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The End of Dumb Content
2023 was tough for many in the podcast world and it’s not easy working in an industry surrounded by stories telling you that the ‘bubble has burst’. But here’s the truth – certain parts of the podcasting world were a bubble, and they needed bursting. One of the team's daughters mentioned this week that she had listened to a new podcast from one of her favourite influencer, but it was rubbish. Of course it was rubbish, because a young person who’s become enormously successful by churning out brilliant 30-second video content can’t automatically create an engaging piece of audio for 45 minutes at a time. Even if they’re given a big pot of money. What’s more, their audience may not even follow them across, because even if you like that bubbly person for their eyebrow tutorials, that might be the limit of what you need to know about them.
2024 will be a year when far fewer TikTokkers are given piles of easy cash to create dumb podcast content, and those who make the successful transition into audio will be the ones who deserved it because they thought hard about the medium. So, good riddance to that particular bubble, and if you’re a brand who’d like to work with an influencer in audio, hire a producer who can nurture the raw talent and help them make the jump.
Brands & Big Talent
In the non-influencer space, big mainstream talent are starting to work out where they sit with podcasting too. Of those thousands of celebs who started podcasts in lockdown, only some have been outrageously successful such as Off Menu and Parenting Hell. Why? Because they’re funny, creative and they’ve stuck with it. Many others have fallen off a cliff and left both talent and agents with a much more realistic view of what it takes to be successful in audio. They have ideas, but they want to be paid for it, and the agents don’t have the energy to support passion projects that demand constant creative energy and may or may not pay for themselves in three years’ time.
So what’s the answer here? Brands, that’s what. The answer is brands who back a talent-first idea and then work closely with them to make a unique concept come to life. There are major names out there with big podcast ideas bursting out of them, and they’ll collaborate with a brand to make the project come happen. With the right alignments of talent, idea, brand and target audience, there will be some huge shows in 2024 that work brilliantly for everyone involved. The talent get to execute their podcast idea (perhaps with a little creative trimming) and the brand get an association with a personality to create owned content that can be at the heart of their content strategy. Suddenly, you don’t need to advertise around other people’s podcasts to get that halo effect, because you’ve got your own.
If you’re a brand manager, don’t be surprised if you get pitched plenty of talent-first podcast projects in 2024.
‘So, can we tell whether someone has listened to our podcast and then bought our product?’ ‘Can we tell whether someone clicked on the promotion and then listened to the podcast?’. Historically, these have been an awkward question for us and the answer has largely been ‘no’. Great news – the answer is about to become ‘perhaps’.
Let's not over-promise here, but the quality of analytics coming on-stream now means that we are able to prove the effectiveness of both podcasts and the promotional activity around them to a level that simply wasn’t possible two or three years ago. If you’re hoping for the same level of granularity you’d get from a Facebook campaign and a pixel you may be disappointed for now, but it won’t be long. We’re part of a very tantalising beta test and there are many other developments that have us very excited. When they’re confirmed and tested, you’ll be the first to be told about them through the medium of our weekly newsletter (subscribe below!)
Scale and Precision
We’ve seen a bit of a split recently when it comes to brands and what they want from podcasting, between the drive for scale and the drive for precision. Some brands want to go big, and I mean really big. Larger budgets coming into the space sometimes mean they’re accompanied by the question ‘How can we make a Top 20 global podcast?’. The answer is, of course, that anyone who promises they can get you into the Top 20 and keep you there long term is lying. There are tactics, formats and talent that can get you close, and the brand’s ability to activate its own network, not just rely on the talent or the paid media, is a significant factor. Scale combined with effectiveness – creativity married with strategy – is the holy grail here and it ties into the ‘big talent’ conversations above.
The other trend is ‘If only six people hear this podcast, and they’re the right six people, that’s fine.’ Narrowcasting, especially within the high-end B2B space, will become increasingly common and can be a hugely rewarding experience for both the brand and the audience.
A laser-guided podcast is a very special thing. If you can’t invite that multi-million budget holder into your office for a drink, you can create something perfect that they’ll actively choose to hear. You can showcase the expertise of your host, demonstrate your powerful network with exceptional guests, and stamp your organisation’s tone of voice all over it.
In truth, most brand podcasts sit somewhere on this scale v precision spectrum, targeting a specific audience with relevant information, but aiming to achieve a significant enough scale within their niche. However, expect to see a lot more big-ambition branded shows and more super-selective podcasts in the next year.