Revenue growth in the Australian podcast market is set to outstrip the global average of 30% to hit $47 million by the end of 2020, and a growing number of entrepreneurs are dipping their toes into the water.
Businesses tapping into the market are attracting audiences who are — on the whole — younger and higher income earners than consumers of traditional media such as television.
According to a report published by Deloitte this week, the growth in the local podcast market follows a wider industry trend of “better-than-you-might-think growth” in listener numbers globally.
“Audience uptake is increasing at impressive rates with over 1.6 million Australians now regularly downloading content, an increase of 70% since 2015,” Deloitte said in the report.
However, despite the coming boom in demand for podcasts, the global market is expected to face an ongoing struggle to monetise content.
Deloitte attributed the difficulties in generating revenue to the high quality of free podcasts, especially from traditional media companies, and the low barriers for amateurs to produce their own leading to saturation in the market.
But Australian podcast pioneer Kristofor Lawson disagrees. Like any other media and projects, he says it comes down to how much time and effort businesses are willing to invest in the delivery and execution.
Lawson joins Adore Beauty founder Kate Morris and Stef and Jess Dadon, sister co-founders of How Two Live and TWOOBS, in speaking to SmartCompany about how they made the decision to get into podcasting, and their advice on best practices.
Kate Morris, Adore Beauty
Online beauty retailer Adore Beauty launched its podcast, Beauty IQ, in September 2019, and despite the visual nature of beauty brands, Morris says the episodes were “extremely well received from the get-go”.
“I haven’t seen a retailer do a successful podcast before,” she tells SmartCompany.
“So that was a bit of a punt.”
The platform wasn’t the only thing that bucked tradition.
While many beauty brands use social media to promote aspirational content and showcase the society’s ‘ideal’ standards, Adore Beauty has taken advantage of the “in-depth conversational” style of the podcasts to focus on relatability and honesty.
“It’s all got to be on brand,” Morris says.
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“We’ve always tried to strike a balance between educational and entertaining.”
Listener feedback and increasing engagement have revealed a huge appetite for both.
Customer surveys also revealed Adore Beauty’s listeners are looking for a range of podcast topics from the retailer, from beauty tips and tricks to the more “cringey topics” like foot fungus and STIs, Morris says.
The team also discovered through trial and error that listeners wanted the length to be 30- to 40-minutes to match the length of their daily commute.
Morris says Adore Beauty obliges, because “you don’t do it for your own benefit — you do it for the listeners’ benefit”.
“Generally, if your goal is to entertain and educate your customers, then you’ve got to roll with that first,” she says.
Approaching it as a brand building exercise rather than a revenue building one, Morris sees podcasting as a win for Adore Beauty, with reports showing a growing number of listeners, downloads and subscribers who stay tuned through 90- to 95% of each episode.
“It’s not advertising,” Morris says.
“If you set about making a podcast to sell your product, that’s not really a consumer-centric approach.
“Authenticity is really important,” she adds.
Jess and Stef Dadon, TWOOBS and How Two Live
Similarly, Jess and Stef Dadon credit the success of their podcast to how they’ve oriented their goals.
The Dadon sisters are the founders of shoe brand TWOOBS, and since February 2019, have been producing their own podcast, How Two Live. As well as discussing their own business, the founders also interview leading entrepreneurs; in the last 12 months, the Dadons have chatted with RedBalloon founding director Naomi Simpson, Boost Juice founder Janine Allis, and kikki.K’s founder Kristina Karlsson.
“There’s a traditional way of generating revenue by sponsorship,” Stef tells SmartCompany.
“But as a brand, we see podcasts as a way to really engage our community, to connect with our customers, and to create a broader brand experience.”
According to the founders, other social media platforms create an ecosystem where users are “increasingly fake”, while the uninterrupted 20- to 30-minute podcast format allows them to enter the lives of their listeners on a more intimate level.
Because of this, they also value podcast engagement over social media engagement.
“We’re finding that it is, as Jess said, our most engaged platform,” Stef says.
“You’re in their car or you’re with them while they’re cooking.
“On an Instagram feed, they’re scrolling past and maybe they’ll click ‘like’ on it.”
On the other hand, the sisters have been able to use social media to further boost engagement for their podcast. Recently, they launched an accompanying Facebook group, to allow greater listener input.
“Our most engaged listeners can come and interact with us and ask questions,” Stef says.
“We’re creating these relationships with our customers, which are more than just about product.
“They’re really giving our customers a 360-degree lifestyle experience.”
While the Dadon sisters do discuss business on their podcasts, they say it’s the “human perspective” — not a promotional one — that allows them to cut through an increasingly saturated market.
“We saw podcasts as a really great way to share our journey with our customers,” Jess says.
“We sit down and have conversations about how we’re building a business and who we are as humans.”
Kristofor Lawson, Lawson Media
While Adore Beauty’s podcast started as a three-episode trial that took off, and the Dadon sisters encourage brands to “just get out there and do it”, Kristofor Lawson’s foray into podcasting was a measured and deliberate choice.
As the founder of Lawson Media and creator of podcasts Moonshot and Building A Unicorn, he uses the medium to make profit and says “the opportunity is there for independent podcasters to make money”.
Lawson has been producing Moonshot since 2017 and while he says anyone can make a podcast in the same way anyone can write a book, “it takes time, it takes effort to make something really good”.
He offers two insights.
First, be intentional and take care when crafting your business’ podcast.
“The great thing about podcasting is that anyone can make a podcast but not everyone can make a good podcast,” Lawson says.
Although many companies instinctively start by finding a willing staff member to host a recorded conversation, the journalist says unless the employee has the right mix of skills and charisma, “it’s actually really difficult to make good podcasts where it’s an interview-style scenario”.
Instead, Lawson encourages brands to experiment with narrative podcasts.
“It takes more time and money,” he says.
“But the benefit is significant for the brand in terms of driving the brand and becoming a thought leader.
“And the content becomes more shareable,” he adds.
Lawson’s second piece of advice is to back up your podcast by investing time and money in its production and promotion.
“The companies that do it well are the ones that back it up with marketing campaigns across all of their existing channels and podcasting channels,” he says.
“It’s best for brand awareness campaigns,” he adds.
According to his research and experience, brands that see the highest success in podcasts are the ones that are willing to be patient.
Advertising and sponsorship in podcasts result in listeners remembering campaigns more accurately and for longer, Lawson says.
“It can be challenging to make money back from a podcast,” he acknowledges.
“Take it as a marketing exercise.”