Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’re probably aware that a new audio medium has mutated from the ashes of traditional broadcasting. For those who missed the memo, podcasting is a DIY narrowcast form of audio publishing that has democratised the once elite realm of radio broadcasting. Its rise was enabled by the emergence of portable mp3 players and then the ubiquity of smartphones (the ‘pod’ nomenclature coming, of course, from the original Apple iPod). Anyone with the inclination can hit record then publish their no doubt profound and insightful thoughts on whatever topic they choose to wax lyrical.
While podcasting really is as simple as all that, there are some key ingredients that go into creating a good quality podcast that listeners will seek out and return to.
Create an intimate and rich connection with your audience
The obvious benefits of podcasting both correlate and diverge from traditional radio broadcasting. The ability to capture an audiences’ attention and convey a rich and detailed narrative around a subject is unparalleled in other low cost media forms. Podcasting can be an extremely effective way to reach the people you would most like to engage with and influence.
So what are some of the basic elements that can help you achieve this goal.
First of all, remember that we are all social creatures and we seek out human connection. The best and most interesting podcast are often ones that allow experts to talk about what they do, why they do it and why it matters, in their own words. What a podcast does better than any other media is imbed that human element in information/knowledge transmission. Listeners won’t be interested in thinly veiled, brand-centric messaging. But they will seek out passionately delivered expert and novel information. They’ll listen to hours of an engaging conversation about a topic they’re interested in.
Which brings us to the second essential element: Subject expertise. Don’t be afraid to approach a subject that is likely to have a deep insight or interesting insight into the topic you are podcasting on. Most people are happy to have an opportunity to express themselves, especially in an informal manner. The logistics of setting up studio interviews is not longer an issue as technology allows us to sidestep these limitations. You can conduct an interview via Skype with an expert on the other side of the world, or even across the same city. Take every opportunity … grab five minutes of dialogue with that guest speaker at the conference you’re attending, then store the recording for a podcast to be compiled at a later date.
In fact the technology of podcasting is almost so simple and widely available that it barely warrants a mention. If you’re serious about having high-quality sound then you might consider investing in a microphone. But other than that all the tools are available using devices you probably already possess and software you can freely and cheaply download.
Attract and retain your audience
Podcast listeners get hooked. And they listen, on average, to over 5 hours of podcasts per week. This is an unsurprising stat when you consider the importance of storytelling and narrative to human culture from time immemorial. NPR’s Serial podcastNPR’s Serial podcast in 2015 had masses of people parked in their driveways so they could finish each episode after arriving home. Serial was essentially a long story about a murder that proved how addictive narrative storytelling in this format can be.
We all know the benefits of using narrative to build empathy in listeners. Research shows that audio media is particularly effective in fostering an intimate connection with audiences. Inherent in listening is the activity of imagining, which in turn leads to empathy and an emotional response to the ‘story’ you are telling. Sound effects and sound shots can also increase the level of mental imagery and lead listeners to pay closer attention to your message.
Even if you know you have a quality podcast that listeners will respond to, it can still be tricky to promote your product. There are a few basic steps you can take that will enhance your profile. Make sure you get those 5 star iTunes reviews. Consider cross promotion with other publications and podcasts. Pitch your podcast to bloggers who compile top 10 lists.
The problem with monetising
If you’ve managed to build a substantial audience you may be tempted to leverage that popularity by introducing paid advertisements to your format. This is especially tempting when you consider the high engagement cultivated in podcast listeners.
According to one study: two-thirds of podcast listeners have engaged in various research and/or purchase related behaviors as a result of advertising exposure from podcasts. Among all forms of advertising on mobile devices, podcasts create the highest improvement in perception. And among all forms of digital advertising, podcast ads are considered the least intrusive.
Those are impressive stats, but don’t be enticed into stuffing your podcast with paid advertisements and sponsored content. Any experienced podcast listeners will warn you against going down that road.
The warning stems from the very thing that separates podcasts from commercial radio. That is, the absence of targeted, glutinous pandering to an ideal demographic. Instead, pods are targeting interests, enthusiasms, and the oral tradition of storytelling. A podcast isn’t like a website where you can scroll past advertisements, or a television program in which you change the channel during an ad break. The technology of podcasts does not really allow listeners to easily skip past advertisements. This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it forces listeners to hear the advertisement. On the other, it can be off-putting and result in listeners switching off and unsubscribing entirely.
Finally, don’t be afraid to fail
Podcasts are the ultimate start-up culture. According to the ABC Audience Insights survey, nearly one in three podcast listeners trial a new podcast each week! Discovering podcasts happens by a variety of means. Nearly 1 in 2 discover by word of mouth or listening to radio/TV.
So be daring. Don’t wait to launch that new podcast, test out those novel ideas. Remember, people are willing to give it a go. You’ll never know what exciting new avenue you might end up connecting with listeners through.
Cheers, Jack and the c word crew