MediaVillage's Insider InSites podcast on Media, Marketing and Advertising
Nielsen and Westwood One on Who's Buying What and Why - in Podcasting
Aug 2, 2018 · 19 min
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I’m E.B. Moss, the head of content strategy at MediaVillage recording live here at Podcast Movement 2018. In the hot seat today are two guests from Nielsen: Tony Hereau, Vice President of Audience Insights and Bruce Supovitz, Senior Vice President/Sales Director, National Audio Services. And for Westwood One and Westwood One Podcast Network, Senior Vice President of Digital Partnerships, Kelli Hurley.

E.B. Moss:  Kelli, I'm going to start with you because you have to go jump on a panel. Tell me about what you'll be speaking about.

Kelli Hurley:  The panel is with the IAB and focused on podcasts, growth of revenue, and where we see it evolving and changing over the course of the next six months to a year.

Moss:  And where DO you see it growing and evolving, [especially] with your experience as Westwood One has launched its podcast network?

Hurley:  The growth has just been staggering. Obviously all the research that has come out has proven that, however, the proof is in the pudding for Westwood One. Our audiences continue to grow and as a result our revenue. I think it's all about really figuring out what the audiences want in terms of content and delivering that to them. So you're launching more successful shows and thus really providing more opportunities for revenue.

Moss: You've been working in audio for basically all of your career So we'll consider you something of an expert, and since Westwood is comprised of both broadcast and digital audio, streaming, podcasting, etc., how are advertisers finding the difference between radio and podcasting and sort of the hybrids that Westwood One often offers, which are radio hosts who have become podcasters.

Hurley: It's really interesting. We certainly offer a unique value proposition to both our advertisers as well as talent and podcasters and radio broadcasters that come into our family in the sense that we've been very successful from an advertiser standpoint in terms of providing multi-platform campaigns where it includes sponsorship of a podcast, but really taking the host of the podcast and bringing them into the radio space by having them voice the spots that run adjacent to some of our exclusive content, like the Olympic updates as an example. But in addition to that, we offer something incredibly valuable to a podcaster, like Ben Shapiro who has been with us for about two years, has been a very successful podcaster, but now we syndicate his podcast on the radio. So it's a really unique position for us, and we find those ways to bridge the gap between the two worlds.

Moss: Let's talk about some of those other hosts. I know Jim Rome is doing great in both linear and podcasting.

Hurley: Jim Rome is an incredible example of a broadcaster who really saw the opportunity to get into original content podcasting. He's been able to expand his audience outside of his affiliation footprint, which has been incredible for him to grow and reinvent himself a little bit.

Moss: I know that he's among your podcast hosts who are very popular because of their ability to really personalize and do some storytelling. Are there any examples that come to mind?

Hurley: Well, I think our partnership with American Public Media and the incredibly successful podcast In The Dark is one of the best examples of storytelling out there in the space right now. ...[In terms of] hosts that are open and share their personal stories, we just launched a podcast with Judith Regan,  who has many stories to tell from being a book editor and publisher over the years - from celebrities and pop culture. So she has done a really great job of telling her story within the fabric of a podcast.

Moss: And then you're able to help people find these podcasts because you're using your broadcast platform to amplify, so to speak, their opportunity to download and listen to the podcast on demand.

Hurley: That's correct. We think that’s really important. Obviously we all know what a podcast is, but there's still a lot of people in this country that don't even know what the word podcast means. So we feel it's really important to educate our listeners on the radio, you know, in markets big and small across the country because of our radio footprint, to really help them understand what a podcast is, how to download it, and where to find it.

Moss:   I'm going to toss to Nielsen and Tony to talk a little about data and insights.  Kelli has talked about the discoverability of podcasting, let’s discuss the difference between radio and podcasting insights. How do you extract those differences?

