Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Local brands are starting to engage with podcasting as the digital audio platform gains traction in SA.

A podcast is a digital audio file available on the Internet for downloading, usually as a series or a new daily or weekly instalment.

Ross Sergeant, head of strategy at podcast producer and distributor Iono.fm, says that as consumers’ media habits evolve, the media strategies brands use are following suit.

According to Sergeant the podcast medium offers advertisers an opportunity to engage, with pin-point accuracy, consumers who have moved away either completely or in part from traditional radio and are listening to podcasts.

The secret, he says, lies in costing and constructing an effective campaign. "Generic broadcast radio is sold by time slot, and the media planner must use historical sampling data to [judge] whether the audience will be listening during a particular time slot. But podcast advertising allows brands to choose their specific demographic and define a budget, and the ads will be served into podcasts that a specific demographic listens to within a campaign period."

Sergeant says advertisers and their agencies are effectively buying a set number of "listens" by a target market during a fixed period, and the exact number is delivered.

Another strategy, he says, is for advertisers to participate in podcasting through product placement or programme sponsorship, so that content is integrated in a specific show.

Follow the consumer

Given that traditional radio stations are using the medium more, it’s imperative for a podcast sales strategy to work alongside the main radio platform. "A media strategy should always follow the consumer rather than specific sales silos," Sergeant explains. "If, as is the case in SA, broadcast radio listeners are increasingly moving from broadcasts to podcasting and streaming, [the] podcast sales [department needs] to be in constant conversation with both the digital planning teams and the broadcast planning teams.

"Essentially, broadcast media planners should notice that more of their listeners are disappearing, only to reappear, listening to the same content through a digital format. To capitalise on this, generic broadcast radio should be sold in a bundle with podcasting."

Sergeant is not confident that brands and agencies understand the growing importance of podcasting. "We’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of interest in the past six months. However, the media industry is solely reliant on data that pays more attention to broadcast channels than to digital channels. It’s created a challenge for brands and their agencies to marry the information."

The medium might still be in the frontier phase in SA, but brand managers will continue to ask about measurement and effectiveness.

Sergeant says the process is simple. "Ad impressions are measured by how many times a file has been downloaded and how many times an episode that contains an ad is played.

"Effective distribution platforms should automatically eliminate search bots and other nonhuman traffic and remove duplicate listening requests by monitoring user IP addresses and device configuration. The advantage to a download count is that it is first-party data, reflecting observable consumer behaviour."

He says podcast measurement is more accurate than broadcast radio, where sampling methodologies are subject to a margin of error.