In-Scope: Soundscape, The State of Podcasting in Australia 2018

Mette Breith is the Director of OMD Insights who works with market research from a holistic brand and communication perspective.

As a child of the eighties, I grew up with TV and video games. I remember our first remote control had only one button. Short click changed the channel, long click changed the volume. Then came the Game Boys and Nintendos and having spent many hours playing Tetris, Mario Brothers and watching TV growing up it was all about the visual, and much less audio! So when people tried to get me on board with podcasts, I never really paid attention. I didn’t think I would be able to concentrate or that I would remember anything afterwards. I thought I needed something visual to go with it.

But then I started working on an OMD research project* about podcasts from a consumer point of view, and as a researcher I needed to immerse myself in podcasting to really understand the landscape. I wanted to know why people are so engaged with podcasts, why they talk so much about the podcasts they listen to, and if podcasts really are that informative.

I’ve now been on the same podcast discovery journey as the 500+ regular podcast listeners we talked to during the research.

But before jumping into the journey, let me just share some results from the research. The research was a massive study that asked more than 4,000 adult Australians about their attitudes towards podcasts, their listening behaviour, and their views on advertising within podcasts. The results are exciting, but the idea of podcasts and what brands can do within the field of podcasts is even more exciting.

We can all be placed into one of 4 segments when it comes to podcast listening. Which one you fit in depends on whether you listen to podcasts currently, if you used to, or if you never have.

The research showed us that 41% of people 18 years and above currently label themselves as podcast listeners, and if you are between 18 and 34 years old there is an even higher chance you listen to podcasts. In fact, 29% of all 18-34 year olds listen to podcasts on a regular basis.

Podcast listeners are highly engaged, as in extremely engaged. Take a look at the Podcast Cycle below and you’ll see that podcast listening is all about self-learning, it is engaging and absorbing, and it triggers discussion.

Listeners spend about 4 hours every week listening to podcasts, and the engagement really shows when we look at their associated behaviours. Regular podcast listeners listen more to podcasts than any other audio media, and they talk about podcast content more than they talk about content they consume in any other media – even video!

This engagement comes to life in the relationships that are created with the hosts of the specific podcasts they listen to. Podcast listening is an extremely intimate thing. It is something that happens on a 1:1 basis, with 92% listening by themselves. For a regular listener the host is almost as important as the subject.

But coming back to the discovery journey I mentioned earlier, 80% of all Australians 18+ have heard the term podcast, and 48% have listened to a podcast. Now, like myself, people will learn about podcasts through word of mouth. The discovery journey is initiated through recommendations. But the prerequisite to become a listener, is the presence of a particular subject of interest to the person. Maybe that’s why I never got into it before recently. People would tell me about different podcasts, but the subject was never quite right.

But hold on, I know what you are thinking; with 7.5 million people listening to podcasts and regular listeners listening to over 5 podcast episodes a week – is there enough podcast content out there to satisfy the demand? The answer is yes! In fact, there are approximately 550,000 podcasts currently available through iTunes, with 18.5 million individual episodes.

For most listeners the main reason they listen to podcasts is to get information. We see this in terms of their motives for listening and the categories they listen to. Informational podcasts are topping the list, but there is no one single dominant genre. Rather we see a broad variety of topics people enjoy listening to.

Now that I’m in the podcast cycle, I’ve learned (sort of) to navigate through the vast amount of content available via a mix of recommendations and exploring on my own. But it’s not a surprise that with so much choice and a lot of amateur podcasts out there some people drop off and become lapsed listeners.

Now do you remember the last time you saw or heard really good advertising? If you are a regular podcast listener, chances are you probably do. The thing is that with podcasts people are getting information from someone they trust (thinking back on that relationship with the host). When brands enter that sphere and help people become smarter through well-integrated partnerships, a true value exchange takes place.

When podcast listeners hear a host give a personal recommendation or endorsement of a product or service that has been integrated seamlessly and naturally into the podcast, the listener appreciates this. Consumers respond most favorably to host mentions compared to other advertising types, and the research showed that over 1 in 3 consumers agree that host mentions are believable, relevant, authentic and genuine.
While 45% feel that host mentions are annoying, results showed us that on an overall basis the positive associations outweigh the negative when it comes to host mentions.

Advertising will always be a value exchange; the podcast is free because there is advertising. But we need to understand that with podcast advertising we are able to create not only the expected value exchange, but a true one where consumers are actually getting something in return.

Don’t know where to get started with podcasts? Well, these are some of the main podcasts out there (in no particular order): Hamish & Andy, No Filter, TED Talks Daily, My Dad Wrote A Porno, Celeb HQ, Nights with Steve Price – and of course The Teacher’s Pet.

Enjoy listening! – and check out OMD Said on any podcast platform where you can listen to our POV on podcast best practices and a few case studies. Also check out where you can download the full report on the state of podcasting in Australia.

*Research specifics; OMD conducted more than 4,000 online interviews in May and October 2018 with Australians aged 18+. The research is nationally representative and to date is one of the biggest studies about the podcast landscape in Australia.

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