When podcasts made their debut back in the early 2000s, the idea of downloading, syncing, and listening to them seemed like a nuisance to many. Over a decade later, the digital files have evolved in both variety and popularity. Whether you’re simply looking to pass the time during your daily commute listening to the off-beat rants of the Adam Carolla Show, or find yourself sitting in the driveway waiting to finish a riveting episode of the wildly popular Serial, there’s a podcast for everyone these days.
According to Pew’s recent State of the News Media 2015, which we referred to in a previous post, podcasts have maintained a steady growth trajectory over the past decade. The report states that in 2008 only 9% of Americans polled had listened to a podcast. Seven years later, that number has more than doubled, with 17% reporting that they’ve listened to a podcast in the past month. As startups continue to look for ways to tap into and engage audiences, they may want to consider latching on to this growing media. Here’s a look at some of the attributes that make podcasts particularly appealing.
As we said before, despite their humble beginnings, podcasts have been gaining a good deal of favor over the last couple of years. Even the leader of the free world is a fan. Recently, President Obama was a guest on comedian Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, sitting down for a very candid and frank discussion in the comedian’s garage. The much talked about episode supports the notion that many, including those in Obama’s camp, understand the reach and influence podcasts can have. WTF receives over 3 million downloads a month – that’s a pretty substantial platform to get your message out. Perfect for mobile, 63% of the 2.6 billion podcast downloads in 2014 were from mobile devices. Subscriptions through iTunes reached 1 billion that year.
In today’s business environment, where the consumer has more power than ever before, the decision to do business with one brand over another is often a very personal one. People want to interact with brands that embody many of the same beliefs and values that they do. Podcasts provide a very real way to engage with an audience and convey those values and beliefs. If done correctly, a podcast can act as a very intimate conversation with your customers; a way for you to showcase your worth, build relationships and show how much you value them. As Roman Mars, producer of the top 20 most-downloaded podcasts, “99% Invisible,” puts it, “My connection to the audience is something I completely cherish and is a part of the medium that is really unique.”
Listeners who tune into podcasts are already partially invested. Either by word of mouth or something they’ve come across elsewhere, they’ve chosen to download or subscribe to your podcast. Essentially, if someone is listening to your podcast they have at least one foot in the door. With their undivided attention, a podcast gives you the ability to convert new listeners and turn them into customers while building on current relationships and creating brand advocates. And for many startups, podcasts audiences are ripe for the picking. Half of podcast consumers are ages 12-34 and they are a very engaged breed. According to an Edison Research study, loyal podcast users spend 25% of their total audio time listening to podcasts. That’s a lot of potential for you to build an army of advocates.
Taking notice of the increased popularity and particularly loyal listening habits of podcasters, advertisers have started to squeeze their way in with sponsored content. While advertising during podcasts has the potential to take away from the listener’s experience, if done right, it can provide an opportunity for brands to reach users in a less intrusive way. And it seems to work: 54% percent of podcast listeners have followed through to purchase products or services through podcast ads, a number that sponsors can’t ignore.
As with anything, starting a podcast needs to be done with much care and consideration. You need to know who you are trying to reach and how you plan to keep them engaged. The last thing you want to do is waste valuable time and energy speaking into a vacuum. Take some time to listen to some of the startup/entrepreneur podcasts that are doing it right and use them as a model to help design your own. If you are providing helpful, unique, and valuable content, chances are your podcast will pay off for your startup.
As a startup, have you started a podcast of your own? What are some of the learnings you’ve had thus far? We’d love to hear!