This post is part of our Think 2020 series, in which we explore the mindsets, behaviors and emerging solutions shaping marketing and communications in the year ahead.

If you still think podcasts are just for the hipster millennial set, we’ve got news: Online radio has officially gone mainstream.

The majority of Americans have now listened to a podcast at least once, and a third of the U.S. population listens at least monthly. What’s more: 30% of daily listeners and 20% of weekly listeners say they’ve purchased a product after hearing an ad for it in a podcast.

Major streaming services like Spotify and Pandora have also bet big on on-demand audio, acquiring popular content studios and hosting platforms while rolling out new paid and organic offerings.

Who’s Listening

Curious who’s tuning in? Some of the numbers might surprise you:

56% male, 44% female
36% of listeners are non-white
45% of monthly listeners have HHI > $75K – vs. 35% for the general population
27% of listeners have a 4-year college degree – vs. 19% for general population

– Podcast Insights / January 2020

What’s more, podcast listeners are:

22% more engaged, emotionally involved and likely to remember brands mentioned compared to TV ads

BBC / October 2019

4.4 times more likely to recall brands mentioned compared to display ads, including scroll, static and pop-up ads on other platforms

Nielsen / December 2018

More likely to follow companies and brands on social media and less likely to be exposed to traditional TV ads

Podcast Insights / January 2020

What’s Next

Podcast ad revenue is projected to reach $1 billion by 2021. That’s more than double what it was in 2018.

While we wait to see if that projection proves true, two things to watch in 2020: programmatic purchasing at scale; and better, more meaningful measurement.

As platforms like Spotify and Pandora continue to grow market share, marketers should expect to see more ways to automate, scale and target podcast advertising.

Just last week at CES, for example, Spotify announced Streaming Ad Insertion for Spotify Podcast Ads, through which it will serve targeted, measurable, interactive ads to listeners of its original and exclusive podcasts. It’s a first for the industry and promising tech that could help prevent tradeoffs for the listener experience as the market grows.

Podcasting’s much-lamented lack of useful metrics is also likely to improve with the influx of advertising dollars.

It’s been about a year since the Interactive Advertising Bureau introduced its podcast measurement certification program. Apple and NPR also offer analytics and transparency tools to help brands better understand who’s listening, and how. Expect these and other, emerging podcast analytics platforms to lead to higher-quality performance data.

Think 2020

Ready to build podcasts into your marketing plan for 2020? Here are three ways to get started.

Podcast Advertising

This is where we’ll see the lion’s share of the podcast industry’s growth in the year ahead.

Experiment with Spotify’s new real-time targeting options, look for shows that match your niche, or explore those that cover broader subject matter but are known to have strong appeal among your target audience.

While host-read ads have historically performed best with listeners, network-optimized spots could be best for brands looking for efficiency and scale.

Branded Podcast

Many brands are also finding success deepening long-term relationships with their target audiences by creating their own podcasts. Others, such as Procter & Gamble, are exploring new ways to reach podcast listeners via creative partnerships that align well with their values.

The key: helpful, engaging or entertaining content that fills a listener need – not that pushes a product. The length, format and subject matter are all up to you. Just remember to do the work up front to determine how a podcast best plugs in to your larger content strategy.

Expert Guest Interviews

Don’t overlook podcasts as a chance to get your message in front of a highly targeted, highly engaged audience. Here again, look for shows that allow you to add value for the listener.

When pitching, call out whether your spokesperson has podcast / broadcast experience. And keep an eye on the New & Noteworthy section of the major podcast platforms. This can be a great place to discover opportunities with trending or emerging shows.

Let’s Connect

We can’t predict the future – but we can say with certainty great ideas are fueled by curiosity and collaboration. If you’re looking for a partner to tackle this decade’s business challenges with relentless creativity, we’d love to hear from you.