I had a conversation with someone a few years ago at a well known media brand (not the one I work for) and suggested they should be podcasting. I was surprisingly unprepared for the response.
The question back to me was “Why? Is this marketing, reach or revenue?”
At the time I already had a personal passion for audio on-demand, I knew it would be growing, and…. I hadn’t really refined any message beyond that. Since that conversation that I fumbled, I’ve had many many conversations about podcasting and the podcast business.
So, why should you podcast?
The answer depends on who you are and what your goals are. And I have to leave room for the fact that maybe the answer is, you shouldn’t.
Can I make a lot of money podcasting? It depends on what you consider to be a lot of money. Some podcasts make a lot of money, but most don’t. Are you a Fortune 500 company looking for the next revenue stream of $50 or $100 million? It’s not podcasting.
Are you already in the radio (audio) business and need another platform to extend your product? Well, duh.
If you’re an established media brand, getting into podcasting helps diversify your content offerings, gives your sales team something new to sell, and gets your mature business into a steadily growing space.
But if big money is your ONLY objective, I think podcasting is probably not the right place for you. There is a financial return for sure, but there are probably bigger financial returns elsewhere. (that will require bigger investment too)
I’m sure devoted podcasters are rolling their eyes right now saying “there’s plenty of money in podcasting! People are making a living!” And that’s true. A lot of it is profit too, not like the gigantic revenues and losses of other businesses. Again, it’s just perspective. If you’re a big media company and need/want to profit 10 or more million dollars from a new venture, it’s not going to be podcasting.
Oh, also…. If you’re famous and have a devoted fanbase podcasting is a great place to reach them AND make money.
How big is the podcast audience? Well, according to Edison Media/Triton Digital it’s as big as 98 million people (in the U.S.) and is no longer a niche format.
NPR has reported 2.5 million weekly podcast users, which is up from last year. Podtrac has a public ranking list that shows NPR on top with just over 7.5 million uniques a month. (that’s across 33 different shows).
Compare that to Comscore’s numbers for desktop video where there are many more uniques. Twitter has over 38 million uniques, and they’re at the bottom of the list. And this list is DESKTOP not mobile. The stats from one part of my own company dwarf the podcast audience. (I work at CNN) CNNPolitics.com gets 31 million unique users and 79 million video starts.
So, if “reach” is your goal, there are obviously bigger ponds to be fishing in than podcasting. Again, this depends who you are. If a monthly unique number of 7.5 million sounds good to you…. then go for it. If you want 10 million, 20 million, 30 million or more… maybe podcasting isn’t the right play for you.
Marketing isn’t the first thing I think of when I think about podcasting, but it absolutely is a part of it and I think starts to get at the real value for podcasts when it comes to mature media companies. I would prefer to use the word engagement before marketing.
As we just saw, the podcast audience is smaller than the video audience but they are much more loyal and engaged. So then you have to ask yourself what your company needs… a bigger broader audience that happens to click on your links and videos in their Facebook feed, or a smaller more devoted audience that is going to seek out your latest episode each week?
The audience engagement is tough to measure, but it’s kind of logical when you think it through. If you listen to a show like Serial, or even something more light hearted like WTF, your mind is involved in the listening experience. A good podcast demands your attention. Even if you’re actually doing something else like driving or running or cleaning the kitchen, your thoughts are being led by a good program.
The message from the program and the ads, really sinks in.
If you decide to build a relatively smaller but devoted and engaged fanbase then you can deliver messages to them not only on behalf of advertisers, but to your other products too. You can most definitely reinforce your brand and what you stand for with podcasts and potentially drive consumption on other platforms too. Podcast listeners are active on Social Media and can become brand ambassadors for you online and through word of mouth.
Developing that audience isn’t easy. It takes quality content, and time. Do you have the skills to produce a great podcast? Do you have the patience to build your audience? If not, maybe another avenue is best for you.
“IS IT MARKETING, REACH OR REVENUE?”
I’m much more prepared for this kind of question today. The first thing I consider before answering is, who is asking the question. But my answer is always a combination of audience engagement and revenue.
Who in the media business doesn’t want your content to have a devoted, loyal and engaged audience? Who doesn’t want to be able to make a profit from that content? Who doesn’t want to deliver messages to that audience on behalf of your brand in addition to advertisers?
In an era when other ad rates are plummeting and publications are trying to position themselves as membership organizations, this level of fervent fandom is something that most media outlets would kill for.
For some, this really should be a no-branier. You just have to know what you’re capable of, and what the returns are expected to be.