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Takeaways From The X-Fronts 2021

X-Front Feature image


  • Nearly half of the U.S. weekly podcast audience belongs to indie podcasters 
  • Indie podcast listeners are an untapped audience that are great sources for evolving trends 
  • Brands need to make sure their targeting isn’t too narrow when making a huge podcast advertising investment 

Year number two for the X-Fronts, also known as the Indie Podcast Upfront, did not disappoint. Hosted by Damona Hoffman, this year’s event featured over 15 networks and 60 speakers sharing their thoughts about the possibilities of podcasting. 

Media buyers, brands and advertisers, and publishers all attended virtually to learn more about how to reach niche audiences and find cultural relevance. While there were many presentations, here are some insights and trends we gathered from Edison Research and the podcast hosting sites Simplecast and Acast.

So Who is The Independent Podcast Listener? Insights from Edison Research

In this session, Tom Webster, SVP of Edison Research shared the latest facts and figures in the podcast industry. He revealed that independent podcast listeners account for 49% of all U.S. weekly podcast listeners, approximately 39 million people. While the larger podcast shows receive more attention with advertisers than indie shows, they are overlooking opportunities to reach the other half of U.S. weekly podcast listeners. 

Simplecast Presents: Harnessing The Power of Growing Podcasts Audiences

This session featured a group of subject matter experts, including: 

  • Caitlin Van Horn, Associate Marketing Director, Podcasts, Simplecast
  • Maribel Quezada Smith, Co-Founders, BIPOC Podcast Creators
  • Sean Howard, Co-Founder, Fable and Folly
  • Wade Roush, Co-Founder and President, Hub and Spoke

One of the interesting topics to come from the sessions was on audience loyalty to independent podcast creators. The main reason for loyalty can be summed up in one word—authenticity. 

Fans feel connected to the creators when they speak directly to them instead of releasing a mass produced message. So much so they are seeing a trend in the space that fans are supporting the creator and not the show. 

Independent podcasters have the freedom to be more narrow with their content because they are not under pressure to reach gigantic audience sizes. With niche shows, they can afford to focus on core audiences and appeal to them, and not accidentally outgrow their audience. 

For this reason, indie podcasters are able to build a stronger connection with their audience, which then builds loyalty. 

Indie podcasters could have the same positive effect on brands. Advertisers who target segments within their market in these niche spaces can reach an audience that they would not have reached with a broader target. 

However, while indie podcasting may not be a market big advertisers want to play in because it is “not big enough,” it’s a great place to identify the next hot trends. And endorsements are generally more effective when targeted towards niche audiences where the level of intimacy with the audience is enhanced, yielding a much better return. 

Acast Feature Session: Winning with Women in Podcasting

Brands need to ask themselves what audiences they can potentially reach as they think about starting high level integrations and putting a lot of budget behind it. They often think too narrow, and miss opportunities to reach audiences outside their initial targeting. 

This is especially important when you consider podcast audiences have grown more diverse in the last year, especially among women. But how should brands reach this growing audience?  Advertisers should invest more in shows with creative female leads and make long term investments, growing with these shows over time. This will cement advertisers as part of the fabric of the show, paying off in dividends in terms of show and brand loyalty. 

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