/ 04/12/2020 / Baptiste Collard

Podcast on the rise

Can we compare watching Netflix and listening to podcasts?

Both are digital and non-linear versions of their predecessors, television and radio. In some ways, the comparison is meaningful, though reality displays a range of discrepancies. Born from a linguistic merger of iPod and broadcast, the podcast is defined as a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading and which becomes available offline. Several subcategories of podcasts exist, among which the so-called native podcast, created on and for the Internet. This
format excludes any reruns of radio programmes. Native podcasts are made for digital listeners. Nowadays, podcasts can be used to discuss any topic: love, crime, drama, comedy, history and breaking news or rebroadcasts of popular radio shows. Hundreds of podcasts deal with just as many subjects.

A burgeoning industry

Growing throughout the world, the podcast has been in the pipeline for several years, without reaching the same levels of popularity and commonness everywhere on the planet. Still in its infancy in Belgium, it represents a billion-dollar industry in the United States. According to a study conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, ad revenues generated by podcasts in the US reached $708.1 million in 2019, a 48% increase over 2018. Few figures about ad revenues from podcasts in Belgium are available at the moment. One expects this situation to change as the podcast world is slowly but surely gaining traction here as well. According to a study carried out by Reuters*, 26% of the Belgian population listened to at least one podcast during the last month, which represents a 3% increase over 2019. In the US, this monthly penetration rate reaches 36%, clearly illustrating that the Americans are frontrunners in this area.

Who listens to podcasts in Belgium?

Who are the podcast listeners in Belgium? As stated by the Media Information Centre (CIM) in a 2019 report, podcasts attract people predominantly under 45 years of age from upper social classes and with higher than average education. This analysis applies to both the North and the South of the country. Interestingly, podcasts especially enthral young Flemings aged 12 to 24. Advertisers ought to be aware of this trend if they want to hit a specific target audience that does not consume traditional media like the others. It is vital to consider the relationship between listeners and podcasters. This bond can be quite strong since listeners are there specifically for the podcaster. The latter is a person with whom the listener identifies and with whom they can share laughs and tears. It is a close relationship often with a significant trust component. It is needless to highlight the importance of trust in purchase processes. As stated by Edelman in 2019, trust is a critical factor for 81% of the consumers in the purchase decision. Therefore, advertisers should undoubtedly contemplate including podcasts in their media mix. This particular relation and the tone used by podcasters will find their way into the advertisement when formulated by the podcast host (as often is the case). This is a clear advantage for brands who send messages to listeners through podcasts in a very personal manner, channelled through a person with whom the target audience most likely already identifies.

Can podcasts replace radio altogether?

Podcasts have often been described as the future of radio. However, we currently observe some complementarity of radio and podcast. Belgian podcast listeners are often people who listen to the radio more often than the average Belgian, according to the aforementioned CIM study. Podcasts appear not to cannibalise the radio market. We do notice the emergence of a niche market for podnews. Podnews briefings are informative messages that look very much like traditional radio news bulletins. They have the wind in their sails. Audience ratings for podnews recordings are mostly negligible for the time being, as they are mostly consumed via smart speakers. Could the advent of podnews trigger a significant shift in our listening habits in the future? 

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