We’re still thinking about trends for 2020 over here and something at the top of our minds and that of our community is…podcasts.
We have the Spin Sucks podcast and I am co-host of both Inside PR and the Agency Leadership podcasts.
I like podcasting, and I’ve been doing it for years.
More and more people in the communications (and every other) industry have been joining me, and that means that there are innovations, changes, and new opportunities coming our way.
Podcasting Over the Ages
Somewhere around eight years ago, Martin Waxman invited Joe Thornley and me to co-host Inside PR, a podcast started by Terry Fallis and Dave Jones.
That was 344 episodes ago.
It was all pretty new back then. Podcasts were few and far between.
It’d be at least three years before Serial was published, making podcasting a household name.
At the time, it was just something for me to do with two really smart communicators who I got to talk to every week.
Then it began to explode. I mean, as much as a podcast about communications can explode.
A little more than a year ago—87 episodes to be exact—I added the Spin Sucks podcast.
And then Chip Griffin and I added the Agency Leadership podcast last summer.
It’s always fun to talk to someone on the phone or meet them at an event and have them say, “You’re in my ears every week! I feel like I know you!”
Plus, it’s really good for business.
I can point to at least five clients we work with that found us through one of the podcasts.
So yeah, I’m sort of all in on podcasting.
Many members of the Spin Sucks community are excited about podcasting as well, both as creators and as listeners.
Jane Tabachnick had this to say:
I am excited about Alexa Flash Briefings and micro-podcasts. They offer a lot of the same benefits as a podcast, in less time with less tech hassle. With little competition right now, it’s easy to dominate a niche. They also satisfy my craving for information, tips, and short stories, in easily digestible bites. It’s easier to free up two to 10 minutes than 45 minutes to an hour.
Let’s discuss micro-podcasts and smart device audio.
What Is a Micro-Podcast?
There are no hard and fast rules about micro-podcasts.
Some people say it’s a podcast with episodes that last less than 10 minutes. Others say it’s less than two minutes. And yet others say it’s a podcast with fewer than 10,000 subscribers.
No one has a true “rule” around them.
For practical purposes, we’ll talk about short podcasts.
Some of the benefits of really short podcasts are that they take a lot less time and money to produce, you can create a lot of them in a short amount of time, and they’re ideal for repurposing in different places online.
There are also a significant number of people who really enjoy tiny tidbits of information.
(There probably aren’t more of them than who enjoy a longer, meatier exploration of a topic, however.)
A micro-podcast can also be turned into an Alexa Flash Briefing, which is a subset of Alexa Skills.
These are pieces of audio designed specifically to be accessed through an Amazon home device.
Typically, these are newsy and/or informational in nature.
There are some fun use cases for this.
Anything that you could publish daily and have included in a rundown with a bunch of other content from other creators could be included.
Think FAQs, industry commentary, or daily inspiration.
Of course, they’re restricted to people who have Alexa, so to make them available to a larger audience, you’d also have to have a podcasting hosting account, and upload each episode to multiple places.
For this reason, a lot of short-form content is published in the typical podcast distribution channels as well, such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.
At this point, however, most podcasts are longer.
Anywhere from 10 minutes to longer than an hour.
The For Immediate Release episode Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson just published on 2020 trends is two and a half hours long!
That’s definitely not a micro-podcast.
The type of length that works for you is really up to your audience and their preferences, the type of content you’re creating, and the amount of time you have to invest in planning, recording, and post-production.
Know Your Customers, Audience, Listeners
This brings me to one of the big things that comes up in podcasting (and PR more generally): a mismatch between what creators want, and what users want.
This is something that happens in business, regardless of the medium.
We sit in a conference room and decide what our customers want…without ever asking them.
While working in a vacuum can sometimes work, it’s far better—and more efficient—to ask and listen.
One new trend that our producer is looking for is a push for greater interactivity with podcast content.
We’re talking players with visual overlays, one-click purchasing, easy redirection to additional resources without stopping playback.
That all sounds cool, doesn’t it?
(It also makes my head hurt a little bit.)
But does anyone, other than a podcaster looking to monetize, actually want it?
Similarly, does a listener care if a micro-podcast is embedded directly into Amazon’s Alexa framework, or do they just need to be able to ask Siri to play the most recent episode?
That’s something important to remember with podcasts—it’s almost all pull, no push.
Your listeners listen when they want to; not when you want them to.
And they’re probably doing other things at the same time.
They’re cooking, or driving, or working out.
It’s not like a video where you need someone’s eyes. It’s happening along with other things in their lives.
