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Why Podcasts Are Becoming a Must For LatAm’s Brand Strategies

Maria Saldarriaga and Pedro MejiaFeatures
Captura de Pantalla 2021-07-17 a la(s) 12.27.38 p. m.

Podcast portfolio. Image courtesy to Naranja Media.

Podcasts are the new way to consume content. Once an extremely niche industry, it has become one that everyone wants to get into, with big companies, individuals and celebrities pouring money and resources into landing the next big show.

As of January 2020, more than 850,000 active podcasts exist in the world, with over 30 million available episodes. This is exponential growth considering that in 2018 there were just over 500,000 active podcasts. In the U.S. alone, at least one in every three people listen to podcasts, with advertising revenue expected to reach $1B in 2021.

LatAm is no stranger to the trend, and according to a Voxnest 2020 Report, the region now has one of the fastest growing markets in terms of podcast listeners and creators.

The Org spoke with Santiago Cortes, Co-founder of Naranja Media, the biggest podcast producer in LatAm, to learn more about the industry in the region, and how this format has become a key part of a business’s content strategy.

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Santiago Cortes,founder of Naranja Media. Image courtesy of Naranja Media.

Cortes was introduced to the world of podcasts back in 2014 when he was in college. “A friend of mine spoke to me about the podcast format at a party and since learning about it, I commuted to college every single day listening to a different episode. I was using what would have otherwise been ‘downtime’ as an opportunity to learn something new everyday.”

His intrigue and amusement for this new content format led him to create Emprendete in 2016, one of the first business podcasts in LatAm. “Emprendete was born out of the necessity to inspire people through real stories of entrepreneurship,” he said.

“There was really no good Spanish content available about how people were creating and scaling businesses in LatAm. The show was a success and now has more than 250 episodes featuring entrepreneurs from the region.”

Despite the popularity of Emprendete, Santiago and his team found themselves struggling to monetize the show. After asking their audience what they valued the most from Emprendete, they learned that beyond the stories themselves, the audience loved the team’s storytelling capabilities. With this in mind, they leveraged their storytelling expertise as a competitive advantage and decided to put it at the service of the world's greatest brands by creating Naranja Media in 2018 as a production arm.

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Naranja Media's founding team. Image courtesy of Naranja Media.

In an era where content is king, Naranja Media bet on the podcast as a mandatory format in a brand’s content mix. Companies seemed to agree and Naranja Media now works with 50+ international brands including CISCO, 3M, IDB, Colgate, Truora, Rappi, HubSpot, Platzi, Globant, Falabella, Grupo Sura, Bayer and Frubana. As the leading podcast producer, over 70% of Naranja Media’s episodes make it into the Top 10 lists of their respective categories. To expand their client roster, Naranja Media is also dabbling in English podcast production.

Cortes says that “brands are looking for quality audience traffic, rather than quantity. Reach loses relevance because it is not actionable and doesn't engage with the audience. Instead, a podcast allows you to build a highly engaged audience through valuable content.”

In terms of audience engagement, podcasts outperformed every other digital channel in completion rates -- the average quantity of an item consumed or expended during a given time interval. According to Cortes, people engage 4x more with a podcast episode than with a YouTube video. On the other hand, when it comes to ads or promotions, 67% of podcast listeners could recall products and brands featured in ads and 61% actually paid for a product or service they learned about on podcasts.

“The other win over other types of digital assets is that podcasts are less expensive to produce; the stakes are low in terms of investment, and the opportunity for growth and having the audience leave with the right message is huge” Cortes says.

Even though these are impressive metrics, Cortes argues that the podcast industry is still a no man's land, and there's a goldrush waiting to happen. “There is a highly fragmented production sector that is mostly run by independent producers like us.”

But breaking into the industry is not easy. Cortes highlights that of the thousands of new podcasts produced each year, 90% don’t make it past episode 20 and only 3% make it beyond episode 20. Those that do make it past this threshold tend to dominate the industry sector.

On the hosting side, Apple and Spotify are betting strongly on the expansion and conquering of this type of media consumption. Spotify has divested over $500M in investments towards podcast related companies since 2019, including Glimet Media ($200M), Sparclas ($56M) and Megaphone ($235M); and Apple announced ‘Apple Podcasts Subscriptions’ last May where the company wants to build “a new marketplace for podcast creators.”

“Podcasts gained space in my life, and it’s doing it in the rest of people’s lives because they fill a gap no other content does. When you commute, wash dishes, walk the dog, or go to the gym, you don’t always want to listen to music, you want on-demand audio entertainment, and that's what podcasts do,” Cortes says.

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Naranja Media's podcast portfolio. Image courtesy of Naranja Media.

The Org asked Cortes to highlight his Top 5 list of the best podcast to listen to:

  1. Masters of Scale: A business and finance podcast hosted by Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn founder

  2. Serial: An investigative journalism podcast. Cortes says this series set the tone for narrative podcasts.

  3. Dr. Death: Highlighting cases of medical malpractice. “This embodies the entertainment podcast,” Cortes says.

  4. Work Life con Adam Grant: Interviews with industry experts on how they’re creating a culture of work happiness.

  5. El Universo de Truora: A miniseries novel-like podcast highlighting Truora’s personal stories on its startup journey.

There are podcasts to suit anyone’s interest. Categories range from entertainment and education, cooking and news, and curiously enough, one of the most popular shows in existence is around murder mysteries and true crime.

This form of media allows brands to become what Cortes calls “Top of Heart” instead of “Top of Mind” because of the tight knit relationship shows have generated with their audience. Listeners intentionally seek out specific shows created and even sponsored by brands they deeply admire and, at the end of the day, this all translates to loyal clients and big bucks.

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