Podcast Upfronts 2022: what we learnt

Posted on Friday 21 October 2022 | IAB UK

With speakers exploring podcasting’s storytelling capability, the growth of the market, and the rising popularity of news and current affairs content, here’s what we learnt at Podcast Upfronts

“British podcasting is in rude health”, declared James Chandler, IAB UK’s CMO, opening our fourth annual Podcast Upfronts. With the podcast market having grown by 61% between 2020 and 2021, he’s not wrong. The following sessions from Acast, Audioboom, Fresh Air Production, Global and Podfront would, Chandler promised, “paint a podcast ad opportunity for you in vivid technicolour”. Here’s what followed… 

The storytelling power of podcasting

Acast’s session was all about highlighting the powerful, funny and fascinating content it brings to listeners - and how brands can best align themselves with it. “Ultimately content is king”, explained Lorna Burn, Group Business Director, as she and Miles Philip, Key Account Director, shared new releases including an upcoming podcast from the queen of Essex, Gemma Collins. Katherine Ryan, comedian and host of ‘Telling Everybody Everything’ and Marvin Abbey, co-host of ‘3ShotsOfTequila’, also took to the stage to share why they find podcasting such a unique medium. As Ryan said: “I love that the podcast is long form… it gave me the confidence that people would tune in to hear not necessarily a punchline from me or a structured bit. It gave me the confidence to write my book.” 

On how to work with brands, both highlighted the need for genuine authenticity, with Abbey saying that he “won’t read anything that doesn’t come naturally” and Ryan adding that she tends to have pre-existing relationships with the brands Acast match her with. On this note, Acast’s session also gave the audience an introduction to its new conversational targeting tool, launched in the summer, which allows brands to target conversations happening on podcasts rather than individuals. 

Continued growth is key

The quality of content was also central to Podfront’s session, with this underpinning the huge growth the market has seen in recent years. James Cator, Head of Commercial for Wondery in Europe - which backs Podfront in the UK - said that the platform has seen downloads of its shows more than double since last year.  Charlotte Mitchell, Account Manager, and Oli Walters, Commercial Director at Podfront UK, shared exclusive new shows including ‘Pod Save the UK’ - from the team behind ‘Pod Save the World’ and ‘Pod Save America’ - with the UK version to be released in early 2023 and hosted by Nish Kumar. 

Zeze Mills, one half of the talent behind podcast +44, also joined the team ahead of the launch of the show’s next series - which will be back on the 14 November. Describing the podcast, Mills said that it focuses on what’s trending in popular culture at that moment and is all about having open and honest conversations with guests: “[It’s] unfiltered… we try and make guests feel comfortable but also challenge them a bit as well.”

70% listen to the end of a podcast 

Audioboom’s session highlighted the high retention rates that podcasts enjoy, with their data showing that 70% of people listen right to the end of a podcast on average. This is higher for its hit shows, such as ‘No Such Thing as a Fish’, which has a retention rate of 85%. Ultimately, these stats reflect how engaging people find podcasts and the ability of the channel to draw people into stories. 

Giving delegates an insight into one of its successful shows, Audioboom’s Producer Alexandra Jueno was joined by Danni Howard, host of ‘Devils in the Dark’. “Me and my best friend Helen have essentially started a true crime podcast by accident”, she said, with the duo exploring true crime cases throughout history. Howard discussed the trusted relationship that she and her co-host have built with their audience - 76% of which are UK-based and female identifying. When it comes to advertising, she says that “[the audience] know that we will only recommend products that we use… we have an organic approach to our ads. We work the key messages in, but once we’ve had a chance to try the product”. Meanwhile, Jueno explained that “we don’t put a limit on host reads” because the content is good in its own right. 

If you’re making your own content, get really invested 

Brand-created podcasts were the focus of Fresh Air Production’s session, which saw Love Island winner Amber Rose Gill and Ruairí O’Kane, Head of Campaigns at the National Lottery, discuss their collaboration on ‘Amazing Starts Here’. “We need to talk to our customers where they are”, O’Kane explained, with the podcast geared towards engaging a younger demographic. The focus of the podcast, which is hosted by Gill, is to share the inspiring stories from ordinary people who do extraordinary things with the help of The National Lottery. As Gill said, the aim is to “bring value to things that are untold”.

Richard Blake, Director of Marketing & Growth at Fresh Air Production, went on to share key reasons why advertisers should consider creating a bespoke branded podcast, which he described as “a sit down meal with your brand”. This approach allows brands to become a part of “a daily ritual of me time, rather than disturbing it”, Blake explained as he urged delegates to consider “what the show that only you can make is”. 

People’s ears are trained differently now 

The final session of the day came from Global, who brought us two of the hosts of The News Agents - Jon Sopel and Dino Sofos - to delve into why news and current affairs podcasts are so popular. With the news that the Home Secretary had resigned breaking moments before they took to the stage, Sopel joked: “We really have nothing to talk about.” On why podcasting offers more flexibility than broadcasting, he explained: “I’ve spent my life trying to reveal what’s going on and why it’s going on. With a podcast [you] can take people though it in a more conversational way… You’re trying to tell people, ’look this is interesting, take my hand and we're going to cross the road together’, and a podcast is a great way to do that.” 

On whether the shows are scripted, Sopel said that “it’s really important that this is unscripted '' with Sofos adding: “People’s ears are trained differently now thanks to podcasting… they want authenticity and connection.” Global’s session also delivered interesting evidence on why people are turning to news podcasts in such high numbers. Mike Wooller, Head of DAX Content Partnerships and Sarah Ray, Head of Podcast Sales, shared the results of a new study conducted by Global that shows 71% of people want to understand the implications and context of news, but only 47% feel they have time to stop and read the news. This is fuelling an uptake of news podcasts, with 66% spending more time listening to them than a year ago, and 71% intending to increase their listening in the future. 

You can find out more about Digital Upfronts and upcoming events here

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