This blog was commissioned by and first appeared on Tuesday Media.
You must have overheard it. People talking in hushed, but excited, tones about S-Town, Serial, Dirty John or the latest podcast that they’ve discovered. One in ten adults in the UK now listen to podcasts every week – spending hours catching up with their favourite audio shows from across the world. And that number is growing.
A podcast is a series of digital audio files downloadable onto your phone, tablet or laptop. To put it another way, it’s a form of radio show which needs no radio station, nor radio set to listen to it. Anyone can record them and publish them. Listeners can search for a topic they want to hear more about, download a podcast on that topic and listen to it. Wherever they want. Whenever they want. For free.
Current research tells us that podcast listeners are young, affluent and keen to learn new things. Starbucks, eBay, Microsoft & NatWest are already doing it, but podcasting is still an underdeveloped marketing tool for businesses. So, here are seven reasons why your business needs to start podcasting.
Since Guglielmo Marconi started testing the concept out at the turn of the 20th Century, radio has been written off many times. Lord Kelvin – he of the temperature scale – once said “Radio has no future”. In the 1970s, there was even a song about it. In fact, as radio futurologist, James Cridland notes, so many things have “killed the radio star” that you’d be forgiven for thinking audio would be dead and buried by now. Instead, BBC radio is approaching its centenary with nine in ten people in the UK listening to the radio every week. Meanwhile, Google and Amazon are making audio sexy again with smart speaker technology. Alexa won’t be able to read your blog or play your video but she will be able to play your podcast!
So why has audio survived? Well, it’s a simple, effective and convenient form of communication. What‘s more, done well, radio is your friend. Over the last two decades, I’ve seen first hand how important radio presenters are to people – and how personally they take it when you make changes. A presenter is in a listener’s life day in, day out. Often they spend more with them than they do with their own friends and family. Podcasting offers that same bond but with more of a commitment. After all, podcast listeners have made an active choice to press play and listen to you. They’re interested in what you’ve got to say. They trust you. We know how effective this is for advertisers. US ad agency Midroll polled over 160,000 podcast listeners in 2015 and found that 60% had bought products they’d heard about on a podcast.
6.1 million adults in the UK listen to podcasts every week. That’s one in ten people who are making an active decision to take control of what they listen to. These people tend to be in their twenties, thirties and forties. And in the US – where podcasts are much more of a part of daily life – Midroll found half the podcast audience are university educated. A fifth earn more than $100,000 a year. Podcast listeners, it seems, are young, well-educated and affluent. These are, for many businesses, dream customers.
Your podcast listener is a rarer species of human than, say, your YouTube consumer, or your Facebook user. But no one can match them for their passion or their evangelism. If you’re a podcast listener, you spend most of your listening time listening to podcasts, rather than other forms of audio. And 85% listen to most, if not all, the episodes that they download. That’s extraordinary loyalty when you compare it to the average watch time for a YouTube video. It also adds up to lots of listening time. Think about the way you consume audio at the moment. When you’re driving, for example, or when you’re out for a run, or at home while you’re doing chores. Audio is helping to entertain your conscious while your subconscious cracks on the everyday tasks that take up hours of your day.
For many, podcasts provide a welcome break from radio ads and hearing the same songs over and over again. Podcast listeners are active listeners. Research firm Edison discovered they listen to learn something new every time.
What’s more, the beauty of podcasting is that niche is king. If you create a podcast discussing different types of pens, you can and will find an audience for it. Saying that, it’s important to remember a podcast doesn’t work if you’re trying a hard sell. Instead, be generous with your knowledge in order to build an audience. You can create the desire around your product but encourage people to visit your website and convert sales there.
Many people see video and think why bother with audio. But there are a couple of ways in which podcasting has the edge. For starters, people spend more time with podcasts than with video, which gives you more time to engage potential customers. But also in a podcast world, you can become a big fish in what is still, relatively, a small pond. Although no one has definitive figures, there are around 200,000 active podcast series available today. Compare that with the 300 hours of videos uploaded on YouTube every minute and the 5 billion videos watched every day. Becoming a trusted voice in your field is far harder on YouTube than it is as a podcaster.
Every business needs great communicators. Particularly when the going gets tough, people who look and feel comfortable in front of a microphone are worth their weight in gold. With a regular podcast, your team can get used to being on microphone in a live, studio environment. They can hone how to make your company’s key messages appeal to your audience. Podcasting is a great way to get some regular practice at those key media training skills.
