Podcast Upfronts 2020: Six things we learnt


Short on time? Here’s a round up of some of the key points we took away from 2020’s Podcast Upfronts

It’s not often that you get state-side royalty (looking at you, Oprah), headline podcast talent (take Poppy Jay and Rubina Pabani from ‘Brown Girls Do It Too’) and ad industry legends (Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland) in one place, but our partners for this year’s Podcast Upfronts really delivered. 

In a series of virtual sessions, Acast, Audioboom, Bauer Media, DAX, Podfront and Spotify delved into the unique value of podcasts, talked to star talent and shared new additions to their podcast portfolios. Here are some of the key things that we learnt: 

  1. The popularity of podcasts has grown this year: 2020 has been anything but usual, yet the popularity of podcasts has continued to grow despite the global pandemic. Acast saw listeners rise to record levels in lockdown - reaching 52 million listeners in July alone - while Bauer reports that listening was up by 11% in lockdown (with current uplift now at +27%). The reason? According to Bauer’s research, podcasts are giving people what they need right now - entertainment, companionship and escapism from screens. 
  2. Podcast ads are delivering results: 54% of people say that they have made a purchase after hearing an ad in an Audioboom podcast, and 60% say that ads have influenced their purchase decisions, according to Audioboom’s research. Also touching on the effectiveness of podcast ads, Rosie Ramsey - one half of Chris & Rosie Ramsey, hosts of Acast’s award-winning podcast ‘Shagged, Married, Annoyed’ - said that people often tweet her to say that they have bought products off the back of hearing ads on the podcast.
  3. Successful podcasts (and podcast ads) are rooted in authenticity: Perhaps poetry wouldn’t have been the first thing spring to mind watching one of Frank Skinner’s stand-up routines, but - thanks to Bauer’s podcast - we now know that he’s a fan of verse, describing it as a “passion project”. Meanwhile DAX’s podcast ‘Life, Interrupted with Simon Thomas’ is rooted in Simon’s real-life experiences, which led him to wanting to share and explore human endurance in the toughest times. In order to sit comfortably in these very authentic spaces, ads have to feel true to the content - with Chris and Rosie Ramsey pointing to the fact they have influence over the ads that sit within their podcast. 
  4. Podcast advertisers should be experimental: With podcasts providing content creators with the ability to react to current events, tap into trends and create new shows quickly - such as Bauer’s ‘Lockdown Parenting Hell’ with Rob Beckett and Josh Widdicombe - podcast advertisers should be adopting a similar ethos. Speaking to Spotify’s Rak Patel, Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland advised advertisers to be experimental with podcasts, fail fast, and make new breakthroughs. This stance is embodied by the fact that Acast said it can turn around new campaigns in 24 hours - allowing advertisers to be up-to-the-minute with messaging and content. 
  5. This is a golden age of audio: You only have a to look at the line-up for this year’s Podcast Upfronts to know that podcasting is going from strength to strength, but it was a point put perfectly by Wondery’s CEO Hernan Lopez, who joined Podfront’s session in his first UK speaker appearance. Discussing the creation of podcasting powerhouse Wondery, Hernan said that it was the success of ‘Serial’ that inspired him to set up his own podcast company: “Serial was the podcasting equivalent of The Sopranos. A golden age of broadcasting followed The Sopranos and I wanted to be ahead of the curve with podcasting.”
  6. There’s PLENTY to look forward to: From new ad tools - such as Acast’s use of AI to enable contextual targeting - to new collaborations - such as Podfront’s announcement that it will be embarking on its first ever partnership with NPR (a move that increases its monthly reach by 21% thanks to podcasts such as ‘Planet Money’ and ‘TED Radio Hour’) - there is plenty for advertisers to look forward to when it comes to podcasts. Not to mention a wealth of new shows in the pipeline with established names, as well as new and emerging talent. 

Curious to know more? You can watch Podcast Upfronts in full here

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