Marketers: Get ready for Google's podcasting initiatives

Podcasting is a growing medium for marketers to tell a brand’s story. The numbers are astounding, and reflect similar growth in video over the last few years. Recent research by Edison Research shows that 11% more Americans listened to podcasts in 2016 when compared to the prior year. Over 110 million Americans listened to a podcast at least once in 2016, and 67 million Americans listen to at least one podcast a month. Phones and tablets are the preferred device to listen to a podcast with two-thirds being accessed through those devices.

If you are marketer, you have to pay attention to podcasting. The phenomenon is only expected to increase as Google moves into the space. Currently around 500,000 active podcasts exists, and Google predicts that number will double in the next few years. Google is paying attention to these statistics and is moving toward incorporating podcasts into search results — much like it does with video where search results are broken down into separate boxes at the top of the screen.

Leaders at Google understand the power of podcasts, and they know that podcasts can do what Google is designed for — answer a query. Podcasts contain large amounts of information on a particular topic, and Google wants to make it easier to access that information through search.

“Right now Google is really good at giving you text and video related to your search query,” said Google Podcasts Product Manager Zack Reneau-Wedeenin a recent interview with Pacific Content. “With all the amazing work podcasters are publishing each day, there’s no good reason why audio isn’t a first-class citizen in the same way.”

Reneau-Wedeen is the spokesman for podcasting at Google. He knows Google’s plans and has been signaling the company’s commitment to podcasting in search in recent interviews. He sees huge untapped potential in podcasting not only for Google but content creators. The amount of podcasting content is minimal when compared to the amount of video on YouTube and other video platforms.

“Podcasting holds unbounded promise as a storytelling medium, but its future depends on a rich array of stories, voices and creators,” Reneau-Wedeen said in a recent blog post on Google’s website. “While there are more podcasts than ever before, there continues to be an imbalance in who is creating them. Looking at top charts, only about a quarter of the most popular podcasts tend to be hosted by women, and even fewer by people of color.”

Google has already started to incorporate podcasts into search results on Android and Google Assistant. On an Android device, a play button appears for several different podcast after a search is done. That gives the user several options on a podcast that answered the query. The user is also given the option of subscribing to the podcast.Reneau-Wedeen says the strategy right now is partially to increase podcast access on Android devices. Currently 10 times more people listen to podcasts on an iPhone compared to Android devices.

The easier access to podcasting has been positive, as more people are listening to podcasts on the Android, according to Reneau-Wedeen.

“Since our first launch, we’ve seen a surprising number of people return through search day in and day out,” he said in the Pacific Content interview. “That’s why we felt the need to build out a full-featured podcast player and make the experience easier to access.”

Marketers must prepare for this new reality, as Google will mostly likely make podcasting search results available to all users, not just those with an Android device.Consumers are looking for information on entertainment and education, and they will be able to find that information more easily in podcast format through Google. A brand can fill that need if it finds the right way to tell a story on a podcast.

James Shea owns Media Lab, a search engine optimization agency in Richmond, VA. He writes about trends in digital marketing.

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