Since 2015, the number of Americans who to listen to at least one podcast per month has increased by approximately 40 million people. The number of podcast listeners has also ballooned globally in tandem with a rise in smart speaker adoption. People are consuming them at home, on the go and at work.
In many cases, podcasting has become a legitimate substitute for traditional advertising. Corporations understand the value of creating something that people want to consume instead of ads that listeners ignore.
It's been a pleasant surprise watching a personal podcast palette consisting of news, sports, video game and cybersecurity commentary invaded by branded podcasts covering a host of other topics. And while none of these branded podcasts crack the Top 50 list for most weekly listeners, some of them are legitimately worth your time.
General Electric’s eight-part science fiction podcast series The Message remains a prime example of premium podcast storytelling. Released in 2015, The Message follows a group of cryptographers investigating alien transmissions. Listeners go down such a rabbit hole that I don't want to say more and spoil it for you. The story touches on just-out-of-reach-technology and leans on GE’s expertise to paint a believable world.
You're not exposed to an advertisement, but rather excellent storytelling that just happens to be through a branded podcast. The series scooped up a handful of awards and Season 2, called LifeAfter, has been equally well-received.
Shopify’s Masters series is another standout. Felix Thea does a good job of hosting and keeps discussions focused on e-commerce and not on the Shopify brand. It's partially why people don't mind listening -- and why the series boasts more than 300 episodes.
A winning formula
SAS is no stranger to the winning formula for podcasts. Our Pondering AI podcast, hosted by Kimberly Nevala, is in its second season and spotlights the human involvement behind artificial intelligence development and why it matters.
In its latest episode, AI policy and ethics expert Yonah Welker and Nevala discuss the way corporate inclusion initiatives still come up short, and often exclude neurodiverse populations. It's an interesting exploration of how even the machines we program to learn over time are directly influenced by the learning parameters established by programmers -- and how data scientists and programmers must represent the communities that ultimately adopt these AI systems.
Nevala tackles complex topics like this one in 30-minute bite-sized episodes. Strong hosts make great podcasts, and Pondering AI benefits greatly from Nevala’s leadership.
Speaking of great hosts, Greg Horne, principal industry consultant in health and life sciences for SAS, hosts The Health Pulse. This series explores the impact AI and advanced analytics has on healthcare. Horne engages with thought-provoking guests with diverse backgrounds. Pharmaceutical industry consultants, retired army generals, and data scientists have provided some excellent commentary that anyone can absorb.
And, of course, the SAS series sidestep the eye-rolling product pushes that many people associate with branded podcasts. I used to think that corporate podcasting was an obligatory task, and while this may be the case with some shows out there, I was, for the most part, thankfully incorrect.
5 others to add to your list
- .future by Microsoft - The current editor for Spotify's morning show Cristina T. Quinn hosted this Microsoft-branded series about, well, the future. It caters to science fiction and technology junkies and covers a lot of territory.
- Open for Business by eBay - There are 13 episodes total, including a live show, and listeners have been clamoring for this series to return ever since it rode off into the sunset in 2017. If you're a small business owner or entrepreneur, this podcast is for you.
- Electrifying AI by SAS - Host Sal Gill brings the SAS Energy and Utilities team together with industry experts to chat about the electricity industry. Often called the most complex machine ever built, the electricity grid is central to this series.
- Reimagine Marketing by SAS - Rounding out SAS' list of ongoing podcasts is Reimagine Marketing. The series is hosted by Wilson Raj, global director of customer intelligence at SAS. Reimagine Marketing goes deep into emerging technology, data privacy, customer loyalty and much more.
- Darknet Diaries - This is a sneaky fifth option that doesn't fall into the branded podcast bucket, but it's one I always recommend. Darknet Diaries is an investigative podcast chronicling true stories about cybercrime. Fair warning: You might have some sleepless nights after learning how vulnerable our IT infrastructure is.
Are you a podcast connoisseur? What are some of the branded podcasts that have caught your attention? Let us know in the comments and make sure to highlight what you like about them!