After being on the content sidelines for years, podcasts are taking center stage. For listeners and creators alike, they are in the midst of a resurgence.
Podcasting is nothing new; on-demand online radio has been around for a decade. But recent technology has made the format easier to create and a cinch to download. Smartphones and Bluetooth-enabled vehicles offer access to audio entertainment for commuters and everyone else. At the same time, new tools make it less cumbersome to record and publish episodes, leading to a boom in new topics, shows, formats and hosts.
All of this means podcasts are reaching new audiences. According to Edison Research, online radio reaches an estimated 94 million people weekly.
“Serial,” the true-crime story that debuted last fall from WBEZ Chicago, is considered the breakout hit of 2014 and became the fastest to reach 5 million downloads and streams in iTunes history, according to reports.
As a marketing platform, podcasts enable hosts to build connections and affinity with an audience, and to make their shows part of their listeners’ regular habit, cultivating subscribers—the holy grail in content marketing. Also, podcast listeners are more likely to share on social networks, and they have higher income than the general population, according to Edison’s research. In other words, the podcast-listening audience is both affluent and active on social media, which might make podcasting a worthwhile addition to your marketing mix.
If you’re thinking of launching your own podcast, here are some tips to consider.
Hone your focus.
Podcasts—like any content you might produce—work best when they zero in on the needs of the audience. How can you help them? What challenges do they have? What questions can you answer? What value can you provide?
And keep this in mind: the nichier, the better. Rather than creating a new series on startups, for example, consider focusing on a more specific area around which you can create value: perhaps family-owned startups or startups operating on a shoestring. Narrow your topics to home in specifically on your content’s unique value, says Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, host of the MarketingProfs “Marketing Smarts” podcast and former host of “Baby Time,” a podcast for new and expectant parents.
“Once you’ve planted your flag, don’t move it,” she says. “Stray too far from the topics your audience has come to expect, and you’ll lose them.”
Pick a hosting service.
Consider launching a podcast with a quality file-hosting service like Libsyn or Blubrry. These allow you to easily set up and host audio files; listeners can access them via a variety of platforms, such as your own website, on iTunes or elsewhere. Using a file-hosting service also allows you to reference all your analytics in one place.
For additional reach, you can list your podcast on Stitcher or similar platforms that stream directly to mobile devices. “But be sure to read the terms and conditions,” O’Shea Gorgone warns. Some platforms “can run ads before and after your podcast and get a license to edit and use your content.”
Learn a few time-saving production tips and tricks.
If you plan on having guests or interviewees on your podcast, make it easy on yourself and use a service like ScheduleOnce for booking. This inexpensive tool (plans start at $5 per month) allows future guests to select a few dates and times that work on their end; then you, as host, log in and pick one, and ScheduleOnce sends preprogrammed reminder emails to both of you.
Recording software like Camtasia, Audacity and Audio Hijack Pro allows you to capture quality audio over commonplace free online services (like Skype or Google Hangouts).
After recording a podcast, O’Shea Gorgone uses Camtasia to record an intro and closing, which she then places in the Camtasia timeline, along with any other communiques (perhaps you could add a marketing message or an offer).
“I edit the substance of the interview to clean up any background noise, remove filler words like ‘um’ and ‘you know,’ and generally tighten things up a bit,” O’Shea Gorgone says. “Then I export the file to iTunes, save it as an MP3, upload the MP3 to Libsyn and hit ‘publish.’”
Get over hating the sound of your own voice.
I’m only half kidding …most of us hate the way we sound in a recording. Some podcast hosts reject postproduction edit in part because they can’t stand listening to their own recordings. But editing is necessary for any quality content product.
The key while editing is to take a clinical approach that includes banning self-slandering remarks.
“I try not to think ‘I sound like a moron,’” O’Shea Gorgone says. “Instead, I’ll clean up the audio, just like I’d do for anyone else. I’ve found that the more I hear my own voice, the more I get used to it.”
Need a little inspiration? Here are five podcasts worth checking out:
1. Each day, John Lee Dumas produces an episode of “Entrepreneur on Fire,” in which guests share their biggest successes and most crushing failures. Interestingly, Dumas also tracks his annual earnings and weaves in his own entrepreneurial story.
2. “Duct Tape Marketing,” hosted by marketing and sales expert and author John Jantsch, isn’t a regular series—he publishes only about two per month. But the advice imparted is geared specifically to small businesses, and Jantsch is an easygoing, affable host.
3. On “The Work Talk Show,” hosts DJ Waldow and Nick Westergaard interview guests about “how work gets done today,” including life hacks, app suggestions and other tips on how to run your work life more efficiently.
4. Published by Social Media Examiner and host Michael Stelzner, “Social Media Marketing” aims to help owners of small and midsize businesses discover what works to get their brands noticed.
5. Finally, O’Shea Gorgone’s “Marketing Smarts” from my own company is a weekly 30-minute conversation with a marketing expert on a focused topic. O’Shea Gorgone transcribes and writes up show notes, which can serve as a handy reference tool for the actionable tips in her conversations.