Why are podcasts such effective engagement tools?

Why are podcasts such effective engagement tools?

What do Russell Brand, Fearne Cotton, Snoop Dogg, Freddie Flintoff and Oprah Winfrey all have in common? They are all hosts or regular guests of podcasts.  

In recent years, celebrities have begun to realise the worth of podcasts and now, , people are increasingly making the most of their benefits. But are marketeers yet to fully utilise their potential benefits to the brands they represent 

Podcasts have long been on the up. Many cite This American Life’s podcast ‘Serial’ as the catalyst for their rise in 2014, but data suggests they were gradually gaining popularity since 2003. Last year Spotify announced it has earmarked $500m to invest into podcasts after acquiring providers Gimlet and AnchorSpotify’s foray into podcasts should not be a surprise, but what might be a surprise is why it’s taken so long.  

But considering we live in an era of live video streaming, with screens continuously getting smaller, sharper and more convenient, it’s intriguing audio-only podcasts are proving so popular. 

Perhaps marketeers should start looking beyond traditional and social media, but what areas do podcasts tap into that traditional and social media are unable to?  

The three unique selling points podcasts can boast over social media and tradition media are authenticityintimacy, and convenience. All three are huge opportunities to connect a brand to its audience. 


The obvious barrier that exists between ‘talent’ and ‘audience’ on social media is authenticity. It is simple to understand; the audience is particularly savvy to realise a post may or may not be a genuine post by talent or alternatively one scheduled by the social media team. The audience is similarly savvy to media interviews and understands the vetting and editing process around them. 

In contrast, there can be no doubt of authenticity when hearing Peter Crouch joke about a time Andres Iniesta asked him for a photograph. By actually hearing him laugh, the listener experiences his true emotional reaction, cementing the connection between listener and talent. 

The length of podcasts provides an ideal platform for stories to be told. Freddie Flintoff’s description of befriending waiting staff at the hotel restaurant in Mumbai before the terrorist attack at the team hotel in 2008 on ‘Fred Sav and the Ping Pong guy’ can be listened to it in all its emotional detail. 

Similarly, whilst most people realise podcasts are edited down, the edits are far less obvious than when watching videoWhile ‘cut-aways’ are a crucial component to any videothe lack of noticeable cuts in podcasts further adds to their authenticity.. 


The podcast is an intimate experience, not in the way ‘My Dad Wrote A Porno’ would have you to believe, but in a way in which talent and audience can connect in ways not possible with traditional and social media. 

The listener can understand the quirky nature of someone while the longevity and lack of cameras allow the ‘talent’ to relax and portray their genuine ‘off-camera’ personality. 

It is also a personal experience for the listener alone with their headphones and no-one else listening and can even feel as though they’re with them in the room.  

Meanwhile, the lack of video forces the listener to imagine the scene being described. The genre of true crime has particularly reaped the benefits of the listener’s imagination – it is one of the most popular genres in the podcast sphere 

Podcasts can heighten emotion that a similar print media interview would be unable to convey. For instance, one of the topics thats had the most impact in podcast form is mental health – Freddie Flintoff has spoken openly about it, as has Russell Brand and Fearne Cotton amongst over celebrities. 


There is a feeling amongst people today that they lack time to consume news, which is ironic considering the abundance of information available through handheld devices. News is apparently no longer convenient. However, with excessive screen-time a regular topic of debate, you can still listen on the move while completing a Candy Crush level on your screen on the daily commute.    

What better way to enhance menial tasks by listening to a guy from Bristol who sells ‘Rollasoles’ and has not the slightest idea about cricket in the cricket-themed podcast, Tailenders? In fairness, Machin does have a great Al Pacino story, and could enhance any journey.  

I began listening to podcasts travelling in Japan and ‘Fred, Sav and the Ping Pong Guy‘, which was my gateway to a new audio world. Listening to those three helped connect me to the English culture and sport I’d been missing, making the most of their accessibility and convenience. Soon I was listening to Guardian Football Weekly to keep up with all the football analysis I was starved of. Next was Desert Island Discs and TMS. 

The authenticity, intimacy and convenience benefits explain why so many people have flocked to podcastsPerhaps it’s time brands caught up to exploit the increasing demand for podcasts before the market becomes too saturated? 


Thinking by Rob Baney.