I’m addicted to podcasts. There, I said it.
Some mornings after arriving at work I linger in my car, unable to pull away as an episode of “Serial” ends. (Don’t tell my boss). Some evenings after arriving home I dawdle in my car, waiting to enter our house as Ira Glass wraps another episode of “This American Life.” (Don’t tell my wife.)
Addicted. And I’m not alone.
Driven by the ubiquity of mobile devices and headphones, long commutes and reliable wireless connections, we’ve entered a “golden age of podcasts.” Podcast consumption in the U.S. jumped 18 percent between the spring and fall 2014, according to Edison Research, and Americans now listen to more than 21 million hours of podcasts every day. That’s a whole lot of “Bill Don’t Lie.”
I remember getting hooked five years ago on an early podcast, “Too Beautiful to Live,” an obscure Seattle radio show that turned into a nationally popular podcast. But it was the popularity last fall of “Serial,” which investigated a cold case -- the 15-year-old conviction of a Baltimore student charged with the murder of his ex-girlfriend -- that riveted Podcast Nation. “Serial” reached 5 million downloads faster than any other podcast in iTunes’ history and sparked a resurgence of interest in podcasts.
(Want ideas for podcasts? You can see the top podcasts in the U.S. this week here.)
For marketers, podcasts are a great opportunity to connect with audiences in a personal, almost intimate way within the confines of one’s car on the daily commute or through the earbuds worn by seemingly every subway rider and jogger. (I also listen to podcasts when shoveling snow and cutting the grass. Addicted.)
Content marketing is about telling good stories and podcasts are no exception. Good content marketing uses many channels to allow brands to tell their stories, from blog posts to ebooks to infographics and videos. It allows companies to connect with and forge relationships with their audiences in ways that news releases never could. At InkHouse, we like to say that if content is king, distribution is queen – and she wears the pants.
If they haven’t already, marketers should add podcasts to their list of content distribution channels. The best podcasts – like the best videos, infographics and other story-telling vehicles – go beyond experts giving their opinions. The really good ones follow a dynamic story arc that includes an introduction, a dose of tension, real characters, a logical flow and a clear wrap-up.
We marketers are still figuring out how to make money from podcasts. Will ads interrupt the audio every few minutes, like TV commercials? My colleague Jill Jankowski points out that companies like PodcastOne are aggregating podcasts and selling ads across the bundle of shows. Will product endorsements make their way into the flow of every podcast? Will banner ads live on the websites where podcast listeners go for more information? Or will brands produce the podcasts themselves, building their audiences in a more organic way?
Many of these same questions popped up a few years back as companies tried to figure out how to make money from online video. Like with video, it’s only a matter of time before marketers get more sophisticated in how they monetize podcasts and we consumers grow more accustomed to the ads and product placements.
Have you incorporated podcasts into your marketing strategy? Rest assured that podcasts are on the rise, an increasingly popular channel to tell your story and connect with your audience -- that army of intently listening driveway dawdlers, waiting for their podcast to end.