Branded content for your ears only

A Vancouver-based content co is helping brands reach targeted audiences by getting potential consumers to listen to their podcasts.
Pacific Content

Did video kill the radio star? Back in 1979 we seemed to think so. But in the past couple of years as media budgets for TV, print and magazine take a hit, investment in radio has remained constant. And now as marketers expand their spend on digital video, they’re beginning to close in on radio and its online streaming avatar as a way to reach more ears and, of course, wallets.

That was signaled earlier this month by Canadian e-commerce co Shopify’s decision to partner with a Vancouver-based branded podcast company Pacific Content, to launch its own radio podcast, TGIM (Thank God It’s Monday). Days after it launched the podcast was #8 in iTunes most-downloaded tracks of the day.

The idea behind that particular series was to feature the best and brightest of Canadian entrepreneurs, says Steve Pratt, principal and co-owner at the 10-people staffed Pacific Content, which says it brings a “brand’s DNA to life through exceptional audio storytelling.”

For Shopify the team came up with a podcast devoted to passionate idea developers. “Most people ┬ácan’t wait for the week to end. But this channel is about those people are can’t wait for it to start.” The show profiles a range of people with poignant stories of struggle, change and survival, starting with a pilot episode featuring Robert Nova, an ex-convict (in-and-out of correctional facilities between the age of 11 and 27) who was driven to turn his outdoor gear site, into a multi-million dollar business.

TGIM focuses on bringing case studies, best practices and failed strategies to listeners through its roughly-30 minute episodes.

“We were looking at how to create value for a brand by giving a focused community something they really like and want to listen to,” explains Pratt.

Pacific Content launched its first audio podcast channel with Slack, the in-office communications software company. The company debuted its product through a partnership with Slack in early 2015, making podcasts called the #SlackVarietyPack for the company. After those podcasts had run four or five months, folks at Pacific Content presented their case for using branded podcasts for building awareness. The Slack podcasts had about three million listens in 2015.

According to Media Technology Monitor’s spring forecast numbers, Canada’s audio market has potential. About 23% of Canadians in the 18+ demo have listened to a podcast at least once in the past month.

In an age of multiplatform campaigns, the audio podcast offers marketers one more way to reach potential consumers. While he did not give specific numbers, Pratt noted that the cost-per-listen is a fraction of the cost per-view for video.

The move to branded content in the audio space mirrors similar transitions in the written journalism space as the business of news becomes increasingly harder to monetize. In the U.S., companies like Prudential, GE and Netflix have launched their own podcasts. Over the past couple of years legacy media companies like the Globe and Mail and Postmedia  have created content labs to respond to advertiser demands for good quality sponsored content. In the U.S. digital publisher Slate has launched Panoply, its audio podcast labs.

Meanwhile Pacific Content is targeting specific types of companies, ones that are “more innovative and imaginative with their marketing, and want to find new ways of doing things,” says Pratt.

The company, which is also working with Envoy, a California-based tech company, says measurement of success changes from a client-to-client basis. Depending on the clients, the company provides RSS downloads or streaming metrics. The company is able to track downloads but not how long a listener is connected to an RSS feed.