Event Recap: NPR’s First-Ever Podcast Upfront

Thanks largely to the Serial craze, podcast have enjoyed a meteoric rise in both reputation and audience size over the last year. Consequently, podcast sponsorship has become an uncharted platform for brands to reach the desirable Millennial audience. On Wednesday, NPR, WBEZ, and WNYC jointly hosted the first-ever podcast upfront in New York City to demonstrate the reach and influence of podcasting media.

Serial Represents The Tipping Point
In the normally low-profile world of podcasting, Serial, a WBEZ spinoff of This American Life, was a certified global sensation. Since its debut last October, it quickly became the most popular podcast in the world, and has achieved an impressive 82 million in total downloads for its season one episodes. The attention its breakout success brought to podcasting is undeniable, as by now one-third of Americans have listened to a podcast.

Standalone Podcast App Drew In New Attention
In June 2005, Apple released iTunes 4.9 with native support for podcasts, bringing them into public awareness. With the update of iOS 7, Apple extrapolated the podcast features from its music app and created a free-to-download, standalone app for easier podcast listening and discovery. And most recently with iOS 8, Apple has made the podcast app a mandatory app, which is pre-installed on every phone and cannot be deleted. Undoubtedly, this should intrigue and encourage legions of new users to discover podcasts.

Podcast Sponsorships Work Well As Native Ads
Tom Webster from Edison Research also attended the event to share some highlights from their new research on the preferences and behaviors of the podcast audience. “Public radio is in a unique position to deliver podcast audiences to sponsors,” he remarked, “Our new research shows that amongst all 25-44 year-old listeners, 46% consider public radio podcasts to be essential listening.” More importantly, the research also revealed that the majority of the listeners felt better about the sponsoring brands, such as Serial sponsor Mailchimp (or rather, Mailkimp), and are more likely to make a purchase after hearing the brand messages indigenously presented in podcasts.