Rise of the Podfluencer

From Joe Rogan to Kid Fury and Crissle West, Associate Digital Strategist Eli Williams walks us through those who helped pave the way in audio and what this growing network means for the brand landscape


Today, there's a podcast for nearly everything. “Hey, maybe we should start a podcast!” has become the inevitable point of discussion in every conversation. So, what about those who paved the way? My name is Eli Williams, I'm an Associate Digital Strategist at Day One, and I'll be talking through the rise of the Podfluencer.

Over the past couple of years, we've discussed several different iterations of the influencer. Two years ago, yes, seemingly a lifetime, our own VP of Digital Strategy and Creative Insights talked about the “kidfluencer” or the Gen Alpha kids who know no life without four bars of WiFi TikTok challenges, Instagram likes and Netflix. They own businesses, drop merch lines, and even attract millions of viewers on YouTube. Not only do they attract millions of viewers, they rake in millions of dollars. Recently, in our predictionary— that's part prediction, part dictionary—we discussed the anti influencer or the influencer. Brought on by the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the yearning to seek out influence among real people who offer more than an aesthetic— I'm talking to you celebrities who thought it was a good idea to sing imagine to us. The power of the unfluencer is in their authority and ability to speak on the critical issues of our time, not necessarily in the amount of likes or reposts they get.

Each iteration of the influencer has the capacity to impact and of course, influence us based on how we see them, their actions and who they're affiliated with. But what about how we hear them? We're now in the midst of a sonic boom. Literally, nearly every major media and social platform is pouring loads of cash into launching new podcasts and real estate on Clubhouse, which has exploded in popularity over the last couple of months. But there are a select group of individuals who are utilizing and have been utilizing audio as their sole brand building tool. It seems like we've gone full circle. The new fireside chat. is Joe Rogan, the new Howard Stern? Or even the modern day Orson Welles? Well, that might be a stretch—who even let me write this piece.

Over the last five years, everyone was dashing towards the glam and glitz of Instagram, TikTok and snapchat as a means to build brand awareness and influence. But the audio space is quickly catching up.

Which brings us to the next iteration of the influencer, one that has grown with the rise of podcasts and audio, what we are calling the Podfluencer. It's the ears thereafter, not the likes. And with the rise of podcasts in recent years, they've been provided new platforms and technologies to attract massive cult followings and influence. These days, everyone is getting into the podcast game. It's an ears race, if you will. I'll take a lap on that one.

So let's get into it. No one epitomizes the pod once or more than Joe Wow, that's crazy. Rogen. I hope you guys like that impersonation. My editor told me to give him more Joe.

His freewheeling podcast has elevated him to godlike status in the audio world and even mentored him one of the most expensive contracts in the podcasting universe. Up next, the daily host Michael Barbaro. I'll spare you guys my impersonation of him. But he has largely transformed how we digest the news cycle with digestible stories, a catchy, almost visceral intro song and deep dives on the topics dominating the social landscape at any given moment.Barbaro has become synonymous with the podcasting voice and has become a go to source for Investigative Journalism.

The read, hosted by kid fury and crystal West offers brash, unfiltered and unapologetic commentary on the trending hip hop and pop culture topics of the day. More importantly, though, the two are also some of the most prominent queer voices in podcasting.

Up next, Pod Save America. And if you've been around for the past few election cycles, you might have heard of them. The show billed as a no bullshit conversation about politics is hosted by former Obama aides John Favreau, John Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor discuss a wide range of topics with influential figures across the political spectrum. Their voices are helping to drive change, and even more importantly, bringing voters to the polls.

The media industry was hit especially hard by the pandemic, which accelerated existing trends and gutted mainstream institutions, with more journalists, entertainers, and Politico's opting for direct to fan media options like Substack and Patreon. It's clear podcasts will become one of the primary channels by which individuals and brands will look to communicate with consumers. podcasts are arguably the most intimate mediums of media and communication at the moment.

According to The Guardian in the US. 22% of the population listens to at least one podcast every week, and 51% to at least one podcast in their life. That's roughly 168 million people. That's a direct line to nearly half of the entire population, a gold rush of untapped ears and potential. Sure, nowadays, you can find a podcast about quite literally anything. There's even one called “What I'm looking at,” a podcast where host Emily Krause spends 20 to 30 minutes just talking about what she's looking at. Yeah, I tune into that one regularly. But for those who can successfully carve out either niche or large areas of influence, they'll be sure to gain a foothold across nearly every industry.

Audio networks are continuing to emerge, targeting specific groups and offering relevant conversation topics on everything from politics to mental health. Maybe those two should not be in the same sentence together, but oh well. This new medium for brands offers an entirely new way to connect with audiences to tell stories to build fandoms and expand their range of influence, or shall I say, Podfluence. Your fans are listening are you?