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Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal (American Public Media)
PODCAST FEATURE STORY- excerpt May 25, 2016
Podcasts Are Red Hot - Some Cool Facts
I was visiting a buddy the other day at his ad agency, and as I cut through the graphic artists area and the IT department, I wondered what kind of music everyone was listening to on their headsets as they worked. When I brought the subject up to my friend, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if they were all listening to podcasts. Podcasts? Since I’m an audio producer, I can’t really listen to anything while I work because I’m already listening to the project at hand. But I have produced a number of podcasts and it got me thinking more about this trend and it’s growing potential for delivering information and entertainment right into the ears of today’s tech-savvy audiences. So I did a little research and this is what I learned.
According to Pew Research, the popularity of podcasts is growing every year. There are an estimated 115,000 English-language podcasts available on the internet. The topics range from entertainment, to education, to business, to health, to sports, advice, hobbies and just about every human interest subject.
The percentage of Americans currently listening to podcasts has risen to 17% almost double what it was 2008.
In fact, Edison Research reports that America is in a “golden age of audio consumption” and that 33% of all Americans aged 12 years or older have begun exploring and listening to one or more podcast presentations.
One of the main benefits of podcasts is that they are easy to consume content, anytime and anywhere. Many listen to their favorite programs while exercising, driving, running errands, waiting in lines and even while washing dishes or at work.
Clearly, mobile devices and Smartphones have been the driver of growth the last few years because they make podcast downloading and consumption a cinch.
Libsyn, one of the largest commercial podcast hosting companies recorded that, of their 2.6 billion podcast downloads in 2014, 63% were requested from mobile devices- up 43% since 2012.
And mobile device manufacturers are fully aware of this increasing potential. Apple’s IOS-6 features a podcast listening app that is 1-click away from discovering or consuming podcasts. This feature wasn’t offered only with an eye to the future. Podcast listening is now and here to stay.
Apple just surpassed 1 billion subscriptions to podcasts worldwide via it’s iTunes app. And as podcast technology and Smartphone listening grows, so too does web-based listening in cars. As of January 2015, more than a third of U.S. adult cellphone owners (35%) have listened to on-line radio in the car including myself by a wired connection or bluetooth technology.
And it’s going to get a lot easier in 2016 when 50% of all new cars will have internet connectivity. By 2025, all new cars will have it. As the saying goes, “build it and they will come”. Within the decade most drivers will have internet, and therefore podcast listening options.
Already, entertaining shows like Serial, The Nerdist, This American Life, and Marc Maron’s WTF see hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of downloads for every episode.
Many companies like Discovery Channel and ESPN are spending millions to market their shows to reside in the Top 100 most popular shows.
Others like Quickbooks, Amway, Houghton-Mifflin, Bain & Co., Mutual Of Omaha, Kaspersky, RSA, and BASF all use podcasts to “edutain” their audience, reinforce their message, and to build and expand their brands.
These businesses and many more have added podcasts to their marketing mix to offer more detailed information about their industry and related topics. Some cite real-time examples of customer success stories, and feature discussions with industry leaders and experts who bring helpful and valuable insights to the listener.
So how can companies or organizations use podcasts to better communicate with their audiences and build trust?
* Internet security companies sponsor interviews with analysts who talk about new cyber-threats, how to avoid attacks, and what they are doing to combat them.
* Hospitals and medical groups feature conversations with prominent physicians or leaders who discuss the latest innovations and treatments and discuss how patients and their families can better make decisions about their healthcare options.
* Law firms present case studies and dialogue with prominent attorneys who explain how they impact legal decisions that affect a company’s growth and how proper and timely legal strategies avoid costly judgments.
* Colleges who want to illustrate the caliber of their staff with interviews with key professors and instructors, alumni success stories, and current student insights to promote admissions and boost donor involvement.
These examples demonstrate how podcasts work to strengthen a company’s standing beyond advertising, effectively promote loyalty, and give the listener more confidence in their product or service.
The secret is to engage the listener with story telling, not to bang them over the head with your latest product offering. You want them to come to you and the more you involve the audience with valuable content, the more it becomes a real conversation.
Douglas Stevens is an audio and music producer in Boston and co-owner of Handsome Brothers Music and Creative Audio & Music. (reprinted from Linkedin July 2015)
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