I had the pleasure of attending my first Doe-Anderson Holiday Party last week.  It was a good chance to mingle with some of the folks around the agency that I don’t get a chance to talk to very often.  Mostly what we talked about was work (because advertising people are functionally incapable of not thinking about work.)  

At any rate, I was taken aback by something a coworker said to me.

“Do people really listen to podcasts?”

Ironically enough, when I first met Jason, he’d already heard about me, and my perspective on social media–from a podcast.  

Not only do people listen to podcasts, but earlier this year eMarketer predicted podcasting advertising spend to quintuple over the next five years.  In 2006, $80 million was spent on podcast advertising.  For an emerging media, that’s a substantial figure.  According to ReadWriteWeb, Wizzard Media (a podcasting network) reported that they’d reached the 1 billion download mark in 2007.  I’d have to assume that those numbers are dwarfed by those of iTunes, the dominant podcast client.  

So for those who are unfamiliar with podcasting, here’s a handy video from Common Craft that explains what podcasting is, in plain English:

Podcasting as a marketing tool can be really powerful.  Particularly if your brand includes an educational element, podcasts can be a great way to communicate with those who are passionate about learning more.  A good example is cookware.  

People who are passionate about food are always looking for new recipes, tips, and for the best way to care for that expensive cookware to make it last.  If a cookware brand produced a fun, engaging podcast that provided content geared towards feeding that passion, then they’ve created a powerful, direct communication channel to their most enthusiastic brand fans.   If they opened the podcast up to user questions, they’ve made that communication channel feel deeply personal. 

Podcasting can be a nice option for companies who want to start experimenting with social media and begin communicating in a more human voice, but who aren’t ready to deal with moderating comments on a blog.  It’s far more common for a podcast to be delivered in ways that don’t allow for comments than it is for a blog to have comments closed.   

Video podcasting is another element of podcasting that has experienced explosive growth, and which doesn’t require a great deal more equipment or technical proficiency than audio podcasting.  According to ITwire, more people listen to podcasts from their PC than from an iPod anyway, so if you’re considering a video podcast, market penetration of video-enabled media devices shouldn’t be a deterrant.  

Promotion and distribution is a more difficult task than production, in most cases.  For a brand, featuring the podcast prominently on their website is a good idea, and so is utilizing multiple distribution networks.  

Promoting a podcast is much like promoting a blog–networking with other content producers in your niche is a good way to get noticed.  But ultimately, the only way to achieve long term success is to keep producing compelling content, reliably and frequently.  

If you’re interested in finding out more about the nuts and bolts basics of how to do a podcast, you can find that here.   Ultimately, though, the success or failure of a podcast is going to lie in its content strategy, rather than technological wizardry.  

As I wrap this post up, I’d love to hear from others in the comments.  What have your experiences with podcasting been like?  What was the hardest part?  What benchmarks do you set for yourself as a podcaster?  Surprises along the way?

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About Kat French

Kat French

Kat French is the Digital Operations Manager at CafePress. An exceptional writer both on the web and in other genres, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in community management, SEO/PPC, social media strategy and program management. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, Optima Batteries and more.

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.digitalcapitalism.com Kbodnar32

    Kat,

    Thank you for writing this post, it is a needed topic to discuss. I know that only about 10 percent of Internet users currently listen to podcasts, but that number is growing especially as the smart phone market drives free downloadable content adoption.

    I can say from personal experience though that it is quiet possible to find a community for a podcast. When Wayne Sutton and I started Talksocialnews.com, our weekly podcast on social media a few months ago, we started from 0 and have steadily increased our listener base each week and signed on some sponsors.

    Sure all of that is great, but the best part is that every week I get to talk to a brilliant person about a subject that I love. Does it really get better than that? So yes people do listen to podcasts and I think they will continue to become a relevant communications tool in the future. I will say that just like blogging it takes some time to find your podcasting “voice”.

    • KatFrench

      I agree completely that it takes time to find your voice, and that the upsurge in mobile devices over the next few years can only be a good thing for podcasters. It's the quintessential “pull” medium.

      It's great that you and Wayne have gotten sponsors so quickly! Sponsorship opportunities will continue to grow, but I think that the real marketing value of podcasts for advertisers is going to be the “advertorial” potential.

  • http://franklinbishop.net/ Blog Expert

    They sure do listen to them and I am 1 of those listeners.

    • KatFrench

      How many podcasts do you subscribe to, or download regularly? Just curious.

