It's been a long time since our grandparents gathered around the radio at night to listen to their favorite programs. To those of us who grew up with TV, the idea of listening to the radio seems antiquated. Now that we're all accustomed to video accompanying our audio, it's hard to imagine that anyone would ever choose audio-only media.
Or at least, it was-before podcasts hit the scene.
For the uninitiated, podcasts are audio entertainment shows delivered over the Internet. They came into being when iTunes made digital, on-demand audio a thing (the "pod" in podcast actually comes from "iPod"), though they mostly belonged to the realm of the niche and nerdy in their early days.
Today, podcast popularity is climbing exponentially. Edison Research found that as of 2017, 40 percent of the US population had listened to a podcast, with 24 percent having listened at some point in the month before being surveyed. Compared to the 12 percent that reported monthly listening in 2013, podcast popularity has doubled in just a few short years.
Given the rising popularity of podcasts, it's no surprise that content marketers are taking an interest. This relatively new, innovative form of media is appealing to anyone who wants to be on the forefront of new trends. However, the newness of podcasts also means that many marketers don't know exactly how to take advantage of them.
So why are podcasts suddenly popular, and what can they offer your marketing strategy that other forms of content can't? Let's take a look at everything that sets podcasts apart.
Behind the Rise of the Podcast
As is the case with most of today's content trends, a big reason why podcasts are currently in their heyday is tech. These days, most Americans-77 percent-own a smartphone. This means they're almost constantly connected to either Wi-Fi or data, which in turn means they can download or stream content almost anywhere they go. Video files are still too heavy for streaming or instantaneous downloads on most connections, but audio files aren't.
Another notable tech trend is the introduction of smart radio in cars. While it's still fairly new, smart radio lets commuters-who spend more than 100 hours in the car each year-replace commercial-filled radio talk shows with generally more entertaining podcasts.
Image attribution: Daniel von Appen
The ease of streaming podcasts also lines up with some ubiquitous media consumption trends we're seeing these days. First, of course, is content on demand. People are no longer willing to be told when to tune into their shows. Services like Netflix have trained them to expect content whenever they want it, and podcasts cater to that expectation.
Podcasts aren't just available when people want them-they're also available where people want them. Sixty-nine percent of people primarily use mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) to listen to podcasts. With a smartphone and a pair of headphones, they can now get on-demand content at the gym, during their morning commute, or while walking to the grocery store. Is your target audience a busy professional who doesn't have time to sit down and read blog posts? Podcasts might be the answer.
In fact, some cite screen exhaustion as one of the reasons podcasts are rising in popularity. A large subsection of America's workforce spends eight hours a day in front of a computer screen. At the end of those eight hours, nothing seems quite so attractive as getting away from a screen. Yet these same people are accustomed to having content at their fingertips every second. Podcasts allow them the entertainment on demand they crave even as they take a walk in the park. It's a win-win.
The Demographics of the Podcast Audience
Look at the factors that contribute to the rise of podcasts and you can start to see what type of demographic might be interested in them.
Podcasts are ideal for people who need content on the go. That suggests that the average podcast consumer is perhaps a working professional, a parent, or someone else who's too busy to regularly sit down with a book or a TV show. Additionally, the dependence on smartphones and fast data connections suggests that podcast consumers are also slightly more affluent than the general population.
The data bears this out: 45 percent of podcast consumers have a household income of $75,000 or more (as opposed to 35 percent of the US population as a whole) and 63 percent are employed full-time (49 percent in the broader US population). If these stats sound like they describe your target audience, it might be time to consider adding a podcast to your content marketing mix.
Is It Time to Start Podcasting?
Of course, demographics aren't the only things to consider. Time, money, and everything else that goes into a new content strategy are factors to mull over before you launch a podcast. Here's quick overview of some considerations to make before you launch your podcast:
1. What's Your Budget?
The good news is that podcasts are actually relatively cheap to make. You'll need to purchase audio equipment, but you can obtain a high-quality microphone and editing software for just a few hundred dollars. The true cost of podcasting often lies in "soft costs" like personnel time and training. If you have access to creative team members with some basic audio editing skills, podcasts have the potential to get you a great ROI.
That being said, the cost of a podcast depends a lot on the type of podcast you want to make. A basic monologue or roundtable won't be very expensive. If you want to conduct interviews, do independent research, or hire professionals for cover art or background music, that will cost more. Podcasts are like anything else-the more bells and whistles you want, the more you'll pay for it.
Image attribution: Gritte
2. Can You Consistently Create Engaging Content?
This question is applicable to any form of content marketing, but podcasts have their own unique challenges. Without visuals, you have to be sure that the meat of the content itself is engaging. Basic overviews of your industry simply won't cut it. You'll have to learn how to tell engaging stories instead.
Duration is another thing you need to keep in mind. The length of podcasts can vary wildly, but you'll be hard-pressed to find one that isn't at least 15 minutes long. Fifteen minutes is a long time to keep talking. Can your creative team come up with content that will keep people interested for the long haul?
3. What Audiences Do You Need to Reach?
The people who listen to podcasts are not the same as the people who read blogs, who are not the same as the people who watch videos, and so on.
Perhaps you need to reach those on-the-go, tech-savvy professionals who we already defined as the primary target audience of podcasts. But perhaps your brand needs to reach single moms, or retirees, or forward-thinking millennials. Is a podcast the best way to do it?
Podcasts are fantastic for content marketing because they can reach target audiences on the go in a way that no other form of content can. But not every target audience wants to be reached that way.
4. What Kind of Brand Tone Do You Want to Convey?
Technically, podcasts can convey any tone, from authoritative to downright silly. But podcasts really come into their own when they're casual and personal.
The human voices in podcasts can make your brand feel more approachable, especially if you can tap the talent of someone with an engaging speaking style or a good sense of humor. Hearing conversational human voices can make listeners feel almost as though they are forming a relationship with the people speaking, helping you to create strong connections with your audience. If that casual voice is missing from your strategy, podcasts might provide an opportunity to fill that gap.
So you're starting to think you might want to make a podcast. The Internet is full of guides, but here are a few pointers to get you moving in the right direction.
As is the case with any form of content marketing, you'll need to write some goals and define some strategies for meeting those goals. Ask yourself what the mission of the podcast will be, who it will be targeting, and what kind of stories you'll be telling.
Make sure you have some genuinely interesting content lined up, too. It should go without saying, but a podcast that just extols the virtues of your product isn't going to get any listens.
2. Plan Your Episodes
Now that you have a general idea of what your podcast will be about, it's time to look at the specifics of each episode. How long will an episode be? What format will you use-one host, a roundtable discussion, interviews, or something else? Each choice will make a big difference in how you go about creating your podcast.
3. Select Your Tools
Only once you've set the foundations for a great podcast is it time to research recording hardware and editing software. It's also a good idea to do some practice rounds with your equipment so your creative team can get accustomed to speaking into the mic and editing the podcast.
4. Publish and Promote
Your finalized podcasts will need to be uploaded to a media host. You'll also need a website for your podcast, whether that means creating a unique one or adding a new page to your company site. Once that's all set up, you can submit it to podcast directories like iTunes.
At that point, it's time to start spreading the word. Take to social media, polish your podcast page's SEO, and read up on tips for building an audience to get people listening. Make sure you encourage your earliest audiences to give reviews-this is crucial for getting featured on iTunes, where most podcasts are discovered.
Podcasts are arguably the next big thing when it comes to content. Their audiences are growing rapidly, and they offer content marketers some truly unique opportunities. Jumping into podcast creation now-before everyone else does-just might put you at the forefront of your industry.
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Featured image attribution: Alex Blăjan