The Podcast Boom

The rise in the popularity of podcasts is creating an exciting opportunity for marketers

By Tammy Greenberg


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Forty-four percent of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast, a number that has quadrupled from 11 percent in 2006, according to the 2018 Infinite Dial study by Edison Research and broadcast technology company Triton Digital. Podcasting, the study suggests, has become an emerging source of entertainment and information, with 73 million Americans listening to podcasts at least once a month, 48 million Americans listening weekly, and the average listener taking in seven podcasts per week.

The share of audio time Americans spend with podcasts has doubled during the past four years, according to the first quarter 2018 Share of Ear data released by Edison Research. Ramping up quickly, podcasts make up 4 percent of the time Americans 13 and older spend with audio, up from 2 percent in 2014. AM/FM radio still remains the dominant audio platform, accounting for half the time Americans spend listening to audio sources, and, one may argue, it is fueling the growth in podcasting.

Radio broadcasters such as iHeartRadio, Cumulus/Westwood One, ABC News Radio, Entercom, and Hubbard Radio are tapping into the world of podcasting in a very big way. In fact, 44 percent of local radio stations are producing and purveying original content, according to the 2018 Borrell Benchmarking Survey of Local Radio Station Online Revenue. And through content and distribution partnerships with podcast production companies, the quality of the audio and the variety of content in this medium have never been better.

Podcasting, in its simplest form, is audio programming available on demand. As a medium, its format and popularity offer a unique way for brands to partner with broadcast radio in the creation, integration, and distribution of original content — and a number of radio groups are making major moves to win brands' attention.


Westwood One

The Westwood One Podcast Network has rapidly grown to become a leader in the podcasting space, thanks to its promotional reach and portfolio of wildly popular podcasts, including The Ben Shapiro Show, The Jim Rome Podcast, and Talk Is Jericho. Westwood One is focused on building a podcast network that will deliver consumers and marketers the highest quality podcasts in news/talk, sports, and entertainment. To do it, the network plans to leverage some of its most popular content and personalities. The company has invested in data and insights, and focused on the podcast listener as well as advertiser behaviors.

Westwood One has also published multiple insight reports for the industry. In its report The Podcast Download, the company finds that not only are podcast listeners voracious audio users and media junkies who spend more time than average with AM/FM radio and on-demand video, but they are also accepting of advertising inside podcasts. The report notes that advertising consideration and usage of podcast advertising has steadily increased over the past three years.


Advertiser Consideration and Usage of Podcast Advertising Soars


Another of Westwood One's reports, The State of Podcasting, confirms podcasting is on the rise and that its momentum is driven primarily by younger, trend-setting millennials and generation Z — a finding that suggests podcasts are here to stay.



According to internal data, in 2017 iHeartRadio saw a 40 percent increase in podcast listeners from the previous year, and the company's listenership is continuing to grow in 2018. iHeartMedia claims the No. 1 podcaster spot among commercial broadcast radio companies, with 525 original and branded podcasts. According to iHeartMedia, these original podcasts span 18 different categories, from business and sports to science and entertainment.

Podcasting will continue to be a big focus for iHeartMedia in 2018.



Cadence13, formerly DGital Media, is a creator of on-demand audio entertainment in sports, business, tech, politics, comedy, and news, presenting arguably some of the most influential voices in those genres. Through a strategic partnership with Entercom, not only does Cadence13 leverage the broadcaster's deep roster of local talent and relationships across formats, it also brings original content and celebrities to Entercom's national footprint.

Each week a different Entercom personality is a guest on Cadence13's Sports Reporters podcast, hosted by Mitch Albom and Mike Lupica. And the "Skimm Minute," a weekly excerpt of the top-rated Skimm'd From the Couch podcast, has become a regular feature across 177 Entercom-owned and -operated radio stations in 44 markets. This relationship provides brands the opportunity to reach loyal, targeted, and highly engaged mass audiences with influencers who keep them hungry for more of the content they crave.


Subscribing to the Idea

For their part, brands are beginning to take note.

At the 2018 ANA Media Conference, Lisa Schoder, head of U.S. integrated marketing and media at the Ford Motor Co., presented a case study on how Ford's efforts with podcasts have led to significant upticks in its KPIs, including a 26 percent increase in intent to purchase.

The success Ford achieved through contextual "storytelling" ad-based integration with Gimlet's entrepreneurial podcast StartUp led Ford to launch a podcast with Slate Studios called Life on the Fast Track. Ford's podcast goes behind the scenes of the Girls' Fast Track Races and focuses on bringing STEAM content (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) to girls.

The benefit of a brand partnering with a radio broadcaster that operates in the podcasting space is the ability to also produce, distribute, and promote podcast content on broadcast radio, offering greater scale and a wider breadth of opportunities for the advertiser. For example, Sleep Number has sponsored iHeartMedia's Thrive Global Podcast for four consecutive seasons. iHeartRadio takes portions of the podcast and airs them as content on stations in markets that Sleep Number targets. This provides Sleep Number with greater reach and more engagement with like-minded consumers.

The recent collaboration between Westwood One Podcast Network and Entenmann's is another good example of how a brand can use the power of podcast plus broadcast as an effective way to reach new listeners and amplify its audio marketing mix. The two partnered on a multiplatform branded sponsorship of the Tara & Johnny podcast during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, to drive excitement for the 120th anniversary of Entenmann's Donuts. Entenmann's expanded the campaign across radio, digital streaming, and social, sharing its message with hundreds of millions of people. By leveraging Westwood One's status as the U.S. radio broadcaster of the Olympics, Entenmann's was able to align with a shared cultural moment and connect with consumers via Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, two of the most popular and exciting personalities reporting from Pyeongchang.

As demonstrated by Ford, Sleep Number, and Entenmann's, the podcasting boom is starting to catch brands' attention. There's no doubt that as the medium grows, smart marketers will continue to leverage podcasting to engage and tell their stories to targeted consumer groups.


Tammy Greenberg is the SVP of business development at the Radio Advertising Bureau. You can email her at