While Covid-19 has caused terrible destruction, wreaking havoc on health systems, economies and families the world over, it has also been a catalyst for creativity and change. It has forced those of us with the ability and means to engage more proactively with the digital world. As a result, we now rely on email, video conferencing, social media and other forms of digital communication more than ever before. The most spoken words in the past 15 months must surely be: “Your mute button is on.”
Among the innovations that have escalated exponentially since the advent of the pandemic is the podcast. While podcasting started to gain momentum in the early 2000s, this growth has increased dramatically in South Africa over the last five years, following hot on the heels of rising smartphone penetration in the country.
Previously, local radio stations simply repackaged their live shows for distribution on podcast platforms and YouTube. This gradually evolved, however, to include the delivery of curated and structured content, which listeners could access whenever they chose.
In the last year-and-a-half or so, the podcast space has changed again. With Covid-19 inspiring new creative ventures and ways of communicating, more and more content creators are exploring the possibility of becoming podcast show hosts. A growing number of platforms are making it easier than ever before for the average person to host and broadcast shows that deal with their interests, and any listener can now find their podcasting niche.
Gritty, relevant content
While writing this article, I looked into the world of podcasts to find out more. I opted for the Apple Podcasts app because it integrates with all the history linked to my Apple ID, making it easy to suggest and rank podcasts relevant to me. After trying a few local and international options, I stumbled upon Podcast and Chill with MacG and, as I listened to various shows, I realised why this form of media resonates so much with young people.
Listening to Podcast and Chill reminded me of the bygone days of radio, when stations were still the playground of DJs, when listeners had their say, when content was still gritty and relevant. It’s likely that this approach is fuelling the growth of podcasts today, as young listeners seek out authentic sources of media.
According to the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa, 6% of the South African adult public (some 2.5 million people) listen to podcasts. These listeners are more likely to be men than women and are between the ages of 21 and 34, mostly living in major cities. They tend to seek podcasts that are either interview based (33%), one-on-one interviews (29%), fictional storytelling (27%), panel-type shows (24%) and conversational co-hosted podcasts (22%).
The top five podcasts in South Africa by listenership include Distractible, The Joe Rogan Experience, Podcast and Chill with MacG, Wisdom & Wellness with Mpoomy Ledwaba, and Ideas that Matter by Vusi Thembekwayo.
The growth in podcasts and podcast subscribers over the last 18 months is only likely to continue going forward. For brands looking to build stronger consumer relationships, this space is on the edge of integrating programmatically with advertising. It is only a matter of time before brands will be able to target specific audiences interacting with these platforms, allowing them to access new markets and increase their affinity with audiences.
The brave brands that heed this call will get involved early and reap the rewards later.
Growing up in small Eastern Cape towns in the ’80s and ’90s, Wavemaker South Africa CEO Lwandile Qokweni had little exposure to the world of marketing and advertising. After completing a diploma in computer programming and working as a promoter for a major telecommunications brand, he set out to unravel the mystery of the opportunities available in advertising. Qokweni believes South Africa’s youth need to know enough about advertising to consider it a career.
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