Investors Turn Up the Volume on Podcasts

Podcasts have steadily cemented their place in the cultural zeitgeist over the last decade and are now a staple of mainstream media. In a media landscape saturated with clickbait and sound bites, podcasts provide an alternative method for digesting information.

Podcasts have steadily cemented their place in the cultural zeitgeist over the last decade and are now a staple of mainstream media. In a media landscape saturated with clickbait and sound bites, podcasts provide an alternative method for digesting information. Browse a podcast directory and you’ll find a wide variety of topics, a deep level of expertise, and a multitude of new and interesting voices taking advantage of a platform with no gatekeepers.

In this year’s Digital Investor Survey by Brunswick Group, 48% of investors reported using financial podcasts as a source of information and 38% reported using this information to make an investment decision or recommendation. A closer look at the data reveals that investors rely more heavily on podcasts than large social media platforms such as Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, and Instagram.

While news and entertainment dominate podcast listings, financial podcasts have carved out their place on the platform and investors are tuning in. There is a great deal of range within the universe of financial podcasts and this variability can be summarized in three major groupings:

  1. Macro-economic trends–shows like NPR’s Planet Money and The Indicator help listeners understand the seismic forces impacting the global economy.
  2. Company and sector analysis–shows like Motley Fool Money and WSJ’s Your Money Briefing provide perspective on where companies and industries are headed based on recent news and publicly available financial information.
  3. Leadership spotlight–shows like Bloomberg’s Masters in Business and NPR’s How I Built This highlight the backstory and leadership style of executives running the world’s most powerful companies.

This range of podcasts gives investors a rounded point of view to inform their decision-making; however, this information is also available on other platforms, so why do investors favor podcasts over other large social media platforms? It’s all about trust.

Brunswick’s survey results suggest a correlation between the amount of trust investors place in a source with how likely they are to use it to make an investment decision or recommendation. Investors indicated that they trust podcasts more than Twitter, Facebook, and more traditional digital tools such as SlideShare. Trust in podcasts is just slightly behind trust in LinkedIn – the most professional social media network available to investors.

What makes podcasts a trusted source in digital media? There are three major reasons:

  1. Podcasts are not beholden to the traditional media cycle or time constraints. Hosts can take the time to process and verify information without the pressure to be first. Episode lengths are flexible, and podcasts frequently run up to an hour to provide in-depth analysis.
  2. Podcasts are less vulnerable to the spread of misinformation. While social networks built on algorithms can be manipulated by outside meddling, podcasts are less exposed to the invisible forces that shape what we see on social media because they are not tied to a single publishing platform.
  3. Podcasts are often built around personalities. In 2018, 28% of Apple’s most downloaded podcasts featured the host's name in the title[1]. Shows anchored around experts leverage trust from those personalities and foster a long-term relationship with the audience.

Regionally, investors in the United Kingdom and North America most rely on podcasts for research and decision-making; however, podcasts are also a key source of information in Asia. Given their upwards trend in public adoption since the mid-2000s, podcasts will only further earn their place in investors’ toolkits to find reliable and actionable information in the coming year. This is an opportune time for companies to incorporate podcasts into their investor relations approach and to even consider opportunities for executives to have a voice on the platform. Companies have an obligation to reach their investors where they are and when it comes to podcasts, the first step is listening, and the second is stepping up to the mic.

Prash Sabharwal is an Associate in Brunswick’s digital specialism with a focus on emerging platforms and executive positioning.

Noah Kristula-Green is an Associate in Brunswick Insight based in Washington, DC. He directed the development, fieldwork and analysis of the survey.

Appendix: Apple Top Business Podcasts Rankings (January, 2019)

  • How I Built This #3
  • Planet Money #4
  • The Indicator #13
  • WSJ Your Money Briefing #29
  • Masters in Business #36
  • Motley Fool Money #50

[1] Apple Presents the Best of 2018