Despite a global pandemic, 2020 was still a monumental year for podcasting. Consider this: An estimated 68 million Americans listened to podcasts every week in 2020 — an upward trend that doesn’t seem likely to slow down anytime soon. And with so many new podcasts joining the ranks, 2021 is set to become another milestone year in podcast history.
With more listeners and advertisers than ever before, podcasting will continue to rise as a mainstream content medium in 2021 — but don’t take our word for it! We’ve tapped five marketers to see what they think about the future of podcasting. Let’s dive in!
Content marketing strategies are expanding outside of traditional written content and are moving toward a multimedia approach. Brands will need to develop a well-rounded content mix to engage audiences. Instead of simply focusing on written content, marketers should also consider incorporating podcasts and audio content into their strategy.
“From a content perspective, I definitely see more brands experimenting with and embracing audio content in the next year,” says Meisha Bochicchio, Content Marketing Manager at Wistia. “Whether that’s launching a full-blown podcast or embedding audio clips into individual blogs and written pieces, I think the idea of audio as a medium is expanding the traditional definition of what content actually is.”
“The idea of audio as a medium is expanding the traditional definition of what content actually is.”
Why? Well, podcasts are entertaining and easy to consume. They also play a key role in building out a thriving content ecosystem for your brand.
Podcasts aren’t necessarily a one-and-done content solution. They can help uncover new topics and ideas for other content mediums. A single podcast episode might be responsible for sparking two blog posts and a video, for example.
You can also use your podcast to enhance your existing written content and create a multimedia experience for readers. You might embed an audio interview into a blog post, just like we did in this piece about our Brandwagon podcast interview with HubSpot Co-Founder and CEO Brian Halligan.
More people are listening to podcasts than ever before. From 2019 to 2020, the percentage of Americans who listened to podcasts monthly went up 5%, from 32% to 37%. In that same timeframe, the percentage of Americans familiar with podcasting as a content medium also rose by 5%, from 70% to 75%.
After hitting record listenership in 2020, it’s likely that even more listeners will hop on the podcast train in 2021.
“Look, the fact that it’s 2021 doesn’t magically make this a great time to do anything specific at all,” says Jay Acunzo, founder of Marketing Showrunners and host of the 3 Clips podcast. “But the fact that people long for connection, for a depth of understanding and nuanced discussion, and for refreshingly ‘slow’ content compared to frenetic feeds — maybe that makes it the right time to launch your show.”
“The fact that people long for connection, for a depth of understanding and nuanced discussion, and for refreshingly ‘slow’ content compared to frenetic feeds — maybe that makes it the right time to launch your show.”
That longing for connection, understanding, and discussion via podcasts also translates into higher engagement. Among Americans aged 12–34, 49% listened to at least one podcast a month in 2020. Older demographics are also tuning in, with a 5% increase in monthly podcast listeners over age 55 from 2019 to 2020.
With podcasts’ rising popularity, marketers can use this medium in 2021 to further engage their existing fanbase and tap into brand new audiences. Assessing your audience’s interests and needs will also play a critical role in providing the type of podcast content they expect.
People listen to podcasts for different reasons. Some might find a host especially relatable, while others might appreciate a show’s unique insights. Whatever the case may be, the very best podcasts grab a listener’s trust and never let go.
If executed correctly, that trust you gain from your podcast can directly affect your brand as well. Open-source technology company Red Hat saw their brand affinity increase significantly through their Command Line Heroes podcast.
The company saw a 90% average episode completion rate and an average time spent listening of 23 minutes. The real kicker? A whopping 96% of listeners identified Red Hat as the creators of Command Line Heroes. People saw the brand and podcast as interconnected, which helped Red Hat boost its public opinion among people by 21% after listening to the podcast.
“A big benefit for Red Hat, beyond the fact that there’s a lot of people listening to the show for a long period of time, is that 96% of listeners identify Red Hat as the creator of Command Line Heroes,” says Laura Hamlyn, Red Hat’s Senior Director of Global Content. "That was a huge metric to show management — it proves that our brand is actually breaking through.”
Podcasts aren’t just great outlets to entertain and engage listeners — they also build brand affinity. Once you have brand affinity with your podcast, you can leverage it to cultivate customers who will recognize and trust your brand through your show.
Today, it doesn’t matter if you lack production support for your podcasts. There are more tools than ever to help brands and marketers launch podcasts in easy and affordable ways.
Every great podcast needs to start with a reliable microphone. The Blue Snowball and the Blue Yeti are also solid beginner microphones to consider. And if you don’t have a specific mic yet, can always use a smartphone to get started. If you need editing software, GarageBand and Audacity are free user-friendly tools.
Podcast hosting and distribution platforms are also readily available. Wistia offers a comprehensive podcast solution that can help you customize your podcast branding and track different performance metrics (though there are free tools with less customizations and flexibility available). You should also consider having a dedicated Channel or page on your website for your podcast to drive your listeners to one central location and capture subscribers.
Not convinced yet? Check out our blog post about how Privy launched a podcast for just $53 an episode. Their podcast’s success proves that you don’t need to have a massive budget to make an impactful show in your industry.
While there’s hope that things will return to pre-pandemic normality in 2021, many people will still be spending a lot of time at home. Many industries have plans to extend the remote or flexible work environment long-term, and other industries are seeing massive shifts in purchase behaviors. These changes mean less work-related travel and commuting, and brands are well positioned to take advantage of this stay-at-home lifestyle with podcasting.
“2021 is going to look a lot like 2020,” says Abadesi Osunsade, co-host of the Techish podcast. “More time at home and more time exploring our local environment. That means more time to enjoy podcasts, too.”
Meet people where they are, and offer flexibility to engage with your brand in a convenient way for your audience. Podcast content has the luxury of being the only type of content that doesn’t require any visual investment from your audience.
“From a business perspective, podcasts provide a much more fluid option for brand marketing,” says Wistia co-founder and CEO Chris Savage. “The medium allows people to listen and stay connected to your brand whenever is most convenient for them, whether they’re doing laundry, going for a walk, or just need a break from a day of Zoom meetings. And that’s priceless.”
“From a business perspective, podcasts provide a much more fluid option for brand marketing. The medium allows people to listen and stay connected to your brand whenever is most convenient for them — and that’s priceless.”
With so many more listeners tuning into podcasts, there’s never been a better time to start one than 2021. Building a successful show doesn’t happen overnight, though. You’ll have to do plenty of tightening up and tinkering to create the show you envision. Start small, use resources you already have, and keep a close eye on audience feedback to craft the podcast your core customer is craving.