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Is Someone Sponsoring Your Favorite Podcast?

Next time you’re listening to a podcast, you might want to check to see if it’s a well-produced ad doubling as entertainment.

Podcast producers Slate and Gimlet Media have created entities dedicated to putting together branded podcasts for companies such as Prudential, GE, Netflix and eBay. For the most part, branded podcasts use the same techniques as popular podcasts like “This American Life.” There’s an engaging host, good storytellers, interesting reporting and often a story that unfolds over a series of podcasts.
The main difference with a branded podcast is there are no other advertisers and much of conversation revolves around the sponsor, which is disclosed several times during the podcast. For instance, Open for Business, a podcast created for eBay by Gimlet Creative, discusses how to start a business from the ground up and features small businesses that got their start on eBay.
Its not surprising that advertisers want to copy this successful and engaging format and use it to promote their brand. It’s estimated that 46 million Americans listen to podcasts each month, with the average listener tuning in to about six podcasts each week, according to Edison Research.
Slate’s podcasting company, Panoply, created a four-episode branded podcast for Prudential called 40/40 Vision, which features public radio host and comedian Faith Salie talking about the challenges facing people as they turn 40-years-old and beyond. By far, Panoply’s most popular branded podcast is The Message, an eight-episode sci-fi podcast developed with GE that garnered a million listeners.
Andy Goldberg, chief creative officer at GE, sums up the appeal of branded podcasts in an interview with Harvard’s Nieman Lab: “It’s a science fiction story to connect listeners with what the GE brand is about, without selling the GE brand.”

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