The word “influencer” is now so ubiquitous that Merriam-Webster officially added it to the dictionary in 2019. That culture of content creators promoting products started on YouTube.
In the early 2010s, a handful of YouTube creators had enormous followings, and thousands more had respectable subscriber counts.
It was in this second group that Agnes Kozera saw the most potential.
She was running a seasonal subscription box company, and looking for people to promote it.
She was also watching a lot of YouTube, and knew first-hand how effective YouTubers were as marketers. “YouTubers made me buy a lot of things,” Agnes says on an episode of Between 2 Mics.
Agnes couldn’t afford to go through the agencies representing the bigger names — so she reached out directly to people with smaller but decent followings.
Seeing how effective this approach was for her brand, she ditched the subscription box idea and founded FameBit, a network that connected creators and brands.
In 2019, she founded Podcorn, a platform that allows marketers to easily search through a database of 45,000 podcasters, and podcasters to choose which brands to team up with. The company was acquired by Entercom in 2021.
Agnes says that podcasting represents an excellent opportunity for brands looking to build deeper connections with consumers.
“Podcasting takes authenticity to a whole other level. You can be more journalistic, it’s more conversational storytelling. It’s powerful stuff, and our advertisers’ success is a testament to that,” she says.
Here’s what makes podcasting such an exciting medium for brands, and how Podcorn has made it easier for creators and brands to find each other.
Podcasters are a one-person creative agency
If you’re making a podcast — setting up interviews, recording, editing, posting, running social media — congratulations: you are the director of a one-person creative agency!
In addition to sounding amazing on your resume and dating profile, this multitasking makes podcasters very appealing to brands.
“With the right creators, brands can very often get everything they would get with a coveted creative agency, but on a much more affordable level and with a lot more authenticity,” Agnes says. “Creators are everything-in-one, from production and creative direction to audience-building and relationship-building within the community.”
And since the brand is saving so much money, compared to meeting a creator through an agency, it can afford to work with dozens or even hundreds of podcasters. This opens up opportunities for more creators, and access to many more listeners.
Why podcasters make highly effective brand ambassadors
Of all the types of content creators, podcasters are uniquely positioned to connect with their audiences on the kind of authentic and deep level that brands value highly.
For one thing, there’s something about listening to a person’s voice — as opposed to watching a video or reading their words — that makes them feel like a trusted friend.
Podcasts are also often narrow in scope but deep in expertise. This intense focus and knowledge base helps establish trust with their listeners: useful for niche brands looking to build a small but dedicated audience.
Another reason podcast audiences tend to be exceptionally loyal and engaged comes down to one of podcasting’s biggest challenges working in its favor.
Discoverability (i.e. being able to find new podcasts) hasn’t been streamlined yet. Whereas platforms like TikTok and YouTube have perfected the art of supplying users with a constant stream of videos, finding new podcasts to listen to requires much searching and scrolling. It’s the 21st century equivalent of digging through CDs in a record shop.
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On the bright side, this means that when you find a podcast you love, you really love it.
As Agnes says, “You don’t accidentally listen to a podcast. You choose the creator. You choose the content that you’re going to consume as a listener.” As such, podcast listeners tend to engage more consistently and deeply than people consuming other types of content.
These factors make podcasts ideal for brands looking for native advertising opportunities: ads that feel like a regular piece of content. Examples of native advertising content include:
- Interview segments with company founders or employees
- Product reviews
- How tos built around a product or service
The reason native advertising is so effective is because it doesn’t feel forced or pushy, unlike other types of advertising.
Inserting a 15-second ad into the middle of a podcast episode can be effective at raising brand awareness. But it’s also potentially off-putting to a jaded, ad-bombarded consumer.
In comparison, a piece of content by someone they trust about a product that’s relevant to their interests doesn’t even feel like someone is trying to sell them something.
This also works better for podcasters, since it gives you more control over the content you create than reading a pre-written script.
A podcast influencer marketplace making the connection
We’re still in the early days of brand-podcaster partnerships, which means that there’s room for improvement. Podcorn is ahead of the curve.
Unlike agencies or networks, which are limited to the 20 or 30 creators they represent, the platform helps brands search through 45,000 creators to find the ones that will work best. And no expensive agency fees means brands have more flexibility to experiment with lots of different types of podcasters and content, to see which is most effective.
This catalogue approach also makes it easier for brands to find creators who would otherwise have been hidden.
Here’s where the discoverability issue works against podcasters. Unless you have a huge following, it’s hard to get noticed. But you can still be very valuable to a brand that prizes a loyal audience with a high proportion of engagements per listener over high download numbers.
Partnering with a brand can also be a long-term career move for podcasters, Agnes says. For example, some of the YouTubers she worked with through FameBit ended up getting jobs with brands they partnered with, or working on product lines.
Even though podcasting doesn’t get the attention of TikTok or YouTube, there are more opportunities than ever to monetize through partnering with brands that align with your values and expertise. Agnes believes that’s only going to grow.
“Podcasters play an important role as a source of information and entertainment,” she says. “Podcasts are more engaging [than other types of content], and that’s why I think it’s also a perfect space for advertisers to tap into.”
To hear more advice from Agnes Kozera about how podcasters can become brand ambassadors, listen to this episode of Between 2 Mics. Be sure to subscribe to get future episodes directly in your preferred podcast player.
Natasha Lavender is a writer, editor and podcast nerd. She has a BA in English and American Literature from the University of Birmingham in the UK, which proved especially useful when she moved to Chicago, IL, in 2016. This content was produced collaboratively with PodReacher.