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Published March 26, 2021
Published March 26, 2021
Lee Campbell via Unsplash

To say that 2020 has been a year of growth for podcasting borders on a severe understatement. It is now a $1 billion industry. Spotify saw beauty podcast listeners increase by 131%. BeautyMatter had already been tracking the meteoric rise of the medium, including its proficiency as a marketing tool and ability to amplify female voices, but the pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented growth spurt—and with it, tremendous potential.

“The space has grown immensely over the past 12 months. Everything is about audio at the moment, so it’s definitely something that all companies are trying to invest in, whether it’s making their own podcast or trying to find a way to advertise or work in partnership with podcasters,” comments Unpretty Podcast producer Kaydine Biscette. 65% of listeners consider purchasing mentioned products, and with overall listener numbers spiking to 76.4 million, it’s a larger audience than ever to sell to.

Podcasts are low-cost super tools of engagement, especially when IRL activations are an increasing rarity. It’s a chance to engage with potential clients and strategically build your professional network in a more meaningful way, positioning oneself as a thought leader in the process. In the B2B realm, it’s all about efficient delivery, rather than high listener numbers. “Very few podcasts have massive listener numbers, it doesn’t mean they are not effective, money-making podcasts. The more you understand who your audience is that you want and programming for that, the faster you can get to that,” notes Marc Raco, co-founder and CEO of MouthMedia Network (which also produces BM’s own It’s A Matter Of… podcast).

For a start-up owner that might be reaching top-tier investors, an episode acts as the proverbial foot in the door to start professional conversations, complete with the added benefit that said investor is more likely to give their time since the podcast gives them media exposure. As with any creative endeavor, it’s about producing original and captivating content to set the wheels in motion, and not getting lost in the mix. Exceptionally researched questions and topics as well as high-quality audio are two key components, but a welcoming tone of voice and sustained engagement through community building are equally important.

The market has seen an influx of new listeners, but their style of listening is changing. The average episode lasts 43 minutes, and half of Americans state that podcasts are too long. Since February 2020, the number of consumers researching focus-improvement strategies has increased by 300%, and many listeners who made podcasts a part of their daily commute have since switched to incorporating podcasts into their at-home lunch breaks or listening for shorter periods of time throughout their day instead.

“Conversation is a more authentic and genuine way for brands to tap into their consumer base because they are looking for tangible things that we can hold on to during this time. Conversations are one of those things getting us through on a daily basis and podcasts are an extension of that,” Unpretty Podcast producer Ayo Sule adds. Those that have a strong connection to their audience are the ones creating a dialogue, an exchange of supply and demand for episode content, but always filtered through the individual voice of its creators. “People think that downloads are the most important metric to measure success by, [but] it’s slow and steady growth, that we have an engaged audience that will tune in every two weeks. It’s about the relationship and community that you build,” Biscette comments. The popularity of live audience podcasting events pre-pandemic were a testament to consumers wanting to feel a part of a collective.

For example, Unpretty Podcast’s mission is “unpacking perceptions of beauty so deeply ingrained in society, through the lens of black and non-black people of color and our mutual struggles and challenges.” Episodes include discussions around the exclusionary nature of the “nude” shade in cosmetics, as well as unpacking the history of colorism and tanning for black and non-black people of color. While podcasting had been a white- and male-dominated industry—in 2019, out of 480 podcasts, only 1 in 3 hosts were women, and only 1 in 10 was non-white. Podcasts such as Unpretty, as well as initiatives such as the Equality in Audio Pact, launched in June 2020 by Broccoli Content, are aiming to diversify the landscape.

“Beauty is visual, but there’s something to say about people discussing it as more of a concept rather than visual representation. That’s why the podcast format is a strong avenue,” Unpretty Podcast co-host Chinazo Ufodiama states. “It allows for better storytelling, especially in a time where people are looking to align with the values of the brands that they invest in. It’s also a way for brands to tap into parallel industries and target a new customer base.” Biscette points to the rise of Clubhouse and Mark Cuban’s potential competitor app Fireside (an interactive podcast app) as manifestations of the increasing demand for audio that is transcending podcasting. In an age of screen fatigue, simply listening is actually proving a more relaxing experience than visual alternatives.

Subscription-based models are showing potential for those who already possess a loyal fanbase. For smaller podcasts, it’s about exclusive content and offering insight their competitors don’t. As listener numbers continue to rise, professional productions will edge out more amateur or generic productions. “The key is to design something that serves a purpose and a need to exist,” Raco adds. “One is understanding your mission but the other most key ingredient is understanding the medium and that can often mean working with the right kind of partner on that. There is a certain level of experience and expertise that go into getting the most return on that investment.” He emphasizes its uses as a free insight provider for indie start-ups, as well as an insider scoop for large-scale corporates in search of the next wave of disruptors. “As the industry continues to go through a transformation, someone having a podcast allows them to participate in that conversation, either as a listener or someone helping to drive the course of the conversation,” he states. “If you’re not tuned into that, beyond being a listener, you’re missing the boat.”


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