Just because we say something is entertaining and effective doesn’t necessarily make it so, right? Sometimes the numbers need crunching to see if a product or service actually lives up to the expectations around it. That’s certainly true of podcasts, which increasingly seem to be everywhere. But how effective is this relatively new medium? 

A Belgian first

In Spring 2022 Mediafin commissioned the first large-scale study in Belgium to assess the value of podcasts as a tool for Native Advertising. Together with Ipsos, a world leader in market research, and the University of Antwerp we have carried out a unique two-part study into the power of podcasts. On the one hand we are zooming in on the profile of listeners and their attitude to podcasts, and on the other we are looking into the perception of advertising in podcasts

The headline figures for the Ipsos research were that 81% of Belgian podcast listeners find they get a better understanding of certain topics, while 79% of listeners find it easier to get information via podcasts than through other media.

The University of Antwerp experiment exposed 1,105 listeners to 16 manipulated audio fragments per medium, with an online survey to question results. The sample size included 563 readers of De Tijd/L’Echo. In the case of podcasts, their recognition of advertisements was a significant 80%, with 84% of listeners remembering the brand mentioned.

Podcasts deliver

Let’s drill deeper into the findings and see what’s going on. Firstly it seems that podcasts really do deliver. Of the 1,500 Belgians (aged 18 to 70) surveyed by Ipsos, over half expressed a preference for podcasts over listening to radio. What’s more, 80% of listeners found that podcasts delivered more knowledge and better interpretation of specific topics than other media. There’s a year-on-year increase in podcast listeners, with 29% of all Belgians currently accessing the medium, and in younger groups, this percentage rises to 47% of 18 to 24 year olds. The figure is only slightly less, at 44%, for 25 to 34 year old listeners. 

What’s more, 36% of people who are currently not listening to podcasts, show interest in doing so in the near future. So, clearly podcasts are doing something right, some of which comes down to perceived credibility. On average, podcasts scored 6.6/10 for this factor, compared to 6.4/10 for TV and newspapers, and 6.5/10 for radio. For a relative newcomer to the media mix, podcasts are making their mark.

Quality and relevance

Credibility is one very important factor, but other aspects of the Ipsos survey included podcast use and listening time, the criteria for choosing podcasts, and podcast themes. Specifically turning to the De Tijd/L’Echo readership, here a ‘quality podcast’ was defined by 75% as covering relevant content and topics. ‘Interesting hosts’ were attractive to 40%, while a ‘high-quality publisher’ was valued by 1 in 5 respondents. 

The Ipsos survey also revealed that De Tijd/L’Echo readers listen to podcasts 1.7 times more than the average Belgian.

When it came to the Antwerp University study into the recognition of advertisements, it clearly emphasizes the importance of credibility and trustworthiness for native advertising in podcasts. 

The subjects of the study had better brand recognition and retention of advertisements, up to 68%, when they perceived the content as authentic and the host as credible. At the same time, they regarded them as less intrusive or manipulative. That’s a win-win for both advertisers and listeners, as there’s less tendency to avoid or skip advertising content.

Podcasts can’t be ignored

Dorien Luyckx, researcher at the University of Antwerp, comments, “Each channel has its own habits, reasons to exist and unspoken rules. This is no different when it comes to podcasts. For example, listening to podcasts is a far more individual and more intense audio experience than radio. Additionally, a more intimate relationship develops between the podcast host and the listeners. A good understanding of and relationship with your podcast audience allows both the makers and advertisers to strongly capitalise on this.”

For the company commissioning the surveys, Mediafin, CEO Peter Quaghebeur adds, “To have a daily podcast date with our audience was a strategic choice. 79% of the Belgian podcast listeners included in our research indicated they find it easier to access info via podcasts than through other media. As a news channel, it is our task to distribute information in the most accessible way possible. In this regard, podcasts can no longer be ignored.” 

A winning formula

The figures are compelling and convincing, with two 2022 surveys showing the truth behind the anecdotal evidence that Belgians in general – and readers of De Tijd/L’Echo in particular – are turning to this refreshing medium. Furthermore, podcasts have been shown to be effective in helping advertisers reach their target audience, and listeners are less likely to turn off or skip advertising content. 

The formula for podcasting success? Programmes must have credibility and relevance, coupled with perceived authenticity of the host, along with advertisements that avoid being intrusive or seem manipulative.

That’s the Power of Podcasts.

(Blog post published in LinkedIn)