Posts Tagged ‘Serial’

Serial-ously Considering Podcast Advertising

January 9, 2015

Not everyone is an NPR nerd like me, so it’s quite possible that some of our readers have missed out on the viral phenomenon that is Serial. Serial is a podcast spinoff of the preeminent public radio program, This American Life. Just a few short weeks ago, producer Sarah Koenig introduced us to a fifteen year-old murder case with a few grey areas. Serial follows Koenig’s research into the 1999 murder of 18 year old Hae Min Lee in Baltimore, MD, by her ex-boyfriend, 19 year old Adnan Syed.

The basic building blocks of the case are as follows: Syed was convicted of his ex-girlfriend’s murder under shaky testimonies, questions about the competence of his lawyer, and a rather mind-numbing trip through the 1999 cell phone records of a teenager. It’s incredibly captivating to hear Koenig walk us through the details of every aspect of the case, including the not-so-stable evidence. I’ve been listening since October and was hooked all through the end. It’s no surprise the show has shot to the top of the podcast charts with its provocative tale.

The show’s popularity has me wondering about the opportunity for advertisers if podcasts really take off. Serial’s main advertiser – MailChimp – has gone viral due to the show’s success. The pre-roll audio ad plays at the start of every new episode, and I’ve noticed a few more ads included in the opening theme music of the show. It seems like podcast advertising is finally about to go mainstream, and here’s a few reasons why it would be silly not to.

  1. Active listening: Some companies are opposed to radio advertising because music stations don’t necessarily lend themselves to an active listening environment. It’s easy for an ad to get lost in the shuffle and become background noise.  With podcasting, listeners most likely won’t press play just to tune the episode out, meaning the advertisements should be getting noticed.
  2. Target audience: Part of the podcast’s allure is the sheer volume of shows available. There are the NPR-produced shows that reach your typical NPR-type audiences, but there are also the famous comedians, scientists, movie critics, conspiracy theorists, and fantasy baseball analysts (even Alec Baldwin) who have found a voice through podcasting. No matter how diverse an audience is, a company can hit it by advertising on a podcast because there is something for everyone.
  3. Native feel: MailChimp’s Serial ad is successful is because it sounds as though it’s part of the story. Listeners hear the voice of the show’s producer (at the very end of the MailChimp spot) telling you she essentially produced it herself. The spot even follows the interview format that mirrors the podcast’s structure. The advertisement feels native, like it’s a part of the show itself, lending itself to credibility, engagement and proper message delivery.

What do you think? Should podcasts enjoy their fifteen minutes of viral fame, or are they truly a viable channel for many advertisers to look at?


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