Tony Hereau:  There are similarities, but there's probably a lot more differences. With radio it's often a local type of advertiser that is going to take advantage of that local connection. But with podcasting it's national, and it has the best of the spoken word capabilities that audio offers, but it also has some digital elements and mobile elements to it as well. And at Nielsen we can leverage a lot of that, because we're looking at tools that we have across all types of media and we're applying it to podcasting. So for example, in this insights booklet that we've been putting out we've just been leveraging the CPG angle and looking at national advertisers who could benefit from the podcast medium.

Moss: Got It. So what you've done is you've taken a look at some buying habits among podcast avid users and how they do in terms of what products they're buying a little more. So, it seems that, for example, with news and politics with a Ben Shapiro that they're buying a lot of liquor. That's what it says to me. And then how are we doing with sports, since we mentioned Jim Rome? There it is I on page 17. Those of you in the industry are going to want to get a copy of this Nielsen new study. Oh, they're buying a lot of liquor too, so I don't know what it is about podcast listeners, but they also buy a lot of baby food and cookies!

Hereau: I think we all know that the podcasting audience is a younger audience, and it's going to appeal to beverage makers, alcoholic as well as carbonated and so on. But there are even surprises on here, like nuts, skincare, detergent. You wouldn't necessarily associate that with a sports fan, but that's what the data is showing us.

Moss: Well, nuts maybe I would. Kelli, my last question for you is do these jive with some of the advertising that Westwood One has sold in their podcasting?

Hurley: Yes, absolutely. I mean I think that research really speaks to the strength of the current advertisers in the space, and ones that we have seen or are starting to dip their toe in and inquire about podcasting, which is great.

Bruce Supovitz: E.B., I think the nice thing to point out about this study, which actually is a third one we've done, is it's taken from Home Scan. Home Scan is 100,000 homes where people actually scan in the barcodes. So we have very direct results here. So, you take a large panel of people, they spend a year scanning all their barcodes in from supermarkets, the Walmarts, Targets of the world, grocery stores, what have you, anything with the barcode. And then we ask them if they're fans of podcasting and more specifically what genres of podcasting are they a fan of, and that's how we get this very directional data about news versus sports. Arts and leisure versus lifestyle. And we can see which brands do best in which categories. Furthermore, with Tony's help, what we've been able to do is to figure out who are the most avid fans, the most engaged fans of that category and what's their buying power. And what we're seeing is that the buying power of podcast fans, and even more so of an avid podcast fan, really over indexes compared to the average consumer for a large number of categories, not just the top couple, but lots of different categories.

Moss: Let's talk, Tony, about the consumption of not just the products that podcast listeners are getting but the podcast themselves. Talk about the audience growth and adoption of podcast listening.

Hereau: Bruce was mentioning those avid fans. And that's essentially what is driving podcasting. When you talk to somebody who's a fan of podcasting, they're not just a light fan, they're an avid fan. They want to tell you about their favorite shows and so on. We're seeing a growth in that core audience even, not just light listeners coming into podcasting for the first time. In 2016 we tracked 13 million households across America that were avid fans of podcasting. A year later that number grew to 16 million. So that's a pretty big jump, like 26% year over year in the core listeners. So, we've been focusing our reports on those core listeners because those are the ones who are going to be more exposed to the advertising more repeatedly and are more likely to connect with the brands and advertisers.

Moss:   Got it. And why do you think certain genres are doing better? Is that a reflection of the demographics of people who listen to podcasts now? Have you seen a shift in which the top genres of podcasting are as the demographics change?

Hereau: As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. So the whole medium is expanding. All the formats are growing. The one thing I will say is that it is becoming more mainstream. Podcasting was, you know, the early adopters and the more tech centric audience, but it's starting to become more of a mass medium.

Moss:   I see. So, where with younger people and music and games and hobbies might've been the bigger categories, we're starting to see more of a little of an uptick in perhaps kids and families, etc.

Hereau: That's right. It's growing in all areas, and it's almost as though there's a podcast for everyone. So that's where the growth is coming from.

