I am an avid fan of spoken word audio. Whether it is in the form of podcasts or audiobooks, it enables me to make a much more efficient use of my time during daily commutes, jogging or cycling and these dead gaps between meetings and sessions. I’d like to focus this post on podcasting, and why it is a great tool for content marketers.
In case you have no clue what I am talking about, A podcast is an episodic series of digital media files which a user can set up so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to his or hers own local computer or portable player. The word “Podcast” itself is a portmanteau of “iPod” and “broadcast”. Thus, the files distributed are typically in audio or video formats.
In a time when we are bombarded with distractions, notifications, and attention-stealing tools, podcasting has the rare opportunity to save, Yes, to save, In-depth journalism and serve as a true content endeavor, that is easily consumed and served to us on demand straight to our ears as a weapon of choice.
Let’s take the following numbers into account: In the past six years podcast listenership has risen 13% from 23% to 36% of all Americans aged 12 and up. The number of podcasts hosted on Libsyn rose from 12,000 in 2012, to 28,000 in 2016. WNYC Radio raised $15 million to create a new “podcast division.” A podcast that details the life and times of an eccentric Southern clockmaker, achieved blockbuster status, grabbing 1.8 million subscribers since its launch.
As John Biggs over at Techcrunch writes, Spoken word has long been in a doldrum but that is changing. While talk radio appeals to sports fans and baby boomers, it has never appealed to the long form reader. Podcasts, however, have begun the slow process of replacing the written word articles. Some of the best non-fiction out there is appearing on shows like This American Life and Serial and it is clear that on-demand audio, like on-demand video before, is “the next big thing.”
Biggs states that we are getting amazing content for free via podcasting, and every time that happens – someone gets hurt. When blogs became acceptably readable facsimiles of newspapers they supplanted newspapers themselves. Once websites and forums could review products better than old school print computer magazines, the magazines died. Podcasting will change the world by getting us literary back to non-fiction and encourage contemplative, not consumptive, models of media.
The year of the Podcast
Serial entrepreneur and podcaster Jason Calacanis had recently made a case that 2017 will be the year of the podcast, claiming there is a need for an “HBO of podcasting”, meaning a curated, high-quality original content by a single vendor. People would be willing pay a monthly subscription for such high-quality content (Podcast fans are more than willing to pay, and we see many Patreon projects hitting thousands and tens of thousands of dollars per month).
Additionally, podcasters would jump at the chance to stop selling ads and start collecting a check from an “HBO like” employer like Bill Maher and John Oliver do, or cash a check from Netflix to produce something pure and unadulterated.
Podcasts as a content marketing effort
Podcasts, at least the high-quality ones, usually target a specific vertical or niche. They create an incredible audience engagement and listener loyalty and are relatively easy to produce. Such characteristics make them a lucrative effort for companies who wish to build a loyal audience, differentiate themselves, raise brand awareness and increase sales.
Additional benefits include added SEO value due to backlinks to your property, your online network grows as people embed your podcast media on their own site, or share it on social media and so on.
Podcasts are a great way to introduce people to your narrative over time. They help you build customer loyalty and long-term interest in your brand, message or venture.
On the flip side, it is worth noting that if you drew a direct comparison between written forms of content marketing, like blogging, podcasting also has its drawbacks. One thing that clearly comes to mind is the lack of search engine traffic, due to technical limitations. When I create a piece of content it is being consumed over time by a steady stream of traffic from search engines, where’s audio files cannot be tracked and receive additional traffic from search engines over time. (they are non “SEO-able”, if you will).
Another challenge would be production. Though it is getting easier with new tools, cloud-based audio software and hosting services, the process of producing a show on a regular basis could still present a hurdle to many marketers.
A Final challenge would be consistency. In order to gain an audience and create loyalty among listers your company must be persistent and have the fortitude to preserve and produce the show on an ongoing basis for a sustained period of time.
All of these could make it harder for marketing departments to justify its ROI and validity. In Israel, we’ve recently seen such pioneering efforts, like the Microsoft accelerator, who had recently launched a 30 minutes show, talentedly titled: “30 minutes or less”, which hosts a weekly conversation with entrepreneurs, investors and prominent figures of Israel’s startup scene.
I suspect we’re going to see much more such ventures (and hopefully even by smaller startups) choosing podcasting as a viable content effort.
A few insights on Podcast Marketing
In order to explore these topics further, specifically about the amount of effort required and the pursuit of ROI, I have recently had the pleasure to sit down and grab a few minutes of interview with my friend Shira Abel, the CEO of Hunter & Bard and host of SaaS Insider podcast, to get her take on podcasting as a marketing effort. Here are a few insights.
- If the content is good, she doesn’t care who makes it. Her own criteria for SaaS Insider is that she needs to find the episode interesting, Obviously, some episodes are more favorable and captivating than others, so she usually promotes the ones that are her favorites and create the most value for the audience.
- She had some very clear ROI from the podcast – introductions which lead to clients. But the primary reason she does the podcast is that of pure interest and knowledge seeking. Shira says she had learned something from nearly every show. Some of her guests have been insane, mad geniuses. Also, she loves to debate and get in deep discussions.
According to Shira, a podcast production session takes around 1.5 hours – the first 1/2 hour is questions and discussion on what to talk about during the live show, then there’s the live show recording. The bulk of the time is interviewing, finding people to interview, scheduling and the work around the show itself.
How would you start a podcast today? Just grab a mic, record, upload and go go go!
I’m a big believer in building a lean and a minimalist operation, podcasting is no exception. I would recommend any company or content people that are tipping their toes in the world of podcasting to follow the getting started guide for podcasting written by the folks at Buffer. They specify the very essentials and basics to get a show started and test its viability and value. Remember Invest just enough to create a quality podcast, see if people like it, then advance from there.