The Golden Age Of Radio

By Taylor Smithfield

“Radiolab,” “Serial,” “The Thrilling Adventure Hour,” “Planet Money,” “Stuff You Should Know,” “Ear Hustle” — these are podcasts your friends and neighbors are addicted to. They dial in while they’re commuting to work, washing the dishes or tuning out their kids. It’s a resurgence of the spoken word in an age of dizzying visuals. Some have dubbed it the “Golden Age” of radio.

“Radiolab,” a self-described show about curiosity, which explores diverse topics within science, philosophy and the human experience, boasts an impressive 3.6 million listeners every month. Addictive, true crime podcast, “Serial,” investigated a tragic murder and remained number one on iTunes for several weeks. “The Thrilling Adventure Hour” is a staged production in the style of old-time radio, featuring lighthearted skits, song numbers and, of course, sound effects. “Planet Money” is a creative and entertaining study in an otherwise boring topic: Our global economy. “Stuff You Should Know,” is quite literally a podcast about everything you should know, diving deep into absurd but fascinating topics like knife throwing, hoarding and nuclear forensics. “Ear Hustle,” is recorded from within San Quentin Correctional Facility by an inmate, a visual artist and a public information officer — recounting provocative stories of life in prison.

Knowledge Is Power

Podcasts have obviously done well in an age of universal technology, where everyone is a few taps and swipes away from a cat meme, a controversial news bite or an emoji-filled text from Mom. People are just more connected to the digital world and their phones have become another limb, or more accurately, a tiny, powerful second brain.

With more access to information on the internet, people have not only become more educated, they’ve become more hungry. Wikipedia is a great example of the desire for open, shared knowledge. How many times have you caught yourself saying, “Let me Google that”? (Or talked with a customer who took out his or her smartphone to look up additional information before “pulling the trigger” on a purchase.) We’re living in an age where people want to know more simply because they can. We’re not limited to knowledge shared in books, on TV or radio programs or by university professors anymore. Unfettered access has made us more curious, more open and more investigative.

This craving for knowledge and shared experience is why TED Talks have become so popular. Attending a conference used to be an expensive luxury — now you can join millions of attendees around the world for a free talk on topics like foreign policy, Alzheimer’s, marriage or NASA. Many YouTube channels operate by this same principle, too. Scores of users, old and young, host their own shows, capitalizing on their niche. (You’ve no doubt come across several popular firearms channels.)

Connecting The Brand

Take for instance Gunwerks’ newly launched podcast, “Long-Range Pursuit,” which doesn’t just target the firearms community but those specifically interested in “the science and techniques of long-range hunting and shooting.” Future episodes will feature interviews with industry experts, which is a great way to attract those more intellectually curious listeners.

“Long-Range Pursuit” is an example of a branded podcast, which is essentially a podcast produced by a specific company or brand in order to connect with potential customers and ultimately fuel sales. Nicholas Cavet, digital strategy lead at marketing firm VSA Partners believes branded podcasts can be very successful for a simple reason: the chance to connect with people over a prolonged period of time. “Think about it,” he says. “If P&G could get a sizable audience to tune into a two-hour drama about shampoo and actually watch it and enjoy it, it’d be the holy grail for an advertiser.”

Remember when we talked about content marketing last August (“Content Is King”)? While traditional advertising asks buyers to purchase a product, content marketing provides free information, thus enabling a buyer to be more intelligent. This “information” could be a blog post, product review video, PDF book, an advice email newsletter or a podcast. It’s value-added content attracting an audience, establishing the brand as a wealth of knowledge and converts prospects into buyers — and buyers into loyal, lifelong customers.

Podcasts are excellent examples of content marketing because they don’t feel intrusive. They aren’t overt ads. Listeners who regularly engage with podcast episodes feel invested in the evolution of the show as they listen over time, and they’re gaining valuable information or interesting anecdotes, all while keeping a brand at the top of their mind.

Savvy, Captivated Audience

While podcasts vary in topic, they tend to appeal to an average type of audience. The average podcast listeners are between the ages of 18–54, and lean slightly male. Listeners tend to be more affluent and educated. They’re interested in ad-free or ad-light content, and because of this will typically listen to most episodes in their entirety. Essentially, they’re a savvy, captivated audience. According to Nielsen, 50 percent of all U.S. homes are podcast fans. The rise of the smartphone is largely responsible, with 157 percent more people listening to podcasts on their phone than any other device since 2014.


Did you know that The LEGO Movie is really one giant advertisement for LEGOs? Yes, it’s a lovable kid-friendly adventure, but underneath the plastic, stackable facade is a solid marketing plan. Profits rose by 15 percent after the movie’s 2014 release.

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