Despite this world of constant stimulation — like Snapchat, video chat and 4D movies — it’s remarkable that podcasting has become so popular. After all, it’s a cousin of the old-school radio talk show, featuring audio recordings only — no extra bells, whistles, videos, pop-up ads, infographics, social feeds or distractions. Could this format actually be a viable business promotion tool? You bet.
Yes, with such an “old-school” format, podcasts seem antiquated. But they’re surprisingly popular and the podcasts themselves are often very high quality — with listeners tuning in to hear their favourite hosts, interviews and programs. And the numbers back it up. A recent report from comScore and audio on-demand network Wondery found that almost 20 per cent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 49 listen to podcasts at least once a month.
Edison’s Podcast Consumer 2017 report found that podcast listening is on the rise and popular with both men and women — currently, 56 per cent of listeners are male and 44 per cent are female. Consumers in the coveted 18 to 34 age bracket are also the most likely to be monthly podcast listeners, and the research shows that these listeners are well educated and affluent. The podcast marketing potential is enormous.
What’s up with podcasting?
Podcasts aren’t brand new though — they’ve been around for the past decade, having gained popularity in certain circles after the invention of the iPod. If you’re feeling in the dark, you’re not alone, as many people still express their complete unfamiliarity with the format. But you can catch up quickly.
Here’s your 101.
A podcast is an audio file made available online — typically set up like a TV show with seasons and episodes, and sometimes featuring special guests. Unlike traditional radio, however, you can download episodes and listen whenever you want — just make sure you download those episodes when you’re on Wi-Fi so that you aren’t using up valuable data while on-the-go. You can also subscribe to your favourite podcasts and catch up on any past episodes.
How do you listen to podcasts?
It’s very easy (and usually free) to listen on most devices. Just download a free podcast app (called a “podcatcher”) on your smartphone or tablet — like Pocket Casts (both iOS and Android), Overcast (for iOS) or Podcast Addict (for Android). From any of these apps you can instantly search through and listen to countless podcasts and episodes. Apple devices also come preloaded with a Podcasts app so you can get started instantly.
The growing popularity of podcasts could be due, in part, to our increasing use of mobile platforms for digital media consumption, as well as the increasing number of podcasts — and good podcasts — that are now available. In 2014, the podcast Serial, which tells a true story about a serial killer over the course of an entire season, became water-cooler fodder, and people who had never listened to a podcast before started tuning in to listen. After the first season, the podcast had a whopping 75 million downloads.
Plus, podcasts are easy to consume. You can’t read a blog while you’re driving to work, making dinner or running on the treadmill — but you can listen to a podcast. Another trend, according to Edison, is binging on content. Like Netflix, CraveTV and the like, more people are binge-listening to podcasts.
The power of the podcast
For businesses, a podcast is a great tool for reaching existing and new customers — in part, because it’s easy to get started and doesn’t require a significant investment. This is ideal for SMBs who don’t have a big marketing budget.
If you’re already tweeting and posting to Facebook and Instagram, you may be wondering why you need to record podcasts. Consider how much time customers spend looking at your tweets. It’s probably just a blip on the radar, and it can be tough to get through all the social noise. Now compare that to a 30-minute podcast. This longer format interaction can dramatically increase the time your audience spends with your brand.
Your audience also gets to hear your voice, and your stories, which builds further loyalty in a way that a tweet never could. Plus, you can position yourself as an industry expert and find new customers in a new channel. That’s not to say other forms of social media aren’t important — they are, but they each serve their own purpose.
All of this extra consumption can lead to better brand recognition, retention and positive sentiment — increased metrics that are a marketer’s dream.
Get your podcast started
Of course, podcasting isn’t for everyone. Whoever is hosting the podcast should be engaging, and they need to have enough time to produce quality content on a regular basis (and perhaps coordinate guests, which can get time-consuming).
If you’re considering it, start by listening to what’s out there in general interest categories and those related to your industry. Consider producing content that is more about interesting thought leadership topics in your industry and less about your own products and solutions — save that branded content for your website. You could even ask customers which podcasts they listen to, which could provide a valuable starting point for your own topics. If you’re still not sure, try to set up a guest spot on an existing podcast.
Once you’re ready to get started, here are the basics you’ll need to know:
- Theme: If you’ve decided podcasting is for you, you’ll need to decide on a topic or theme. Clearly, the more passionate you are about the subject matter, the more engaging you’ll be — and your listeners will pick up on that. You don’t want your podcast to be one long advertisement since your listeners will also pick up on that and tune out.
- Length and frequency: Most podcasts don’t exceed an hour. Aim to keep episodes between 15 to 30 minutes, so you can hold the listener’s attention without interruption. Air your podcasts on a regular basis so it keeps listeners coming back for more (most are aired weekly or bi-weekly). And since podcasts are meant to be conversational, you don’t need to prepare a line-by-line script — though it helps to create an outline ahead of time so you stay on topic.
- Equipment: For a beginner podcaster, you don’t need much for equipment — in fact, you could even start by recording on your smartphone or tablet. There are plenty of free editing and recording programs to get started, such as Audacity and Acoustica Basic Edition, or you could pay for a higher-end program such as Pro Tools. You’ll also need a USB microphone and headphones.
- Post-production: If you start to get serious about podcasting, you can use your recording software to do cool things like inserting music into your program. It takes time to learn post-production editing skills, but you’ll eventually learn to finesse your podcasts. Or if you’re willing to put some money into it, you can hire an audio editing service.
- Sharing: It definitely takes planning and effort to produce a podcast — so you’ll want to share the end product with the masses. That requires creating an RSS feed for your podcast (Libsyn is one such service). Then submit your podcast to the iTunes Store, Google Music, Soundcloud and any other relevant platforms. And get the word out: let your customers know about upcoming episodes via social media, customer emails, during in-person visits and on sales calls.
Podcasting doesn’t require a lot of money, but it does require your team’s effort and commitment to produce something that people will want to listen to. If done well, it can position you as an expert and create a loyal customer base.