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Podcasters may bristle at the idea the industry is at “peak podcast” but when it comes to marketers considering joining the fray, there’s no shortage of potential clients. “We hear from a lot of brands. Everyone wants a podcast right now, brands, people, whoever,” said Pineapple Street Studios co-founder Jenna Weiss-Berman. Speaking during Advertising Week this week in New York, she and business partner Max Linsky said the best branded podcasts are the shows that operate in a “no BS” zone. 

“It’s a very unforgiving medium to bullshit,” said Linsky. “You can hear it and people turn it off.” So, he said the goal for Pineapple Street as it works with brands is to find a host who has genuine curiosity about the subject and guests who are authentic. “The aim of the brand should also be aiming to solve some problem for an audience. “That’s not always the idea they come in with, but if we don’t get there by the end our experience is it ends up being disappointing for everybody,” said Linsky.

Weiss-Berman said that often means making a brand realize that it’s the listener, not company executives, who they should be appealing to. It’s also why she said they push to have an existing podcast personality as host rather than someone on the marketer’s payroll.

Pineapple Street Studios has had some of its biggest successes with shows it has created for Nike, Google, Coach and Morgan Stanley. Linsky said they typically have a pretty good feel for how successful a show will be when they determine how ambitious a marketer is about the project. And just like any other show that the company releases, he says they need to “play for a hit” even though it’s a branded podcast. “The show needs to have a genuine chance of reaching a real audience for it to be exciting for us and that they feel good about in the end,” he said.

The company didn’t release any specific download numbers but Weiss-Berman did reveal that 85% of listeners typically finish an episode. “I’ve been really shocked how many listeners these shows get,” she said. “The shows are good they are marketed well and people seem to keep coming back to them.”

Nike’s Trained podcast, which averages more than 100,000 downloads per episode, will launch its fifth season in October. It’s not the typical branded show according to J.D. Crowley, Chief Digital Officer at Entercom which acquired Pineapple Street in August. He said it generates the sort of buzz that regular shows do. “But it also gives you a high bar in the story-telling and the no-bullshit factor to not screw up the brand,” said Crowley.

While Trained has racked up downloads with a 45-minute show, Linsky says Pineapple Street doesn’t guarantee a client they’ll hit any download numbers and that’s typically been no problem to date. “Often times it’s the first step in an experiment. And what the brands that were working with care about the most is that it’s good,” he said. Linsky said they do push “really hard” to get brands to promote their shows on other podcasts. 

“It is orders of magnitude effective to advertise a podcast on another podcast than it is almost anywhere else,” he said. “Trying a podcast listener to try a new show is much easier than to convince a brand loyalist to try podcasting.”