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Edith Bowman and Andy Zaltzman on Brands and Podcasts

Trends and Insight 183 Add to collection

The presenter and comedian chat to Jez Nelson at Eurobest 2017, writes LBB’s Laura Swinton

Edith Bowman and Andy Zaltzman on Brands and Podcasts

There’s no denying that after a long, 13-year slog, podcasts are finally having a ‘moment’. 2017 could even be the year when the humble podcast became properly mainstream. The stats are quite incredible – in the UK 66% of people aged 15 and over use their smartphone to listen to podcasts. 42 million Americans – or 15% of the US population – listen to podcasts on a weekly basis. An average podcast listener listens to five shows a week.

With that in mind, broadcaster and Somethin’ Else founder Jez Nelson hosted a panel on podcasting at eurobest 2017, this year held at London’s Bloomsbury Square. His guests were Edith Bowman – a well-known UK radio presenter and broadcaster – and comedian Andy Zaltzman. 

Andy is an old-hand at the podcasting gig – his show The Bugle was launched in 2007 with John Oliver and these days he presents it with a rotating cast of co-hosts. Meanwhile Edith’s podcast Soundtracking has been around for almost a year-and-a-half and sees her speaking to directors, composers and sound designers about the relationship between music and film.

So what accounts for the popularity of the pod? For Andy, that popularity isn’t a sudden thing, it’s the result of a gradual process spanning several years. And while it’s certainly been facilitated by improvements in tech that allow people to download podcasts on the go, he reckons that the medium also slots in well with modern daily life.

“I think people are very busy, so listening to a 30-40 minute podcast while commuting in an overcrowded train can fill a period of time that used to be a slab of misery,” said Andy. 

For Edith, who is a seasoned radio presenter, the experience of running a podcast has been an education and one that has allowed her to form a more engaged relationship with her audience. “It’s a weird word to use – but there’s an intimacy there. They feel part of it. I think it’s because it’s a choice – it’s not like putting on Radio 1 in the background,” she said.

Podcasts also allow her to circumvent some of the rules and strict formats of radio. During the conversation, she played a clip from one of her favourite shows, The Adam Buxton Podcast, to demonstrate that sense of freedom. The clip is full of intrusive ambient sounds that would be considered a disaster in radio – and Adam frequently drops in random stings of music he’s created in the edit. However, there is one element of radio that she can’t yet get from podcasting.

“That’s one thing podcasting doesn’t have – in live radio you can react to things as they happen,” she said. However she has started creating Facebook live streams so that she and fans can discuss the latest podcasts.

Podcasts are also attracting the attention of advertisers, keen to connect with engaged, active audiences. As Jez shared in the introduction to the conversation, 85% of podcast listeners hear all of the podcast, which makes the medium pretty desirable. What’s more, as the ads are often woven into the podcast, it makes them pretty hard to ‘block’ in the way, say, YouTube pre-roll ads are.

But as podcasts are often fairly personal ventures, and podcasters have different individual perspectives on what works and what is appropriate, brands’ relationship with the medium is more nuanced than more established channels.

“We’ve turned down a lot of ads,” says Edith. “The way ads work in podcasts is different from the radio… it’s done by the host and it’s incorporated with the narrative. [Some of] the ones we had come to us felt clunky and compromised my relationship with my audience.”

That doesn’t mean she’s averse to working with brands, just that it has to feel right. She’s just signed a three-month sponsorship deal with EE – a tie-in that Edith feels works because of the network’s support of BAFTA. While they’re hammering out the details and will likely create extra episodes about BAFTA and young talent specifically with EE, she said one thing she won’t budge on is having ads in the middle of a podcast as it interrupts the fluidity.

From a commercial point of view, Edith says that she didn’t start the podcast as a business venture and that she has funded it out of her own pocket so far.

Thanks to the nature of his podcast, Andy has a different approach. “It’s a bit different for comedy. We advertise anything! We’ve advertised toilet freshener, mattresses (a lot of mattress brands have cottoned on to podcast advertising)… from an advertising point of view, podcasts fill a niche and reach a specific demographic. It’s a much more precise way to reach your audience.”

He also says that listeners appreciate that they are getting content for free. “If you bake it into the podcast in the style of the show it’s much more seamless and you are less likely to turn off.”

Podcasts have also helped Andy by growing a loyal following and driving ticket sales to not only his stand up shows but to live recordings of the podcast.

However, for both, the podcasts have been a way for them to explore their passion and have been pursued for the sheer enjoyment of them, meaning that they’re not beholden to advertisers. And while they’re welcome, they need to understand the space.

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LBB Editorial, Thu, 30 Nov 2017 13:47:08 GMT