  • http://thelostjacket.com Stuartfoster

    I personally love podcasts (and the sound of my own voice) but have not made the leap into the fray because of the setup time (also don't have a mic on my computer…which is disgraceful). I love listening and participating in them…because I can just download them onto my ipod and listen to them on the way to work or at the gym. Great time saver for me :)

    • KatFrench

      Thanks for the comment, Stuart. I think that's the big appeal of podcasts–you can listen to them when it's convenient for you.

  • http://blog.us.cision.com Jay Krall

    Great post Kat. The market for podcasts is certainly growing, but I think some people are turned off by the length of many of them…who has the time to listen to an hour-long podcast? I think many podcasters might do better to cut their length to 15 to 30 minutes. There's no denying their growing influence though: at Cision we now list podcasts in our media database, as forward-thinking PR pros have begun pitching them story ideas.

    • KatFrench

      I completely agree about the length issue; and I'd lean in the direction of 15 minutes moreso than 30. Bite-sized audio chunks. Long enough for a coffee break, not longer than your average lunch (or commute!)

      And pretty soon, we'll have to start writing posts about “how to pitch podcasters” in addition to “how to pitch bloggers.” Super. :)

  • http://www.famlit.org/blog Meg

    Great post, Kat! I think podcasts are definitely underutilized and can be such a great tool, especially in the education sphere.

    • KatFrench

      Thanks for the comment, Meg. For some applications, a podcast works better than a blog, and I agree they're an often-overlooked option.

  • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

    They are fine but inefficient – I can read your content here Jason much quicker than I can listen. I'm a visual learner anyway, so I find reading better than listening.

    • KatFrench

      Adam – depends on how you define “efficient.”

      If I've got a half hour commute each way (and I'm not speaking hypothetically here. I actually do have a half hour commute), then listening to a podcast on my MP3 player is a way to recoup some of that time in a productive way.

      I'm a visual-spatial learner, too, but I've learned to NOT read my feeds while driving. :-)

      • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

        Great point…my commute is like 5 minutes so I didn't even think about that…

  • http://blog.clearcastdigitalmedia.com Matthew Chamberlin

    As a podcast producer and consumer, I have a LOT of thoughts on this topic.

    But I will try and be brief.

    I subscribe to about 20 podcasts and, frankly, have completely stopped listening to radio. I mostly listened to NPR anyhow, and they have probably successfully embraced podcasting more than any other entity known to mankind. Tech podcasts, entertainment business podcasts, jazz podcasts- I run the gamut, both audio and video. (TED Talks, MacBreak Weekly, TWiT, Peter Day's World of Business from the BBC are among some favorites of mine, if anyone cares.)

    As a producer for my clients of both audio and video podcasts, they have reaped tremendous rewards from them. Podcasting, I think, is the great underreported story of 2008. In late 2007, there were A LOT of people out there doing it. But, as in all creative endeavors, they quickly realized, “Hey, this is work,” and they petered out. Now we are in a phase where only the truly dedicated producers and consumers are being served.

    The benefits of time shifting are obvious. Think of it as Tivo for radio. But it's also much more than that as the niche nature of podcasts serves so many more of us. Yes, it's true that two thirds of all podcasts never get downloaded but, instead, get listened to right from your computer. But the ability to listen while you work, garden, jog, walk the dog, cook, wait in line at the post office…whatever. You get the picture.

    And one final, and totally counterintuitive note: to Jay Krall who asks “Who has the time?” Oddly enough, in the tech world, the longer the better. For whatever reason, consumers of tech podcasts want them as long as possible. Maybe it's to help fill the hours while writing code- I don't know.

    • KatFrench

      Matthew – Thanks for the reply. Fascinating information, all, and thanks for trying to keep it brief. ;-)

      I think that you have a great point about 2008 being a year when the signal-to-noise ratio went up because the people who got into various social media (podcasts included) last year with a “get rich quick” mindset were winnowed out. I saw that on a few social news sites as well.

      Interesting stuff on the tech sphere being more into longer podcasts… maybe because the typical tech workday is structure more around long coding sessions, rather than the interrupt- driven day that other industries have?

  • http://www.onebyonemedia.com Jim "Genuine" Turner

    My show last night at Social Mediasphere Radio had over 200 liver listeners and before i had gone to bed it had over 65 downloads of the show. I think the biggest challenge is making the content worth listening to with good guests and timely shows. The podcasting i do is very easy as I use Blog Talk radio, If i had to use fancy equipment I wouldn't be as successful because it is too difficult to do all the mixing and everything else. I need to get Jason on my Holiday show next week. I think I'll drop him a line.

    • KatFrench

      Genuine – Nice to hear some specifics from the trenches. Thanks!

