As I have mentioned a couple of times, I have really gotten into podcasts over the past year thanks to family members who listened to them long before I did.
When I bought a car equipped with Bluetooth technology and, more importantly, learned how to operate it (no small feat), it didn’t take long for me to become hooked. For a car trip of any distance, a podcast is a great way to make the time pass.
Some of the ones I listen to are the investigative journalism types in which a non-fiction story is told over several episodes. These exploded in popularity after “Serial,” developed by the producers of National Public Radio’s “This American Life,” was introduced in 2014. The same folks produced “S-Town,” another wildly popular one and my all-time favorite, a couple of years later.
I also enjoy the talk-show format, ones in which a host talks to guests, or pontificates about a particular topic, be it sports, religion, politics or any number of subjects that would draw listeners.
As it is with any form of media, in order for a podcast to produce revenue, advertising must be sold. I’ve become intrigued by the companies that advertise on podcasts.
I am no expert in the field, but I am assuming the advertisers target the types of folks who would listen to a particular podcast, a certain demographic, if you will. I’m sure there are all kinds of analytics they study to decide where to spend their podcast advertising dollars.
My younger son, who works for a publication that covers athletics (mostly football) at the University of Notre Dame, hosts a weekly podcast about recruiting. One of that show’s advertisers is a retirement community near the Notre Dame stadium.
In nearly all of these podcasts, David McKinney will be heard to say, “Retire closer to the game” as he plugs the senior citizen complex that apparently avails its residents easy access to Notre Dame football games. So I’m guessing the owners of that facility believe David’s listeners include football fans who are approaching retirement age (and since I am one of those, I guess they are at least partly right, although I have no plans to move to South Bend, Indiana).
While that one may be a bit of an outlier, I’m beginning to see a trend in podcast commercials in general.
First, almost always, the person hosting the podcast will do the plug for the company advertising, rather than running a canned bit with a jingle or a generic voice. It will come at the first of the episode, or somewhere in the middle. “Before we go on, let me tell you about one of our sponsors,” the host might say.
Also, the podcast advertisers, or at least the ones I listen to, seem to be big on products used by women. There is a company that sells brassieres that advertises on a number of the ones I listen to. Thus far, I have not heard a male host read an ad promoting this company, but there might be one out there.
I don’t know if that would make a man uncomfortable or not.
I hear a number of ads for a certain brand of shampoo that enhances hair’s body and volume (a female thing, right?). There’s also one from a company that has a “subscription box” service that, for a fee, provides a quarterly mailing of a box filled with items like candles, makeup and perfume. I have heard a man read an ad for both of these.
When I shared this anecdotal information with my wife, she asked if maybe the majority of podcasts I listen to are geared toward women. While I am comfortable enough in my masculinity to have answered yes if that were the case, I don’t think it is.
Could it be more podcast listeners are female, or maybe females are more inclined to respond to these ads? I’m not in any way being sexist. I’m just wondering out loud (or in print).
There are those ads that appeal to both genders, of course – employment recruiting agencies, contact lens makers (you can do an online eye exam!) and all kinds of clothing that can be delivered to your door.
What almost all of these have in common (with the obvious exception of the retirement community at Notre Dame) is the use of the Internet to make your order for their product. Clearly, and logically, the podcast advertisers target web-savvy listeners.
Perhaps the most active among the podcast advertisers are the meal preparation companies, the folks who will send food, ready to be cooked, to your home, with preparation instructions and pre-measured ingredients. I hear their ads all the time.
There is a similar company that doesn’t send food, but will send meal plans for the week, including grocery lists and instructions for doing all your preparation in a couple of hours over the weekend so all of your cutting, chopping and measuring is done when you arrive home from work. All you have to do is mix a few things together and pop something in the oven.
I’ll leave it to you do draw your own conclusions, but it seems to me these companies believe those of us who listen to podcasts are short on time and long on wanting to order stuff, or conduct business, online.
So far I’m yet to patronize any of them, but I’m probably getting closer, just for grins. I’m sure my wife would not object to my preparing a week’s worth of meals on Saturday afternoon (although she might be dubious regarding my ability to do so).
That reminds me of a funny story, but I’m out of space. Come back next week for Part Two.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.