While you don’t have their full and undivided attention, it’s an incredible journey!
Podcast listeners are loyal, and often have a listening schedule that you’re a part of.
It’s a really exciting time in podcasting, with lots of new tools and functionality, but it’s too soon to say what changes are going to stick around and what are going to be sidelined because listeners just don’t care.
The Podcasting Environment In 2020
What’s happening in the podcast world that is going to affect your organization or that of your clients?
First of all, podcasting is starting to attract serious investment, both from venture capital and from media and technology companies.
This is interesting because it means that podcasting is being taken very seriously as a communications medium AND because people think it’s going to generate a lot of revenue.
Most of the revenue generated by podcasts happens through ads and sponsorship, and getting some of that money means having enough listeners to be profitable.
Like a lot of online advertising, payments for ads tend to work on a PPM, or price per thousand downloads basis, and most podcasters can expect between 25 and 50 per thousand.
You need a lot of listeners to break even on your production costs.
(It also means we could make a whopping $250 on the Spin Sucks podcast.)
It’s important to note that smart businesses that use podcasting as a part of their content strategy get value from their shows in a variety of ways—SEO rich content, networking, content repurposing, and brand-awareness building, to name a few.
This matters because a niche business podcast just isn’t going to have the mass appeal of true crime, so the return-on-investment is less direct, but ultimately, higher than slapping on a few ads for Casper mattresses or Stamps.com.
Ad revenue for podcasting is projected to reach $863 million this year.
Most of that will be going to the top 1% of shows in terms of downloads, and the platforms that distribute podcasts and ads.
Podcasting Is Here to Stay
Something that has always appealed to creators about podcasting is how easy it is to get in, and grow an audience.
At least, that was the case for the first 10 years the format existed.
It’s a bit different today, with the competition of hundreds of thousands of active shows, and dozens of new shows being created every day.
Big networks and tech firms are investing HUGELY in original content, and they have the reach to more or less ensure that a new podcast will be successful by cross-promoting it on other shows within the network and buying traffic.
Smaller podcasters don’t have that luxury (cough, me, cough), but they can benefit from the increased popularity of podcasting in general, and the increased legitimacy of the medium.
Podcasting isn’t something tech geeks do in their basements anymore.
Podcasters have groupies.
Finally, following all of this growth and money are the supporting players.
Go to any podcasting or new media conference and you’ll meet dozens of new podcast player developers, curation companies, monetization tools, and on and on and on.
There are companies trying to make people subscribe and pay for shows, and companies that let you review and create podcast playlists.
There are companies that match you with advertisers, companies that book guests for you, and companies that turn your podcasts into videos.
It can all be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re just getting started.
It’s fair to say that podcasting is “in” and it’s likely to stay in for a good long while.
The industry is going to settle down eventually, but the convenience and value for end-users means it’s likely that there will be a strong demand for podcasts until something better that we can’t imagine yet comes along.
Should You Be Podcasting?
And now comes the inevitable question: should you start a podcast? Should you recommend one to the executives with whom you work?
As with everything, it depends!
Which is a crappy answer because it doesn’t give you any direction, but it truly does depend.
No matter how much Spotify invests in new creative content, and no matter how many startups want to “disrupt the auditory environment”, whether or not a podcast is going to be right for your organization or your clients comes down to business goals, and where a podcast might fit into your PESO model communications strategy.
Podcasting can be a very efficient way to generate a lot of owned media, and provide a lot of materials for shared.
And this year, in particular, I’m big on taking one huge piece of content and repurposing it into hundreds of bite-sized pieces of content.
You can do that with a podcast.
But if you’re not ready to make the time investment or you aren’t sure podcasting is for you, you can dip your toes in instead.
Being a guest on podcasts has some serious benefits.
First, it doesn’t take nearly as much time.
I was recently a guest on Tom Fox’s compliance podcast, talking about red flags in business relationships.
He sent me a list of questions in advance. I took some time to review them and think through my answers. And then the actual recording took 20 minutes.
All in? Maybe half an hour, which is significantly less time than had I done it myself.
Plus, now I have access to his audience and they have the opportunity to get to know me and Spin Sucks.
There is always great value in building your audience and your network.
Finding, pitching, and being a guest on a podcast is an easy way to figure out how it all works, develop a list of tools you’ll need (ask the hosts what they use), and decide if it’s right for you.
What About You?
I’d love to hear your thoughts about podcasting.
What are your favorite shows? Have you thought about being a host or a guest yourself? Where do you need help?
Let me know in the comments below, or in the Spin Sucks community.
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay