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Podcasts, Clubhouse and the Resurgence of Audio Marketing

The proliferation of media in today’s marketing landscape has reached an all-time high. From print and audio to photos and videos, there are a lot of ways in. Having options is a good problem to have, but what’s even better is knowing which marketing tools and media platforms will cultivate the most compelling connection with your target.

Recent studies show that many people prefer audio. This may seem surprising considering how far media has come since the first radio broadcast in 1920. Surprising or not, there’s great opportunity for brands and marketers in the audio space.

The vast landscapes of podcast marketing

Video may have killed the radio star in the 80’s, but not forever. An offspring of old-school radio, podcasts have surged in popularity in recent years – giving video, the recently reigning format king, a run for its money and re-establishing audio as a priority.

Since 2016, weekly podcast listenership has more than doubled, and eMarketer predicts the number of American podcast listeners will increase by an average of 16% to 106.7 million during the coming year. There are multiple catalysts for this growth, among them the accessibility of podcasts for both creators and listeners.

For creators, no studio-quality resources are needed – you can launch a podcast on any topic, any time with just a computer and a solid microphone. This easy setup also gives the creator the ability to control the process and deploy the content just as they intended it (and often in their own voice). This helps to forge a unique and strong connection with their audiences, keeping them tuning in again and again.

For listeners, podcasts are easily consumed, as the format lends well to multitasking. They can listen while working, working out, cleaning, cooking, commuting and more. Additionally, there is an endless buffet of topics for whatever they are craving. The ease, convenience and range perpetuate the listening cycle.

For brands, podcasts provide a platform for sharing subject matter expertise. This can be through a podcast they create or by serving as a guest on someone else’s podcast. The low-fi setup also increases affordability and authenticity alike – perfect for limited budgets and subject matter experts with interesting personalities who may be camera shy but are at ease with a microphone.

The rise of Clubhouse

Podcasts are not the only type of audio content making waves – so are audio chatrooms, which take place and are consumed in real time (vs. being pre-recorded, edited, uploaded, and downloaded).

The best known of those is Clubhouse, an exclusive, invite-only audio chatroom that has rapidly become one of the most influential apps in the audio space. It launched in March 2020, and within six months, amassed nearly 13 million downloads worldwide.

Its meteoric rise can be credited, in large part, to the assorted styles of chatrooms: one-on-one conversations between friends, large group discussions up to 5,000 strong, or a jam session with complete strangers. But there’s more to it: With its invite-only functionality, Clubhouse boasts a level of exclusivity that has attracted A-list celebrities, tastemakers, culture curators and other niche groups from the start. Sometimes the curators are famous, and other times the participants are. For example, Elon Musk joined an interview on the Good Time, participating on a Q&A moderated by the chatroom creator on a mix of topics.

That said, you don’t have to be famous to get on a Clubhouse stage or be successful in the audio chat space. It’s all about keeping it interesting, which is exactly what people and brands are doing. The competition is rising as a result, both in terms of participation and the number of apps hosting chatrooms. Fireside, Reddit Talk and Twitter’s Spaces entered the space recently, and others are surely on the horizon.

Marketing in an audio only space

So, what are next steps for brands, and which is the better endeavor, a podcast or an audio chatroom?

Like everything else in marketing, success begins (and ends) with your target audience. The first question to ask is whether audio content is interesting to them, and if so, what kind of audio content would be most interesting? Would it be better to have scheduled content or live conversations? Here are some other considerations:

Podcasts:

  • Podcasts have the advantage of being pre-recorded and edited, giving brands a lot of control of the cut, length and messaging – as well as the cadence and timing of deployment.
  • Podcasts are a good way to align your brand with sponsorship content that can offset investment and help maximize your reach to potential consumers. There’s also the chance to build in ad breaks, which many podcasts do.
  • Podcasts can engage with audiences in variety of ways, taking questions online or hosting live recordings that include audience Q&A. While it isn’t in real time, it still fosters a deeper level of connection.

Audio Chatrooms:

  • Audio chatrooms like Clubhouse offer real-time engagement and a lot of it. The communities are far from idle, and the functionality of the applications allows people to drop into the conversation and engage in real-time dialogue.
  • Right now, Clubhouse does not plan on selling ads, but there are several shows that are sponsored. Clubhouse is innovating a way for creators to get paid by starting a virtual tip jar, right through their app,along with implementing ticketed events and more. Clubhouse and its competitors are still evolving, so more features are likely to pop up in the near term.

Whether you choose to go the podcast or audio chat room route, your next step is to create the content strategy, focused on serving the target audience. How can you tailor content in a way that’s differentiated and compelling for them?

Research, competitive audits and thoughtful planning will help to establishing a listen-worthy content that will resonate with your target – in episodes or in a series over time. In that way, audio marketing content is no different than any other content marketing program – it needs to be thoughtful in order to forge that meaningful connection that creates momentum for the brand.

If you’d like to explore the potential that audio marketing could offer your brand, email Ted at tjun@hiebing.com to set up a call.