In 2005, Steve Jobs said podcasts were the future. It was a bold statement when less than a quarter of US adults had even heard of them at the time. But Spotify’s $100 million acquisition of Joe Rogan’s podcast may have proven Jobs correct 15 years later.

As the second most popular offering on iTunes, Rogan’s podcast has grown by more than 1,600% in five years, from 11 million downloads a month to well over 190 million. The segment has experienced meteoric growth, with Edison research indicating that 24% of US adults now listen to podcasts every week.

Spotify’s investment doesn’t just convey the success of podcasts in general. It shows the particular appeal of the long-form variety. Episodes of the “Joe Rogan Experience” are typically several hours, which is significantly more than the average 43-minute podcast length.

Earlier this year, Spotify also acquired Bill Simmons’ “The Ringer” for nearly $200 million, where each installment consistently doubles that average length as well.

The Appeal of Long-Form

With some exceptions, most podcasts fall within a field of interest, such as gaming, politics or sports. This means that while some have massive followings, their audiences can often be likened to that of an influencer’s or a columnist’s.

Edison has found that 71% of podcast listeners tune in to learn something new, and a longer dialogue naturally provides the host and guest more room to expand on the subject they’re discussing.

Likewise, other research shows that podcast listeners are 68% more likely to have completed a post-graduate education and nearly half of their households earn over $250,000 annually.

For brands, this means the right podcast presents an opportunity to widen your reach with an affluent audience in a way that few other mediums do.

Furthermore, those audiences are incredibly attentive and receptive to brands, with Business Insider reporting that more listers pay attention to ads on podcasts than other mediums and 54% saying they are more likely to consider buying a product advertised on one as well.

The Right Person for the Right Job

Beyond advertising, participating in a podcast can be fruitful for the same reasons – especially one that is long-form. The format results in a raw, unfiltered examination of guests that can be a litmus test for authenticity and instill a level of trust in viewers otherwise difficult to achieve at scale.

This capacity has made podcast appearances a staple of political campaigns in recent years

However, that freeform nature is a double-edged sword that may launch a campaign with velocity rarely seen or lead to controversy if the conversation takes a wrong turn. A half-hour podcast can be demanding for spokespersons and a production that spans several hours is only suitable for someone truly passionate and well-spoken about the topic.

As with many other forms of media, podcasts offer brands opportunities by association with their expert, rather than explicit promotion. The potential value of that association is strong, as a reported 70-72% of business owners with 100-500 employees listen to podcasts.

Let’s Just Talk

A host or podcasting organization’s interest in a guest does not always hinge on news of the day. What often matters most is the potential for a compelling conversation that can be sustained over a long period of time.

In this regard, brands can leverage an expert’s involvement in a landmark case or important legislation from years ago. Those experiences alone would rarely pique a reporter’s interest, but the exercise of unpacking them and discussing key learnings could certainly resonate with the appropriate podcast’s audience.  

The adversity an individual has faced, such as racial or sexual discrimination can even be compelling subjects to other professionals in a given field. If that conversation resonates with the accountant, restaurant owner or hotelier who’s listening, it can turn that podcast into a surprisingly strong recruiting or new business tool for brands.

Part of the appeal of podcasts is how different they are from other forms of media consumption. That appeal accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic with Spotify reporting a 69% increase in uploads and its catalogue experiencing the largest monthly growth ever.

That uniqueness and relative novelty may make securing and executing podcasts challenging though. Finding worthwhile opportunities requires a brand to perform a significant level of matchmaking to pair the appropriate audience and host with an expert who checks all the right boxes.

But if that match is made, the benefits can certainly be worth talking about.