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I was forwarded an article by our CEO Ross Adams the other day that made my brain fizz. It managed to put into words the place that podcasting has occupied in my life since I first downloaded an episode of The Ricky Gervais Show back in 2005 from what was then Guardian Unlimited (remember her?). The piece — by Anu Atluru — outlines why social platforms that manage to become part of people’s daily rituals (vs routines or habits) will prosper.
“Rituals require the most intention. Rituals have meaning beyond the action itself; they celebrate the purpose, the “why” of a repeated action. A daily meditation practice or even a few moments of quiet while solving the New York Times crossword can be rituals that give us comfort and joy."
In an era of endless scrolling, consuming five types of media at once, and a general fight for our precious attention as consumers, the platforms that can create rituals (over routines, requiring conscious effort to maintain, or habits, unconscious automatic behaviours) are cutting through. Think BeReal over Instagram, for example.
I would suggest that podcasting is way ahead of the game. Podcasting really sets itself apart as a truly intentional medium, with the ability to occupy both the ritual and routine moments of people’s lives. Indeed, the way it has carved out this ritual and routine place in my life since 2005 is pretty unique, and the data we see every day from the 430mm listens to our 88,000+ podcasts shows that I am not alone. Why?
Your favourite podcast — even if it has 500+ episodes — is finite. It’s a limited resource. Once you’ve listened to that week’s or day’s episode, you can’t immediately scroll to another new one. You have to wait. Not like a dog video. Or TikTok of Matty Healy on stage (trust me)*. This allows them to occupy a special place in a listener’s week or day: I’ll save that new episode for when I’ve finished my work. Peak intentionality.
Podcasts are fairly unique in that as a hands-free endeavour, many of us use them as accompaniment or even enhancement to — you guessed it — our routines. Walking the dog, commuting to the office, running, cleaning…the list is endless. Our research with Nielsen, for example, shows that when out of the home, the most popular times for consuming podcasts are whilst driving, walking, on public transport or working out.
Often, things become rituals because they either give you, or you give them 'mental availability' regularly. Why? Because it feels good, it feels important, it feels worthy of your time. The value exchange it creates becomes precious, protected, a non-negotiable. Podcast listening is just this — requiring focus, time and mental availability, earning true 'ritual status' in many (millions) of people's lives.
All of the above is incredibly powerful — and valuable. It makes for a very compelling proposition for advertisers. In the battle for consumer attention, the brands that will cut through are those that are able to find a place in consumers’ routines and rituals in an authentic way. That’s why brands spend on advertising, sponsorship and branded content with us — they’re able to reach podcast listeners at their most engaged and intentional.
It’s pretty neat, right?
*Some of my colleagues tell me this reference is too esoteric so my only advice is: don’t search his name and fall into a Matty Healy clickhole. You’ll never get out.
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