Moss:   I love it.

Supovitz:  And, E.B.,  the beauty of podcast is there's something for everybody and I think this points out that all those different genres have different strengths. Whereas a lot of companies have done great research talking about consumption and other metrics, we felt that with the brands really wanting to move, brand dollars really wanting to move with the podcasting this would be very key findings. You know, there's a lot of direct response already in the medium. So, we're feeling more demand to show results or directional results on brand dollars. So for instance, we're getting a lot of requests for brand lift studies. A brand, you know, with direct response you can tell whether something does well because there's an action, there's a code, you have to click something, you have to do something. With brands they want to know whether their message is resonating.

Moss:  So more awareness.

Supovitz:  Awareness, resonating, and people taking an action. So we actually are doing a large number of brand lift studies where we play a spot for a certain number of people and we play the same clip without the spot for the same number of people. Ask them both the same set of questions and see did the spot resonate. Did the spot cause an action? Did people refer that product to somebody? And the results have been fantastic.

Moss: Interesting. Now do you think that smart speakers has had an impact on the uptake of podcasting?

Hereau: It is, about one out of every five households has a smart speaker in it now. And so that's definitely a tailwind for the podcast medium, but the smartphone has driven the growth of podcasting more than the smart speaker has over the last five years.

Moss:  Because, people can take their podcast with them.

Hereau:   It is.

Moss:  And now what I think this is fascinating is that other media are now leveraging audio to promote their products. I'm thinking about Netflix populating the comedy channel on Sirius, for example.

Hereau: I think there's opportunities and I think there's a lot more types of businesses and brands that are exploring what they can do with audio. And I think with the combination of the research that we have and the opportunities that podcasting affords it's green valleys.

Moss:  I think so too. Now the standard question: Bruce, any favorite podcasts that you listen to?

Supovitz:  Well, you know, at Nielsen we have to be a little neutral, but I will say I'm a big sports and news junkie.

Moss:  Okay.

Supovitz:  And, I will tell you this, it's expanding my horizons. When you get on there and you look at all the shows, these true crime shows, these history shows, these travel podcasts it's fascinating. So I try to sample a lot of them.

Moss:  And you, Tony?

Hereau:  I definitely like the music genre, like to hear the behind the scene stories. Even though you don't hear a lot of music in podcasts, it turns me on to lots of new bands that I wouldn't have heard of before.

Moss:  Yeah. And you have a panel coming up [at Podcast Movement.} What are you going to be talking about?

Hereau:   We're trying to give the podcasting community the tools they need to help make it even more successful than it has been. And as Bruce said, it's gonna come from growth from brand advertisers, because the direct response space is supporting the medium entirely, but we think there's a lot more opportunity. So we'll share some great resources.

Moss:  One last question: what's the change in the air with podcasting? Without your Nielsen hat on, just your observations at Podcast Movement?

Hereau:   I would say that the medium is growing more diverse, so it's not just the diversity of content, it's the diversity of players, whether it's content, whether it's the audience, or whether it's the advertising. So it's becoming multidimensional is really the way I see things happening.

Moss:  Well said. Bruce?

Supovitz:  I love Podcast Movement. This is my third one. There's a really great vibe at this conference. It's people who are very enthusiastic and have strong feelings about what they do. I think the challenges that they're conquering are just the volume of shows that are out there for people to listen to. And how do you make it easier for someone to find them? How do you make it easier for a buyer to buy them? My session here is with someone from Sparks Foundry, who is a big buyer, along with Cadence 13 and Midroll who are going to be fellow panelists. We're talking about how brands are moving in, big brand names are moving in, and how do you make it easy to make the buy? Is that programmatic? Is it host read? How do you keep up with those tonnage of shows? So it's a very exciting medium and it's the hot thing.

Moss:  That's great. Well, I did a podcast from Podcast Movement 2017. Now I've got 18. I can't wait to perhaps ask you guys in 2019 if those projections came through.

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