Hear, Hear: The Evolution of Podcasting

A podcast mike in front of a computer ready to record.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Podcasting has come a long way in such a short time. What started as a hobby with two hosts and a microphone is a big-time business that is transforming the media landscape providing new opportunities for marketing and revenue.

At CES 2023, Kelli Hurley, VP global head of revenue partnerships, Sirius XM hosted the C Space Storytellers panel, ‘SXM Media: The Evolution of the Podcast Industry’. Hurley was joined by LeVar Burton, host, LeVar Burton Reads SXM Media; Natrian Maxwell, general manager emerging markets, The Trade Desk; and Sarah Stringer, executive vice president, head of U.S. media partnerships, dentsu to discuss just how we got here and where we are heading in both the podcast and marketing space.

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LeVar Burton speaks on the evolution of podcasting.

(Image credit: Future)

As Burton explained, when producing a show—like his award-winning Reading Rainbow—there are a lot of layers involved not always in the creator’s control. But with his podcast, he was able to “create an outlet that I can control. When podcasting came out in this emerging new space, all I would need is a story and a microphone.”

For Burton and the others, podcasting is very much about the audience. Burton referenced that it’s not just bout his audience engaging with him, but a Facebook page that unites them all. “It’s a community,” he said. “Everything we can do to feel a connectiveness to one another these days is a great thing.”

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That brings in great opportunity for advertisers with a common thread. “We have 4.8 million different podcasts out there,” said Maxwell. “That means there is a podcast for all different kinds of advertisers. There are different podcasts out there that will enable agencies to engage its specific audience.”

A big factor between advertisers and podcasters is trust. For Burton, he’s very particular in who advertises and should be aligned with his values of diversity, empathy and community. Both Maxwell and Stringer agree, with Maxwell saying that building that trust between content creators and brands will accelerate the adoption of advertisers in the podcast realm.

As Stringer said, people are passionate about what they follow. Podcasting, and the ensuing advertisements are, “about the endorsement or the seal of approval of someone you think as your friend,” she said.

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Stringer sees a day when data points will help podcasts enable more immersive storytelling with its audience. Maxwell concurred but stressed the importance of trust in that trifecta of relationship between creator, listener and marketer. “It is clear to me that after 2020, consumer behavior has fundamentally changed,” said Maxwell. “Prior to 2020, I don’t think people were in tune to podcasting. But then they were forced to find new outlets of entertainment. And with podcasting, you can have [multiple] seasons and continue to engage your audience and build a relationship together.”

One thing is clear. Podcasting will continue to grow, and for Burton, there is nothing wrong with that. “We are in a screen-driven society and anyway we can give them another way to use their brain, it’s a good day.”

Wayne Cavadi
Content Manager

Wayne Cavadi is the content manager of Systems Contractor News. Prior to taking a leap into the Pro AV industry, Wayne was a journalist and content lead for Turner Sports, covering the NCAA, PGA, and Major and Minor League Baseball. His work has been featured in a variety of national publications including Bleacher Report, Lindy's Magazine, MLB.com and The Advocate. When not writing, he hosts the DII Nation Podcast, committed to furthering the stories and careers of NCAA Division II student-athletes. Follow his work on Twitter at @WayneCavadi_2 or the SCN mag (opens in new tab) Twitter page.