Podcasts give a new 'American Life' to audio content

Ira Glass and other Advertising Week speakers address the marketing potential of an audio renaissance.

NEW YORK: Video killed the radio star, but the audio medium has been resurrected in the form of podcasts – and there could be ample opportunities for advertisers.

Ira Glass, the creator and host of popular radio show This American Life, which was behind last year's hit podcast Serial, believes podcasting has the power to be as big as TV.

Speaking at Advertising Week on Wednesday, Glass predicted people will expect quality podcasts in the same way they demand quality TV shows. The difference is that podcasts can be consumed anywhere while people do other things, such as cooking or driving.

Serial was purposefully designed to replicate the tropes of TV shows, such as providing recaps at the start of each episode, explained Glass. The show received 8 million downloads per episode — far exceeding its target of 300,000— gripping listeners around the world as it intricately delved into the murder case of Hae Min Lee like a good TV crime drama or whodunnit. Glass expects people to "binge-listen" to podcasts, like they might binge-watch TV, which would mean NPR competing with the likes of HBO and Netflix on the entertainment front.

This creates an opportunity for advertisers to be part of the intimate connection podcasts have with their audience. Mail Chimp, which was Serial's sponsor, was widely credited with producing one of the best ads of last year, sparking the "MailKimp" meme.

"It's a truism that people connect with radio more than other media – podcasts even more so because people are so connected to the material and stories, and people feel close to us and loyal," said Glass.

One of the themes to emerge from Advertising Week is how to reach increasingly distracted audiences across multiple platforms with marketing messages. Glass dismissed the notion that people have shorter attention spans these days.

"We will watch something longer if it's really good; we will listen to something if it's really good — people will stick around for something that pulls us in," he said.

This audio renaissance has created a crowded podcast marketplace. As well as broadcasters turning their shows into podcasts, just about every online media outlet seems to be in the game as well as scores of bloggers, journalists, and brands.

A different panel at Advertising Week discussed the lower production costs of making podcasts, compared with film, sparking a podcast gold rush. Starlee Kine, host of the Mystery Show podcast and contributor to This American Life said when she tells people she is a podcaster, they often respond by saying that they are, too.

"Everyone is a podcaster these days," she said.

This story originally appeared on Camapign US.

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