Massive things are happening in podcasting. As lockdown audiences skyrocket, premium paywalls blossom, and podcasts continue to crop up in strange corners of pop culture, Creative Director George Guildford shares the thinking behind the launch of our in-house Hypecast studio– and why brands can’t ignore the potential of high-quality podcasting for another second.

Podcast set up at home

The stats are unbelievable:

  • During lockdown, the demand for comedy podcast content has spiked by 24%, while education content has risen by 20% (Acast)
  • “80% of podcast listeners listen to all or most of each podcast episode” (podcast insights.com)
  • “The podcast industry is worth an estimated £712m” (Telegraph)
  • “By 2022, it’s estimated that podcast listening will grow to 132 million in the US alone” (Buzzsprout)
  • “Podcast ad spend could double to $1.6 billion by 2022.” (Spotify)

I remember being absolutely buzzing to pick up my first iPod back in 2007. As a lifelong audiophile, Apple’s invention was a complete game-changer for me– and many others, laying the foundations for the smartphones and tablets we all know and love and forever changing the way we buy and listen to music. Podcasts had a significant part to play, setting the stage for a brave new world of entertainment on the go. Back in the day, podcasting was a bit of a fringe art, a wild, punk, ungoverned space where early adopters like Ricky Gervais and Russell Brand could shine in all their enfant terrible glory (sometimes a little too brightly – remember “Sachsgate”?). Downloading content may have been a bit clunky, but without the tight rules and regulations they were bound by on TV, entertainers were able to establish a less produced, more intimate medium that spoke to sought-after younger generations.

It was clear Apple were onto something. That said, I don’t think any of us could have predicted how massive the medium would grow to be more than a decade down the road. The format has enjoyed a huge renaissance in recent years; ask any self-respecting millennial about podcasts and you’re sure to get a list of recommendations covering everything from bingeable true crime behemoths like Sarah Koenig’s Serial, to business, self-help, activism and comedy podcasts like the intriguingly titled My Dad Wrote a Porno

Known to many as ‘the new blogging’, podcasting has seen huge audience growth, especially during the long weeks of lockdown. According to Acast, the world’s largest podcasting company, the biggest change in the podcast world has been that people are now listening to podcasts consistently throughout the day, instead of at peak times like the daily commute. Interestingly, lockdown has seen listens of comedy podcasts rise by 24%, while listens of education content are up 20%. People are getting more from podcasts during lockdown, listening to learn and laugh. The BBC Sounds app hit a record 3.5 million listeners during the first weeks of lockdown. It seems the medium has benefitted from the fact that people can record at home and is flourishing, not in spite of all the visual entertainment at our fingertips, but because of it. 

More than half of audiences think there is too much visual stimulation and that audio entertainment provides a nice escape. (Spotify)

Most TV and radio shows have their own podcasts, rock legends are jumping on board– and now brands are getting in on the action. We’re seeing brands from Nike and Kanye West to Barclays, ASOS and Sephora experience huge success with podcasting, skipping all the BS that comes with traditional advertising and bringing in guests to talk about the things that really matter in their industry. Listeners are getting hooked, returning in droves week after week to catch up with familiar hosts, meet new guests and gather the latest insights.

In our Social Trends report back in November 2018, we predicted that podcasts would overtake daily live radio listens by 2020. Now we’re putting our money where our mouth is with the launch of Hypecast studio.

What’s the thinking behind Hypecast studio? 

It’s fair to say we have a lot of people with a passion for audio here; from musicians to DJs and your full-on audio geeks (guilty!). With podcasts such a huge, valuable trend – we’d be crazy not to get involved and strike while the iron is hot.

This is a really exciting time for Punch, we’re entering a new era with new clients, a new-look brand and a new-look Punch HQ– all of which really reflect the kind of agency we want to be going forward. Our podcast studio is something we’re particularly excited to share with our clients and followers– and we can’t wait to get our teeth into our own podcast, created to support our established Social Hype sub-brand.

Podcasting is an easy win for brands. We already have a wide range of clients with loads of expertise and refreshing perspectives on their respective industries – why not share that with everyone? 

What does the future hold? 

There are a couple of points that will be key in the future of podcasting. Ads, for one, remain a contentious issue. While many hosts keep things authentic by presenting their ads in their own, inimitable style, podcasts could soon be headed in a new direction. One particularly polarising solution to this is the move to dedicated podcasting platforms like Luminary media – which, as reported by the NY Times, aims to be ‘the Netflix of podcasting’. Premium paywalls in such apps will give content creators the budgets for ad-free creativity and higher production values – albeit at the risk of alienating fans who don’t want to pay. As start-ups jostle to emerge as leaders in the space, only time will tell if listeners will respond positively. As a fan, another key issue is actually finding the podcasts likely to appeal to you; word of mouth is still very important in the podcast world. In the future, I think we’re likely to see improvements here – with better marketing and truly relevant targeting sure to make all the difference. Just last week, the iPhone podcast app announced a new feature, allowing fans to search by guest or content to find what they are looking for. We look forward to helping our friends and clients hit the airwaves.

Stay tuned for the launch of our Social Hype podcast and for more info on Hypecast Studio.