Even a decade ago, podcasts were relatively unknown. They existed in niche industries and had small listener bases – an artform assumed to be dead before ever really taking off. However, the last several years have demonstrated the opposite – people love podcasts.

Today the podcast market is quite large and growing; Apple estimates there are 525,000 active podcasts with more than 18.5 million combined episodes. In the U.S. 37% of Americans listen to podcasts every month, a figure expected to increase by an additional 46 million people in the next three years. Furthermore, most listeners are young, in the 12 – 35-year-old range – a demographic that is increasingly hard to reach on broadcast TV or radio. But podcasts aren’t just for Gens Y and Z; around 40% of those between 35 and 54 also listen to podcasts regularly.

This growth hasn’t gone unnoticed especially with advertisers who see the auditory nature of this audio format where most listeners are focused and engaged as the ideal audience for them. It’s estimated 62% of listeners consider new products and services after hearing about them on podcasts, providing plenty of opportunities for advertisers to capitalize. As such, more advertisers are involved in podcast advertising than ever before, and new trends are emerging.

For those who want to enter or continue to engage in the podcast market, these key trends for 2021 should be factored into their podcast advertising plans.

Listeners Will Accept More Advertising

In comparison to radio spots or even TV shows, podcasts have comparatively fewer ads. Many ads are at the very beginning of a podcast before the actual content begins, or halfway through, once a listener is already invested.

Furthermore, many users know that a podcast can be a small operation in which ads are essential to keep the doors open and the lights on which is why they are more tolerant of advertising as it’s generally the price that comes with listening to great independent content. Also, they’re more likely to pay attention to podcast ads; 50% of podcast listeners say they listen more carefully to podcast ads than traditional radio ads. This allows for podcasters and advertisers alike to capitalize on increased listener tolerance – a win-win.

Programmatic Podcast Advertising

Programmatic advertising methods have penetrated many areas of media across the US, and podcasts are no different.

In the early days of podcasts, podcast hosts had to reach out to appropriate advertisers, request content, and place it themselves. However, programmatic technology has rendered this old-school approach somewhat obsolete. While some ads are still placed this way, podcast ad marketplaces, like Gumball, Midroll, Podcorn, and AdvertiseCast, are alive and well – and changing the industry. Spend in this space is expected to reach $106.5 million by 2022, indicating a significant change in how ads are sold and placed.

Increased Adoption from Big Brands

In the early days, podcasts were largely a grassroots kind of product. Most podcasters handled initial recording and distribution single-handedly, providing access to content primarily on personal websites.

However, the growth in podcasts has led to an industry shift. The big names in streaming, like Pandora and Spotify, have noticed the value in podcasts and have worked to offer fast, easy streaming access. This has not only popularized podcasts in general but has made them more appealing for advertisers looking to target young and more affluent demographics.

Brand Safety Will Continue to Be Important

Brand safety is an important facet of doing business across all kinds of media platforms. Businesses want to know that their ads will run in content that holds to corporate values; a family-friendly brand won’t want to air in the middle of a grisly crime story, for example.

Even as placing advertising dollars grows easier and more convenient, advertisers still don’t want to stray outside their comfort zones. This means that advertisers will continue to look for podcast offerings that are a good fit. This kind of brand safety can be especially important in the podcast space; any kind of content restrictions or standards are currently quite loose compared to more established media sources, and content on podcasts can vary greatly from one episode to the next.

Digital Measurement Tools Grow in Importance

In the early days of podcasts, measurement was all but impossible, especially from an advertiser perspective. Podcasters used disconnected software, methods, and internal tools, leaving advertisers to largely accept whatever information could be provided by podcast hosts.

Today, however, the introduction of pixel-based technology makes tracking easier and more effective. This evolution allows for a deeper understanding of listener engagement and conversion. Better tools mean a better ability to quantify spend, which can help advertisers determine the value of a particular podcast investment.

Moving forward with Podcast Advertising

Podcast advertising may not be right for every brand, but for those interested in reaching new demographics and expanding efforts, the podcast space holds huge potential. There’s never been a better time to adopt this way of advertising with further growth expected and greater possibilities to reach engaged listeners. And, with the evolution of AI-driven programmatic tools, it’s now easier than ever for advertisers to get their voices heard.