By Jeff McKay
Special Features Correspondent
NEW YORK — Peter Senerchia, Cari Champion, and Farnoosh Torabi. One is a former champion professional wrestler known in the ring as Taz, one is a TV reporter and anchor for ESPN, and the other works in her Brooklyn apartment. However, all three have something in common – they have carved out their own niches and become stars in the world of podcasting… and with their advertisers.
Digital audio has been on a roll over the past 18 months, and this is especially true among younger listeners. A February survey by Edison Research found approximately 46 million people listened to podcasts in February. Meanwhile, ad spending on podcasts is soaring. A recent survey by eMarketer says ad spending for digital audio is expected to reach $2.75 billion, up over 27% from a year ago.
Due to the rapid growth of podcasting, the Interactive Advertising Bureau put together an event called the “Upfront Showcase” in New York City to highlight some of the top-flight podcasters, along with some of the companies at the forefront of digital success and their advertiser successes.
Companies including Panoply, AdLarge, Podtrak and Midroll — each with popular podcasts — showcased their talent and shows to advertisers, along with terrestrial broadcasters ESPN and CBS. The showcase was hosted at the studios of WNYC, New York City’s NPR station and also home to a number of podcasts.
“We’re here responding to market demand,” says Randall Rothenberg, president/CEO of the IAB. “Why are we here? The success of ‘Serial’ and President Obama’s interview on ‘WTF with Marc Maron’ – these shows have opened up eyes to podcasting.”
Although a number of prominent podcasters and networks did not take part in the event, including the industry’s largest ad supported network, PodcastOne, there was obvious enthusiasm about the medium from the approximately 150 people in attendance — with an average age of 25-45 and evenly split between presenters/podcasters and invited potential advertisers.
Farnoosh Torabi is a woman with a child who lives in Brooklyn. Thanks to a microphone and internet connection, she is the host of “So Money.” The award-winning financial correspondent and author hosts a daily 30-minute podcast represented by AdLarge Media. She says she’s a broadcaster who is taking her craft to a new level.
“At the core I’m a broadcaster. After I published my third book I was interviewed by a number of podcasts. I was thinking I’d rather be on the ‘Today Show’ or on radio, but I discounted the reach of podcasts and their dedicated listeners. Podcasting allows me to be more connected to my audience,” says Torabi. “The on-demand aspect allows my listeners to hear the show at their convenience and on their time.”
Torabi’s audience is a 50-50 split of men and women, mostly millennial, majority college graduate, high income, and spread out in over 150 countries.
Jay Green, VP of digital sales and content for AdLarge explains simply that podcasting is a win-win for both his company and advertisers.
“We have between 11-13 shows and growing. There’s not a lot of overhead. What it does for the advertiser is to connect with an invested audience. What is different about podcasting is that you are selecting to hear that show. You’re saying, ‘I want to hear what this host has to say,’ and that becomes a brand. For advertisers, the spot load is very low. It’s not intrusive. And, the ads are integrated into the show, discussed by the host with their own brand and style,” says Green.
Midroll, a podcast advertising network that also presented at the Upfront Showcase and represents over 200 podcasts including “WTF with Marc Maron” and “Comedy Bang! Bang!” pointed out, their renewal rate with advertisers is an astronomical 94%, based largely on listener loyalty.
Matt Turck, chief revenue officer for Panoply, says the demographics of the listeners attracts advertisers to podcasting.
“Three of four listeners are ages 25-49 and 34% are ages 18-34. The majority earn over $75,000 annually, over half earn over $100,000, 90% have college degrees. These are audiences that are hard to find for any advertiser but we have them here,” says Turck, whose growing list of advertisers includes HBO, HuluPlus, and LegalZoom.
A recent report in Advertising Age confirms that millennials are driving podcasting. The listeners’ median age for podcasts is 30, whereas radio’s overall median listener age is 45 and network television is 57. Another important note is the podcast’s on-demand usage. While radio’s dominance is “prime time,” during morning and afternoon drive, midday and nights are prime time for podcast listening, done either at home or at work, and half of the time on smartphones.
While many radio operators have yet to fully embrace podcasting, CBS has become a radio industry leader in podcasting, along with ESPN. CBS launched Play.it, home to their network of podcasts including everything from politics, music, entertainment, sports and more. News shows such as “60 Minutes,” entertainment’s Perez Hilton, and KROQ-FM’s Kevin & Bean morning show all have podcasts. One of their popular podcasts is hosted by Taz and another is hosted by wrestling icon Ric Flair.
CBS also made very clear both the importance of content and the product-advertiser relationship.
CBS local digital media president Ezra Kucharz says, “Content is the fuel of life. We are a group of storytellers …. And we have over 400 shows – brands you can trust with your brands.”
Wrester-turned-podcaster Taz, who does a live, two-hour daily podcast adds, “When I do a read about your product, I don’t just do a read – you’re a part of my team.”
Podcasting allows CBS to reach younger and more affluent demos that they might not have been able to reach with just radio and TV alone, and they are making a serious commitment to integrating podcasting into their platforms.
ESPN is using podcasts in conjunction with a number of their TV programs. JonPaul Rexing, ESPN’s senior director of sales says one in three listeners on another ESPN platform listen to their podcasts and their mission is to “serve sports fans anytime, anywhere.” They are also using podcasts to attract female listeners (ESPNW), Hispanics (One Nacion), and African Americans (His & Hers, which is also seen on ESPN-2).
One of those shows includes “Be Honest with Cari Champion.” Along with her very popular ESPN podcast, Champion is an ESPN TV sports anchor and has contributed to shows including “E:60.”
NPR is also embracing podcasting, launching a number of successful shows including “Invisibilia,” “Freakonomics” and “Radiolab.” Like CBS, they are using radio to cross-promote their podcasts, fortifying their ranks with a new generation of younger listeners.
Despite podcasting being a fledgling industry, Carl Kalapesi, the VP of industry initiatives for the IAB says advertisers see a public very much engaged in a particular show.
“It gives them a way to reach audiences that are usually very hard to reach, an audience really engaged in the content they are listening to and on-demand, that they are choosing to listen to,” says Kalapesi who says this is just the beginning – and the future of podcasting is very bright.
“We expect to see significant growth in the 2015-2016 season. The fact you have CBS and Panoply launching networks in this past 8-12 month period and growth in consumer numbers – WNYC reported here they saw a 15% growth in consumer numbers in the past 18 months — I expect advertiser numbers will grow in the same way,” says Kalapesi.
Jeff McKay, a veteran New York-based operations manager, newsman and traffic reporter, is a special features correspondent for TALKERS and RadioInfo. He can be emailed at McKayway@aol.com.