Should You Really Start a Podcast?

While 'Serial' and 'Startup' put podcasts on the map, the channel doesn't make sense for every business.

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By Maggie Patterson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

2014 will likely go down in history as the year that podcasting broke through to the mainstream, thanks to shows like Serial and Startup. People who'd never listened to podcasts before were suddenly super fans.

As a podcaster for over a year, I've learned that not all podcasts are created equal in terms of audience, goals, production or the ability to monetize. I'm often asked by my clients and fellow entrepreneurs, "Should I start a podcast?"

To help answer that question I talked to several experienced podcasters to get the inside scoop on what you need to know before you start a podcast.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Small Business Should Start a Podcast Today

The potential of podcasting

More than 39 million or 15 percent of Americans had listened to a podcast in 2014, up from 12 percent in 2013, according to Edison Research.

Right now, the majority of podcast listeners are using Apple products, as there's no native podcasting app for Android.

"Apple devices are a relatively small piece of the pie. Once Android gets in on the action and fully supports podcasts, the audience will grow exponentially," says Jaime Tardy, host of the Eventual Millionaire Podcast. "Plus, as people upgrade to newer model vehicles, more and more people will have seamless access to podcasts as they go about their day."

As podcasting continues to go mainstream, more listeners overall means more possibilities for your organization to reach new clients and customers.

For marketing agency Infinitus, its podcast, The Limitless Business Podcast, has led to new opportunities. "Producing a podcast has been an extraordinary way to "walk our talk' and attract new clients. We aren't just telling our clients to provide value and produce content online—we do it ourselves," explains Kaye Putnam from Infinitus. "Audio content is extremely personal. People get to know our style, values, and personalities by listening to the podcast, which shortens the sales process."

Related: 5 Steps to a Successful Podcast

The realities of podcast production

Podcasting on the surface seems pretty straightforward. Record audio, upload it to iTunes and you're on your way. However, the reality of producing a podcast is that there are more steps than people realize.

As Chris Cerrone, co-host of The Cerrone Show, explains, "People totally underestimate the time it takes to do a consistent podcast. I didn't have a detailed plan going into my launch for things like editing and promoting the episodes, and having that foresight would have made my life a whole lot easier."

Since launching his show in March 2014, Cerrone has crossed the threshold of more than 1 million downloads. But Cerrone's success is not typical for many podcasters, as many shows play to a much smaller, niche audience.

"Many podcasters are surprised when their downloads aren't what they expected. They start out with this idea they will be the next big thing -- they launch a show, and suddenly will have a direct line to an audience of millions. So many people start podcasts, but then fade out after a handful of episodes as they realize it's very hard work," says podcaster Jessica Kupferman of Lady Business Radio.

The sponsorship of shows such as Serial and Startup by companies like MailChimp and Squarespace have set the expectation that podcasters can rely on sponsorships to generate revenues.

"While many podcasters are doing well with sponsorships, like Entrepreneur on Fire and Startup, if the plan is to monetize the podcast, you're going to need to invest significant time into building your audience. Typically, sponsors are looking for shows with more than 10,000 downloads per month," shares Tardy.

Bring something new to market

The reason shows like Serial capture the imagination is that they are new and innovative. So when figuring out what your podcast could cover, you want to ensure that you're not just knocking off what's already out there.

When entrepreneur Jon Nastor wanted to start a podcast, he knew there were a lot of shows interviewing entrepreneurs about their businesses already, so he decided to approach interviews differently. Nastor explains, "For Hack the Entrepreneur, I typically interview entrepreneurs with cool businesses, but we don't talk about the business. We focus on them as a person which means we're not putting my guests on a pedestal to be looked up to."

Is podcasting right for you and your business? Before you jump in, carefully consider the time and resources involved to figure out if this is good fit with your business goals and go from there.

Related: Why Audio Content Works for Engaging Audiences

Maggie Patterson

Communications Strategist

Maggie Patterson is a communications strategist focused on storytelling as the way to make marketing meaningful. With 15 years experience, she works with entrepreneurs and corporations to help them tell the stories that matter and boost the bottom line in the process.

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