      Totally agree that coming up with “must listen” content for every show is the biggest challenge, at least it was in my experience.

      I know a lot of folks in marketing use BlogTalkRadio. Hindsight being 20/20, mentioning some of the more popular distribution networks. Maybe a future post.

  • http://www.thatdamnredhead.net thatdamnredhead

    I was totally floored when I read “Do people really listen to podcasts?”

    I am an absolute podcast addict and have been for a couple years. When I hear questions like that it makes me seriously wonder if I'm just THAT immersed in my own little world that I don't realize most people aren't aware of most of the things I'm passionate about.

    While I myself am not a podcaster, I've tossed around the idea and played with the podcasting feature in GarageBand a little bit. It seems like a lot of fun but I honestly hate the sound of my own voice and I don't think anybody would want to listen to me, anyway. I leave that stuff up to the pros and fully appreciate their hard work.

    • KatFrench

      You should totally give it a shot! (And I worked in radio for three years, and still didn't like the sound of my own voice–I think very few people do.)

  • http://wayne-sutton.com Wayne Sutton

    Great post Kat, and like Kipp (@Kbodnar32) said it takes a while to find your podcasting voice.

    Something he and I are continuing to work on as we record http://talksocialnews.com but so far it has been a great experience.

    For us the hardest part I think is finding the time and scheduling guest.

    What benchmarks do you set for yourself as a podcaster? One straight month of recording shows, we'll see where we are after six months and after SXSW.

    Surprises along the way? How smart our guest are.

    As podcasting continues to grow, I hope Kipp & I are around to benefit from people wanting to find new shows and information on social media.

    I'm @waynesutton on twitter and I have a podcast called Talk Social News with Kipp Bodnar

    • KatFrench

      Wayne – Thanks for stopping by. Always good to hear real-world stories. I would imagine guest scheduling would be a pretty time-consuming and challenging element.

      I'm still trying to figure out how you managed to run down MC Hammer for an interview. :-)

  • http://www.budgetpulse.com Craig

    I know podcasting is huge and explosive and their are so many benefits from it, and potential marketing benefits as well. For me personally, I haven't been able to really get into podcasting. I don't know, just haven't. After reading through tons of blogs everyday, pleasure reading on the side, videos and what not, I find I don't have the patience to listen to podcasts. I could sit at my computer and listen, sure, but when home would rather listen to music, or check out a funny clip, or just park myself on my couch and watch TV.

    When do you or others get the most use out of podcasts? I would like to get into them, just it's not a priority.

    • http://blog.clearcastdigitalmedia.com Matthew Chamberlin

      Your post seems to imply that you're not really pre-disposed to listening to podcasts. And there is nothing wrong with that.

      I guess I would say that for audio podcasts, think of it like radio, which is exactly what it is. Listening is a passive activity, so anytime you're doing anything that does not require your full attention is a great opportunity. (Take a look at my post above for suggestions.)

      Give them a try. You'll probably like them.

    • KatFrench

      Two words: Bi-state commute. (Okay, that may be three words, or a word and a compound word. Whatever.)

      I think Matthew Chamberlain did a great job in his earlier reply of highlighting how people work listening to podcasts into their daily routine. Check it out. :-)

  • jaymjordan

    I keep seeing a lot of talk about podcasting making a big comeback, but I never see anybody talking about how the iPhone contributes to that growth.
    In my experience the problem with podcasting was hooking the iPod up to the computer. It was easier to listen, or watch a podcast online than to bother syncing it to the iPod.
    The podcast is a passive medium. People pay attention to them the way they listen to the radio, while they do something else. Being tied to the computer really inhibits that, both in terms of iTunes slowing down a lot of older computers, and just not being able to move around.
    Now that the iPhone takes the computer out of the equation subscribing to a podcast is much more attractive. I believe that as the iPhone is more widely adopted that podcasting will see substantial growth.

  • jaymjordan

    I keep seeing a lot of talk about podcasting making a big comeback, but I never see anybody talking about how the iPhone contributes to that growth.
    In my experience the problem with podcasting was hooking the iPod up to the computer. It was easier to listen, or watch a podcast online than to bother syncing it to the iPod.
    The podcast is a passive medium. People pay attention to them the way they listen to the radio, while they do something else. Being tied to the computer really inhibits that, both in terms of iTunes slowing down a lot of older computers, and just not being able to move around.
    Now that the iPhone takes the computer out of the equation subscribing to a podcast is much more attractive. I believe that as the iPhone is more widely adopted that podcasting will see substantial growth.