Podcasts Are Fertile Ground for City & Regional Publishers
In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve entered an era of on-demand media consumption. And due to its mobility and being a natural accompaniment for multitasking, audio has emerged as a favorite among the on-demand public. Podcasting, in particular, has enjoyed a boom in recent years, with one in four Americans now listening to podcasts.
“The growing trend toward ‘anywhere and everywhere’ media engagement has created tremendous opportunity for digital media, of which podcasting is a significant component,” said PwC partner David Silverman in a June press release announcing the sharp increase in U.S. podcasting ad revenue last year. “Whether at home on a smart speaker, at work on a PC, or somewhere in between on a mobile device, more and more Americans are listening while they live, providing a robust podcast platform where advertisers can connect with today’s consumers.”
With this boom in podcasting, an opportunity exists for city and regional publishers to keep their brand and content in front of their readers as their attention continues to splinter across media platforms. Podcasting gained momentum as a legitimate media outlet a few years ago but the surge in mobile content consumption has seen podcasting downloads and audience size explode. Even though most city and regional magazines are yet to embrace podcasting, there are many reasons why adding them to the multimedia portfolio may make sense.
Why Podcasting is a Natural Fit
Magazine publishers are no longer strictly focused on producing print products, and today their content is distributed across a multitude of channels to capture readers’ attention. Podcasting is a modern method of storytelling through the spoken word, which is a natural extension for magazine publishers who already excel at storytelling largely through the written word and photography.
City magazines have brand awareness within their market and trust from its readers, who regularly spend significant time engaging with their content. Podcast listeners are equally engaged. According to podcastinsights.com, 80% of listeners listen to all or most of each podcast episode and listen to an average of seven shows per week.
Magazine readers and podcast listeners also share similar demographics, both tending to be above average in affluence and college educated, and with a near 50-50 split in gender (podcasts listeners: men 54%, women 46%). (See more podcasts stats in the infographic at the bottom of this article.
In 2016, San Diego Magazine recognized these trends and jumped into the podcasting space. There was a period of trial and error to gauge market response and at one time, they had three podcasts. Two of them didn’t perform as well as hoped but its food and drink themed podcast, Happy Half Hour, gained the best traction and recently broadcast its 100th episode.
“People come to us for our food coverage so Happy Half Hour seemed like a natural first podcast,” says David Martin, digital media director at San Diego Magazine. “We tried an arts podcast about theater and an inside-the-issue/behind-the-scenes podcast but neither had quite the legs.”
Podcast Revenue Prospects
The podcasting market is exploding as interest and available audience are rapidly growing -- and advertisers are following. A new report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau reveals that the U.S. podcast industry brought in an estimated $314 million in advertising revenue in 2017, up 86% from the previous year’s reported total of $169 million. The new figure dwarfs the IAB’s prediction from an earlier annual report, which projected 2017 growth would reach $220 million. IAB now predicts ad revenue will rise to $659 million by 2020.
Typically, a national podcast needs to average a minimum of 200,000 downloads per month to generate a significant return on pre-show or mid-roll ads. A regionally focused podcast won’t reach this scale. However, with some creative thinking, a city magazine podcast can produce revenue. Unlike stand-alone podcasts, magazine publishers have additional assets where, when combined with podcast downloads, can offer partners an attractive multi-platform sponsorship option.
“When we discuss this with an advertiser, we don’t just sell reach of downloads,” says Martin. “We promote our podcasts in print, on our website with blog posts, photos on social media, email marketing, and a five-minute live-stream on Facebook and Instagram, so we sell the total reach of everything.”
San Diego Magazine also positions its podcast like a radio show by selling remote broadcasts. For its 100th episode, they sold a sponsorship to Hornblower Cruises and broadcast the milestone podcast from one of their boats. They also regularly broadcast from other locations around San Diego, such as restaurants and bars, which has proven successful as these opportunities are sold out through the remainder of the year.
“We’re all over the board on who is involved,” says Martin. “However our most successful category is hotels. They love being able to show off their property and talk about their pool, or a new bar and restaurant.”
Other opportunities include host-read ads, which were cited as the preferred ad type -- representing more than two-thirds of ads in 2017 -- or selling a title sponsorship. Publishers could also include the podcast as part of an upgraded subscription package that includes exclusive content, or as an audience development tool, which requires someone to provide an email address to receive an email that includes a link to access the latest podcast.
Non-revenue podcasting benefits include a fun, non-sales motivated touchpoint for account execs to contact partners featured in an episode and interaction between local businesses and the editorial team.
Additional ROI includes repurposing each episode with short clips on social media to create buzz and sharing, using audio to serve as narration on a short video that is posted across social media, or a transcription of key takeaways to create a blog post on a web site. Martin says San Diego Magazine is also dabbling in creating podcasts for clients, having recently partnered with a local health care network. There are also branding opportunities through partnerships.
“Your partners are your best advocates. They are so excited to be a part of your brand because you are the leader in your market,” says Martin. “We created a promotion packet for them, which include things like social media badges, best practices, and embed code to put anywhere on their web site.”
Launching a podcast can be done for a one-time cost of less than $1,000 on equipment such as microphones, headphones and a splitter (see the “Podcast Equipment Wishlist” below). The only additional investment is time for the editors to set up and host the podcast and for someone to edit and post the audio file.
The risk is minimal and the overhead low, with a number of incremental revenue and branding benefits to be gained. While podcasting is a long play that shouldn’t be expected to gain a mass audience, the upside in the industry remains high at a time when brands are seeking to reach their audience by every means necessary.
2018 Podcast Statistics
Some useful links:
Other City & Regional Magazine Podcasts:
D Magazine: dmagazine.com/category/podcast/
Texas Monthly: texasmonthly.com/emmis-blog/podcast/
Nielsen Podcast Insights, Q1 2018:
Common Podcast Distribution Channels:
RSS feeds, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and Spotify.
Podcast Equipment Wishlist:
Ron Matejko is the President of Phoenix, Ariz.-based MVP Media, an award-winning digital publishing company. Matejko has 16 years of publishing experience in print, Web and mobile and has worked on the staff of two award-winning publications.
MVP Media publishes MVP Magazine, the first interactive sports publication, which won a Bronze 2010 Digital Magazine Award for Best Sports Magazine, besting entrants from 26 countries around the world, and was a finalist for Designer of the Year. MVP Media will launch its own magazines on the iPad in 2011.
MVP Media also helps existing publishers convert their print products into dynamic publications for the web and tablets. Visit the MVP Magazine website at www.mvptoday.com. Contact Ron by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with him on LinkedIn or on Twitter @mvp_media.