Credit: Photo by Melanie Pongratz on Unsplash

The podcasting format can improve listeners' perceptions of brands and ultimately drives purchasing behaviour, according to new research commissioned by the Guardian. This presents significant commercial opportunities for publishers which produce podcasts.

Independent research company Tapestry carried out a nationwide survey of 3,250 adults aged over 18 in the UK, on behalf of the Guardian. It also conducted biometric analysis (studying listeners' physical behaviour) and in-depth interviews to understand how people respond to advertising within podcasts.

Listeners pay more attention to ads on podcasts

The study found 65 per cent of listeners actively paid attention to podcast adverts - considerably more than to adverts on TV (39 per cent) and radio (38 per cent).

These higher levels of attention also translate to a greater likelihood to buy an advertised product or service among weekly podcast consumers; 51 per cent said that podcast adverts made them want to buy something from the brand versus on the radio (38 per cent).

Branded content leads to curiosity and purchases

Podcasts with a strong brand of their own are particularly impactful. When comparing the same adverts being played on the Guardian and other unbranded podcasts, people were more likely to say the ad was "informative", "memorable" and "appealing" when it came from the Guardian

In other words, the effectiveness of ads or commercial content has everything to do with the publisher, and less to do with the messaging itself.

Half of the respondents surveyed said hearing about a brand on a Guardian podcast improved their opinion about a brand and made them want to find out more about it, showing how listeners' positive perception of a publisher may also rub off on brands that advertise with it - and highlighting the importance of partnering with brands that appeal to the same audience.

Retailer Ocado, which sponsors the Guardian podcast Comfort Eating, found that advertising with the Guardian led to an increase in new customers, with one quarter citing podcasts as the prompt. On top of that, Ocado recorded a 62 per cent increase in positive customer brand perception and 89 per cent bump in new unique visitors to their website.

Podcasts fuel advertising campaigns

In combination with other media, the overall effectiveness of an advertising campaign is maximised by adding podcasts into the mix. People who reported saying "[the ads] tell me something new about the brand" increases by a third when podcasts are included in a radio campaign. 

On its own, 47 per cent of people exposed to branded content say that "it improves my opinion of the brand". Once you add podcast adverts to the mix, the same metric jumps to 64 per cent.

Podcasts capture young audiences

Podcasts are now reaching younger and more diverse audiences, including many parents - 26 per cent of weekly podcast listeners are now coming from non-white backgrounds and the average listener age is now younger at 37, compared to 40 in previous Guardian research in 2020.

Podcasts have shown the most growth of any media, helping them to become more mainstream - 41 per cent of podcast listeners are listening to podcasts more than they were 12 months ago, increasing to 53 per cent amongst the Guardian audience.

What does this mean for publishers?

The research suggests considerable commercial opportunities for podcasts, but particularly for publishers who already enjoy high levels of trust among their engaged audience.

The Guardian are not newcomers to the podcasting arena; the publisher has been putting out shows for more than 15 years now. As is the case for many publishers, the pandemic caused a spike in podcast listenership, increasing 60 per cent in the two years from Feb 2020 to March 2022. Investing in audio journalism remains a key strategic focus in 2022 and beyond for the news organisation, and this year it has already launched the new podcast Weekend and a refresh of Politics Weekly UK and Politics Weekly US. .

"We see podcasts not just as add-on to a media plan, but as a key element of a campaign," says Imogen Fox, director of advertising, Guardian, in an email to

"Off the back of this research, we will continue to push the Guardian’s scale and reach in podcasting to clients. We will also continue to showcase the impact of podcast advertising to brands in more of our case studies and outreach work, such as our recent campaign with Ocado, and work even more closely with our audio team to identify commercial opportunities for new and existing Guardian podcasts."

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