On October 3, 2014, a 53-minute audio recording was quietly launched into the digital universe, and changed the 21st century media landscape. I am referring to Serial, the blockbuster podcast produced by the folks at This American Life, and that took the county—and the world—by storm. Hosted by Sarah Koenig, there was nothing particularly spectacular about the podcast itself, it was merely a young woman telling the story of the arrest and conviction of 18-year-old Adnan Syed for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, and featured interviews with those involved in the case, including the alleged killer himself. The show, however, asked so many important questions, and captured the imaginations of so many listeners, that Syed was granted a request for retrial in 2016.
Podcasting: A Brief History
Podcasting was introduced in 2004, just 3 years after Apple’s introduction of the iPod, where podcasting gets its name (iPod + broadcast.) Podcasting initially enjoyed brief popularity, until podcast producers seemingly ran out of steam—iTunes is littered with abandoned podcasts from this era with only a few episodes—and smartphones came along with an all-new set of distractions for our eyes and ears. But since the launch of Serial in 2014, podcasting has entered a “second wave” of popularity, not only for storytellers, but for comedians, writers, foodies, news organizations, sports fans, technologists, marketers, and small businesses (the popular StartUp podcast also launched in 2014), among dozens of other categories. The format has proven particularly effective for entrepreneurs who have harnessed the popular medium to not only tell the story of their business, but to offer listeners valuable, useful content, establishing themselves as influencers and experts in their field.
Is Podcasting for You?
There’s no doubt that content marketing using podcasts has been effective for many new business owners, but you may be asking yourself, “Is podcasting the right strategy for me? And will it really make a difference in my business?” The short answer here is “Probably, but it does require a bit of effort.” Is that effort worth it? Let’s pause for a moment to take a look at a few numbers from Nielsen’s 2017 report on podcasting:
- 50% of all US homes are podcast fans
- 24% (67 million) listen to podcasts at least every month – up from 21% in 2016
- 45% of monthly podcast listeners have household income over $75K – vs 35% for the total population
- Podcast listeners are more likely to follow companies and brands on social media
Now, we think it’s important to point out that Serial alone didn’t single-handedly cause this spike in popularity — certainly there are other factors at work, including the decline of reading and the rise of mobile culture. But given these numbers, we think it’s safe to say that a podcast done right has the potential to reach thousands, if not millions, of possible customers for your startup or small business.
So, assuming you’re now thinking, “Well, that all sounds great, but don’t I need a lot of technical know-how to get a podcast off the ground?” While this may have been true in the early days of podcasting, today it’s a fairly straightforward affair. There are plenty of USB microphones on the market that you can easily hook up to your computer, and recording is simply a matter of finding an easy-to-use application (GarageBand does nicely), many of which are free. Distribution is has also become quite simple as well—all you need is a place to host your audio files that provides an RSS feed (for iTunes distribution) and you’re in business. Over the past decade, numerous podcast hosting companies have sprung up, making wide distribution of your content as easy as uploading a file. Some of the most popular of these include: SoundCloud, PodOmatic, Libsyn, Blubrry, and Podbean. Each of these services provides an RSS feed which is all you need in order to submit your podcast to iTunes using your Apple ID. After it’s been accepted, each episode will update automatically as soon as it’s uploaded to your hosting service.
Why Content Marketing Works
Now that we’ve established how easy it is to produce a podcast, let’s focus for a minute how, exactly, this might be beneficial to your business. Content marketing—including videos, blogs and social media posts, as well as podcasting—has seen a dramatic rise in both popularity and efficacy over the past several years. Let’s face it, banner advertising is not what it once was. Even as far back as 2015, it was estimated that over 200 million Internet users now use ad blocking software, so your ads may be falling on deaf ears (or, blind eyes, if you will.) Also, according to recent study, content marketing is not only cheaper than other forms of advertising like paid search, it has deeper long-term benefits as well. And while paid search requires that cash resources are continually provided, the value in content marketing depends on building audience and momentum, increasing your ROI with each episode. On top of all this, content marketing improves your SEO, increases lead growth by over 100% and, after all, each of us is bombarded by advertising every single day, so we tune it out. Valuable content, on the other hand, will always be attractive to potential customers.
- Podcasting differentiates you from your competitors: Even with the dramatic rise of podcasting, a majority of businesses are still not taking advantage of this relatively simple way to produce content, and there is still lots of room in the podcasting space to create a popular show that will make you stand out.
- Podcasting is extremely easy to consume: Think about it, every other form of content marketing requires that you give your full attention (eyes and ears) to the content in order to reap its benefits. Podcasts, on the other hand, can be consumed while you’re doing other things, like working out or driving, and not only doesn’t distract from those activities, but actually enhances them.
- Podcasting allows you to grow your audience and pool of potential customers: While iTunes can and should be an important part of your podcast distribution strategy, it’s certainly not the only distribution platform available. Stitcher has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity lately, and hosting platforms that double as social networks, like SoundCloud, come with a built in audience who are looking for content like yours. By taking advantage of these other platforms, and publishing your podcast on a regular (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) schedule, you’ll have an opportunity to expand your reach by potentially thousands of listeners.
- Podcasting is inexpensive and fairly simple to produce: As mentioned earlier in this post, podcasting does involve a small learning curve and a few upfront costs, but once you’re up and running, recording your content and getting it out to your listeners is a snap. Producing videos requires greater technical ability and expense, and blog posts require a baseline skill at writing effective content. As a podcaster, you need only rely on your intelligence and expertise in your field—though a good speaking voice and a sense of humor come in handy as well.
- Podcasting builds trust with your current customers, and helps you acquire more: By definition, podcasts are more personal than other forms of content marketing, like blogging, because it allows your audience to actually hear your voice, which strengthens the authenticity of your brand, and puts a human face on your business. More importantly, it provides a way for you to demonstrate your passion for what you do, and reinforces the feeling that you really know your stuff. If, at the end of your podcast, you always include a call-to-action, such as subscribing to your newsletter or going to your website, you’ll likely see a significant uptick in followers, and an increase in new customers.
While podcasting might not be exactly right for everyone, we think that the barriers-to-entry have been significantly lowered to allow for the average business owner to get a podcast up and running quickly, should she decide to go this route. We’re confident that those who do, and stay with it, will see the benefits of this effective form of content marketing within a matter of months.
If you’d like further guidance on how to get your podcast off the ground, the content marketing experts at LLD are happy to help! Contact us at any time for a free phone consultation.