Why the growth of podcasting is part of a much bigger trend: The microphoning of America.

fullsizeoutput_499e

“Beyond $1 Billion” podcast panel at 2019 Advertising Week.

Not so long ago podcasting was barely noticed by the powers that be at Advertising Week, the annual mega-conference in New York for advertising and marketing executives. Our medium was just a little outhouse in the backyard of a mighty media mansion that was dominated by video, TV and print.

So much has changed. And much more is on the way.

Today, enthused Matt Scheckner, Global Chief Executive at Advertising Week, “the heat around podcasting is tremendous. 2019 was when the renaissance of audio really began to pick up speed.”

That’s a far cry from five years ago when a lone audience member at Advertising Week politely asked a question about the potential for podcasting as a way to reach consumers. I remember being politely waved away with a dismissive smile.

The annual Infinite Dial survey of digital consumer behavior “has changed more in the last four to five years than in the previous 17”, says Tom Webster, Senior Vice President of Edison Research. One third of Americans, or about 90 million people, have listened to a podcast in the past month, according to Edison. Podcasting is no longer a niche market that advertisers can afford to ignore.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) predicts that podcast advertising revenues will top $1 billion by 2021.

But with improving standards in audience measurement and discoverability, the increase in revenues may be far greater in the next few years.

“There’s been explosion from venture capital investment. Hollywood is now in the podcasting space,” Grant Durando, Growth Marketing Consultant of Right Side Up, told the Advertising Week podcast session, “Beyond $1 Billion”. “The variety of podcasts and the content on offer have grown tremendously.”

Podcasting’s overall share of audio listening has doubled in the past five years. Research reveals that regular podcast consumers listen more to podcasts than to radio, music, or SiriusXM.

The listening environment is also changing.

“Just as digital audio has become ubiquitous on phones, it’s becoming the same for cars,” said Webster. Dashboards now include podcasts.

Smart speaker ownership has grown extraordinarily quickly, changing the way people to listen to audio. Consumers are buying multiple smart speakers to put in their homes.

Research shows that “people are intentionally purchasing smart speakers to reduce screen time,” Webster told the Advertising Week audience. Smart speakers could be a threat to TV. “They are enabling audio consumption where it might not have happened before.”

Worldwide sales of smart speakers will almost double this year compared to 2018, according to new research by SAR Insight.

“We’re at the front end of a platform shift that will really change the world of marketing,” says Bret Kinsella, founder, CEO, and research director of Voicebot.ai, a company that provides news and analysis on voice assistants and artificial intelligence. “Microphones are everywhere and that changes the way people think about how they interact with technology.”

In recent years we’ve gone from click, to touch, to speak, says Kinsella.

“Every time there’s a platform shift, there’s a shifting of the deckchairs. The dominant players can change.”

The rapid adoption of voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and Google “has taken analysts by surprise and that exposure is flowing into more voice assistant usage on smartphones, PCs and through household appliances,” reports Voicebot.ai. “It is clear that voice assistants are heading toward both ubiquitous access and usage.”

The changes in technology that drive consumer behavior are of growing interest to the advertising industry. But despite growing awareness that podcast listeners are more engaged than average consumers, many marketers are not there yet.

“Many brands don’t have an audio strategy to transform a visual idea into an audio experience without just shouting and being aggressive,” Rob Walker Global Director, Creative Solutions at Spotify told a panel on audio marketing.

More insights are needed. As thinking about audio marketing evolves and becomes more insightful, some large consumer names are turning to sonic branding. Audrey Arbeeny, Founder of Audiobrain.com describes it as “the strategic and creative development of an authentic and consistent audio sound for a brand.”

Growing attention to “the theater of the mind” provided by audio is another recent shift at Advertising Week.

“The biggest thing for us is how to transfer a brand’s visual identity into a sonic identity,” says Janet Levine of Mindshare, a global media and marketing services company.” The challenge is help brands understand “how to shift from a visual world to a sonic one.”

Richard Davies is a podcast host and consultant. Hear him on “How Do We Fix It?”, “C-Suite Intelligence” and “Healthy Communities News.” 

