Branded Podcast

For a lot of local radio stations looking to capitalize on the expanding podcast marketplace, the first thought is what interesting content can they create to attract an audience. But that may be a legacy way of thinking that has broadcasters missing out on what could be a bigger opportunity. Jacobs Media digital consultant Seth Resler thinks local stations should take a fresh look at branded podcasts.

“When we think about podcasts, we really think about it in terms of the old radio model,” Resler said Thursday on a webinar. “To go out there create a hit, get a lot of people to listen, and then sell ads into it and connect advertisers with our product. The problem is it’s really hard to do.” He said most local stations don’t have the resources to produce shows that will attract a national audience. Plus there’s a lot of competition with more than 700,000 shows now in existence. And not all local sales teams are equipped to sell podcasts.

“Some radio companies create hits. That largely happens at the corporate level. But it’s tough for individual stations to do. So if you’re a smaller broadcasting company there may be a more effective way to use podcasts to generate some revenue,” said Resler, adding, “So don’t look at what the big guys are doing and say we need to copy what they’re doing.”

Branded podcasts may not be the first thought inside a radio station when the medium is mentioned. But rethinking the format could quickly begin producing revenue for a broadcaster, Resler said, rather than investing in a show and waiting to see if it becomes a hit. The data suggests there’s a growing opportunity.

Even as the vast majority of podcast revenue comes from either direct response or brand advertising, a growing number of marketers are looking at building their own content as a way to use podcasting as an advertising vehicle. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) said branded podcasts made up 10.1% of the industry’s ad revenue in 2018. That’s up from just 1.5% two years earlier. “Branded content is still a small percentage of the amount of revenue, but it is growing,” Resler said. “And I think that’s going to continue to grow in the future.”

How To Create A Branded Podcast

Once a station decides creating branded podcasts for local clients is something they want to do, Resler said the next step is determining how to approach potential partners. “The right clients have got a budget. They have money to spend on a podcast. Second, you want someone who already has fans. That’s why Trader Joe’s podcast works so well. They already have fans that are willing to engage. If it’s a new business that just launched, podcasting is probably not the right medium. And you want them to view podcasting as part of their overall marketing strategy,” he said. “This is not somebody who is looking to create a podcast and become the next podcasting superstar and then sell ads into their own podcast. You’re looking for people who are viewing the branded podcast as a way to reach their clients. And it definitely helps if the person you’re selling the branded podcast to already listens to podcasts. It makes the sale a lot easier.”

One way to help ferret out potential local clients interested in using a podcast as part of their marketing strategy is for the station to create a lead generation podcast that’s specifically designed to get and attract clients who are interested in producing their own podcast. Resler said that starts with identifying a product vertical or category that also fits the station’s audience and produce a podcast that interviews local businesses that fall under that category. For instance, a station podcast about local craft breweries could spark one to launch their own show. And Resler said it’s a process that’s even easier when the product vertical is something an on-air talent who could serve as the host is passionate about.

Once the client is secured, several other decisions need to be made, like picking the host—a station talent or the client themselves—and a hosting platform for the audio file. A format also needs to be selected. “One great show format is the one-on-one interview format. This is something that radio stations know how to do. They do it all the time and it’s something your current on-air talent can host,” Resler said. “The other format is the three-person roundtable often referred to the ‘morning zoo’ format and that’s a very common format in podcasts and one that I think would work very well for clients.”

Promoting The Show

Once a branded podcast launches, promoting the show becomes critical. But that’s something stations are good at, said Resler, who thinks a spot buy should be part of the strategy. “This is something radio salespeople already know how to do. They know how to put a spot buy together.” He said stations can also use email marketing, social media, and distribution on their own mobile app. But while everyone hopes for hit, Resler suggests stations and clients agree the first series is a “pilot season” with a finite number of episodes. Then if it’s a big hit, the two can return for a second season, or pivot and make adjustments if changes are needed.

“This is an opportunity for radio in particular because we know that broadcasters are really good at producing and promoting audio,” Resler said. “So I think this is something that you could go out and sell almost immediately.”