Up to now, podcasts have been the domain of media companies and individuals with a story to tell. But with the help of experienced audio production companies, more and more businesses are getting in on the act. There are three types of branded podcasts, as they‘re known. The first type shows off your area of expertise. So, for example, Tinder has its own dating show and Mumsnet shares baby stories with new parents. The second type is where content aligns to your company’s values. Starbucks has a podcast highlighting ordinary people making a difference in their communities. Meanwhile, eBay provides inspiration for people starting up their own business. The final type of branded podcast is perhaps the most philanthropic – where you lend your name and your money to the creativity of others. The best example of this is audio drama provider, The General Electric Theater – a throwback to the US company’s role as a TV drama sponsor in the 1950s.
This blog first was originally commissioned by Tuesday Media – a new, exciting communications agency which combines storytelling skills with digital expertise to create a full inbound marketing solution for your company. Bengo Media can help you start your podcasting journey by creating powerful audio content for your business. Get in touch to find out more.
I’ve spent some time this week catching up on all the news from last week’s Podcast Movement. PM is the big, annual US conference on all things podcasting. And while many sessions caught the eye, VP of Libsyn, Rob Walch’s session busting the marketing myths of podcasting was standing room only.
The myth that captured the most attention in Rob’s talk revolved around the ideal length of a podcast. Conventional wisdom says it should be about 22 minutes, as that’s just below the average length of a commute. Complete bunkum, says Rob. In fact, of the shows that had hit a hundred thousand downloads within 60 days, only 10% were under 30 minutes. 84% of them were 50 minutes or longer.
I worry people cling too tightly to stats like these. New podcasters may decide to go longer because they think that’s the way to get bigger downloads. What they might not think about is whether they have enough quality content to sustain 40 minutes, 50 minutes, an hour.
Ideal Length of a Podcast
So how long should a podcast actually be? The question is impossible to answer; unless your happy with the answer “It depends”. It depends on the subject matter, it depends on the target audience. Our physical and emotional circumstances dictate the length of our attention spans from one day to the next.
Your podcast should be as long as it needs to be, providing that it remains compelling. If it doesn’t, you’re likely to lose people’s attention. Harsh as it sounds, you’re likely to start wasting your time and theirs.
No one is ever ungrateful to be handed back time. No one is ever disappointed if a delivery that was due between 9 and 5 turns up at 9.05, or even 9.30. So, if you’ve got some great points to make in your podcast, make them and get the hell out of there – while your listeners still want more.
Personally, I shudder when I see a podcast stretch over an hour, because I know I don’t have an hour to give. I will make exceptions, but the chances of me listening in one sitting is very unlikely.
Of course, what feels long to me might not feel long enough to someone else. But what unites podcast listeners is the need to derive value from what their listening to. Quality counts. I may balk at an hour but I wouldn’t listen to a 20 minute podcast if I thought it wasn’t going to be an investment of my time.
The average duration of the Top 10 Podcasts in the US right now is 40 minutes. Take Up First and Planet Money out of that Top 10 – both of which are under 20 minutes – and that average shoots up to nearer 50 minutes. Most, if not all, of these podcasts have big production teams. The latest edition of This American Life credits 34 people, plus presenter Ira Glass. These are resources beyond the reach of nearly all of us. Most UK radio stations don’t have 35 people on their staff, never mind on a single programme strand.
No one begrudges This American Life this level of production. It is magnificent. Perhaps the original podcast gallactico. My point is that every word on every edition of TAL is measured. Poured over. Thought through. Nothing is wasted. No second of those 59 minutes is left to chance. This episode of Gimlet’s Start Up lifts the curtain a little on how much effort goes into producing big podcasts like these.
Would I give 50 minutes of me time to Start Up or This American Life? Absolutely I would. I do. But that’s because I trust them that each minute of that programme is worth the investment.
Can the same be said of your podcast? Are there any areas that are flabby? Is that introduction too long? Are you jokes too in? Is your audio quality good enough to listen to over a sustained period? Is your content well thought through? Do you know how you’re going to start, move on, end? Are you guiding your listener by the hand through your episode, so they know what’s coming next?
Challenge yourself. Does every minute offer value? If it doesn’t, cut it back.
Because, we’re all time poor. And your listener is trusting you with one of the most precious commodities they have; their time. If you handle that with care, then you’ll build a relationship that will see them transition from occasional listeners, to regular listeners, to fans, to advocates. If you don’t, then you have to expect the opposite.
Steve Austins is the Director of Bengo Media. Talk to us about helping you delivering great content, every time.