Marketers are listening. At last, podcasting is a thing at Advertising Week.

Finally it’s happening. Advertisers and marketers are waking up to the great potential of podcasting.

At this week’s Advertising Week conference in New York, there’s interest, even excitement, about audio– both music and speech. Unlike previous years, when our industry was virtually ignored at this annual event, an entire morning of panel sessions has been devoted to podcasts and audio.

“We view voice as the natural next step in technology’s future,” said Julia Chen Davidson, Head of Google’s Partner Marketing this week, at the well-attended Future of Audio Summit. “It’s still very early in the adoption curve.”

“Voice is the new touch,” enthused Pandora’s VP of Ad Innovation Strategy, Claire Fanning.

Podcasting is along for ride, with Anna Bager of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) forecasting 110% growth in annual U.S. podcast advertising revenue until 2020. Many podcast listeners like the advertising they hear “and see it as a service,” she told the audience of marketing, brand and ad professionals.

“These strong numbers speak to advertisers’ increasing recognition that podcasts provide a powerful platform for reaching and engaging audiences,” said Bager in a news release. They are “tapping into the medium’s highly engaged audience.”

Interest in podcasting is enhanced by three recent broader consumer/tech trends:

– Excitement about new research and development of Artificial Intelligence and voice-activated search.

– The explosive growth in sales and adoption of smart speakers.

– Innovation and expansion of voice-assisted technology (VAT) in cars and trucks.

Dramatic changes in automotive center stacks and consoles “is going to radically change media consumption,” Tom Webster, Senior Vice President of Edison Research told a breakout session at Advertising Week. “VAT will cause an incredible spike in podcast listening.”

And yet there are obstacles, despite steady gains in overall Podcast listening.

At Podcast Movement last July, Webster, Amplifi Media’s Steve Goldstein and others righty voiced concern about problems with discovery. While most Americans are aware of podcasting, many find it difficult to find shows, or even understand how to download or subscribe to podcasts.

One promising initiative discussed at Advertising Week is Pandora’s soon-to-be-launched Podcast Genome Project, designed our help listeners find shows based on what’s being discussed. Panelist Lizzie Widhelm of Pandora told a session that its Genome will be able to recommend other podcasts based on the content of an episode.

“There will soon be a time when our podcasts will find us, instead of the other way around,” says the online music and speech radio company’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Phillips. “If we know you care about a particular topic, we can find the podcast (the needle in a haystack), and put it in front of you.”

This project along with growth in voice search and AI could prove to be next big audience accelerator for podcasters.

Richard Davies is a podcast host, producer, consultant, and media coach. He runs DaviesContent.

Why Does This Gucci Model Look So Miserable?

  
The Thanksgiving Day newspapers landed with a thud on the front doorstep.  Even now in this digital age when most of us get our news online, the papers are stuffed with expensive colorful circulars and retail ads. 

Most of the mass-market pitches are bright, loud and pretty straightforward, proclaiming “Black Friday Deals” and “Doorbuster” Specials.  High-end retailers push plush sweaters, eye-catching jewelry, bags and warm coats.

It’s all part of a not very subtle push for our holiday retail dollars.  But why is it that all the models for JCPenny, Macy’s and Target have nice, broad smiles on their faces, while the Gucci and Prada ladies appear to be downright miserable?

What’s their problem?  They were paid good money for their modeling gig.

I’m not a marketer, or a brand consultant. So it’s beyond me why The Dior woman is glowering from behind a fancy pair of sunglasses on page 3 of The New York Times and the Sauvage fragrance guy on the back page looks like he’s about to punch somebody out.

Huh?

Who wrote the memo that it’s hip, edgy or in-the-know to look like you’re having a crappy day?  Does dystopian angst help the elite-tailers sell more stuff?

Come on. It’s Thanksgiving. Be happy and express some gratitude. 

Most of us are blessed with love and a measure of prosperity.  Even those who rule at the fashion fortresses could offer something that’s less forbidding and cold.  

  Above:  JC Penny circular. Top: Gucci ad The New York Times 11/26.