoming increasingly full of variety. “They’re anything from ten minutes to three hours, and within that there’s a variety of ways to monetise them: branded content, dynamic ad insertion, a tipping model... A lot will change in that space, and I’m fascinated to see how it evolves.”
6. The meaning of success is changing
Pollott pointed to a large number of small-to-medium businesses that are keen to advertise to a relevant audience but without the budget required for big names. Not only does this mean that niche, smaller-scale podcasts can increasingly be monetised, it means the parameters of success are changing, with huge audiences not always necessary.
As Emery said: “Podcasting feels personal – it’s not necessarily about audience reach, but the depth of engagement.”
Nicole Jackson, head of audio at the Guardian, agreed, saying: “Sometimes it’s not just about numbers. You have to think about other parameters of success.”
7. Tipping models are gaining traction
There are plenty of opportunities for paid content on podcasts – ad-free content is one big one, and subscriptions are another, particularly if offering bonus content. Tipping particularly resonated with many of those around the table, offering listeners the opportunity to pay podcasters voluntarily. The Guardian’s voluntary subscription model is another example of this working well, and Jackson flagged how journalists take particular pains to mention this model when podcasting about an investigation that might have taken many months of work. Pollott agreed it can be a successful approach, saying: “Tipping is a massive thing. We have podcasts that do really well. People recognise the time and effort and want to support it.”
As 2023 approaches, those around the table agreed there are multiple and varied opportunities to evolve and grow podcasts, with a growing number of use cases for the medium and with listeners open to exploration – giving both brands and creators ample scope to experiment.
Adam Shepherd, editor, PodPod
Charlotte Emery, chief brand officer, William Hill
Andrea Fenel, social media channel lead, HSBC
Lizzy Pollott, SVP marketing, communications & brand, Acast
Catherine Cribbin, head of partnerships, IAB UK
Nicole Jackson, head of audio, The Guardian
Neil Cowling, founder, Fresh Air
Karl Newman, managing director, Publicis Media Content